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Elf girls are easy

Empire Magazine, January 2002

Let's be frank.Tolkien's big read is light on crumpet. There are hardly any girls. Which posed Jackson a tricky problem-was his film going to be really unsexy? He smoved it by taking the book's only ladies and bathing them in the shining light of stardom.

The biggest names of the ensemble cast are the two female leads: Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchette as Elf-maidens Arwen and Galadriel. To be an Elf, however, was Jackson's ultimate challenge. They were going to have to learn a language that never existed. Tolkien invented Elvish from scratch, and the director was determined that Elves would confer in their own lingo.

"There was basically a 1-800-Help-An-Elf number,' giggles the 24 year-old Tyler, her eyes shaded from the Cannes sunshine by elaborate Guccis. "There was this man,I think he was an Oxford professor. We would call him from a translation. I would always make a note of the line with an English translation, next to it so that I understood what I was saying."

For true Elfness, though, there was more required that fluency in their verbal flourishes. A transcedent quality was sought, and perfect poise. So,no slouching of the shoulders, no dragging your heels or any other grotty human habit that would spoil the effect.
"The Elves are almost impossible to play," grumbles Tyler, reliving the strain of attaining the unobtainable. "They are like perfect beings. They have an incredibly keen sense of smell, hearing and sight, they are very perceptive and move in a certain way. In a scene there wasn't a moment where we could go, "Huhhhh..." and flop down or shug a shoulder. We couldn't relax."

For Blanchette there was the added nightmare of having to play the cream of the cream. Lady Galadriel is an exotic Elf aristocrat who reduces men to gibbering wrecks. She had to glow. Oh, and grow a foot taller. "You should have seen these boots," laughs the 32 year-old Australian. "Because Elves are meant to be very tall, they invented these '70s glam platform boots that I would clop around in and I was meant to sort of glide. So I had a lot of difficult gliding to practise."

Galadriel, next to Gandalf, was the role everyone had cast in his or her mind long before the movie was underway. This time, though,Jackson defenitely moved with the consensus, engaging Blanchette's services for a mere three weeks of the epic shoot in this small but pivotal part. For the in-demand actress it was the director himself who was the lure. "I think if these stories were in the hand of a less unique and bizarre mind, someone who was unprepared to go into the darkness, they wouldn't be as rich. I'm such an admirer of his work."

While it's hard to picture Blanchette lapping up Braindead, when she's completed "glowing" the director had her pointed ears cast in bronze as a momento.

With Tyler's character, Arwen, came controversy. She dwells on the fringes of the novel, her love story with Aragon found mainly in appendices, and the decision to raise her profile stirred up major geek-rage. Rumors of her joining the Fellowship and fighting Orcs like some proto-Zena boiled away over the electronic highway. Tyler is circumspect about the truth of the matter, teasing Empire with a sly wait-and-see policy. Did she train for any fighting?
"Yeah,I did a little bit," she smiles. "I did archery. I was good at it. Twice."