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Evenstar Farwell

by Ian Spelling, Starlog, March 2004.

Renouncing life immortal, Liv Tyler is the Elvish princess who sacrifices all for the man she loves.

Much as Sauron hovers over all of Middle-Earth, a mostly unseen yet inescapable, foreboding and dark force, Arwen Evenstar is somehow equally omnipresent, a serene and optimistic presence whose love in words, deeds and visions shines down on Aragorn as he struggles not only to defeat Ores and harness the armies of the Dead, but to accept his role as a king among men.

"I think that for me, I would say hope is the thing that Arwen represents," notes Liv Tyler, who portrays Arwen, daughter of Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Celebrian, granddaughter of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), in Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. "I love the idea of who she is and the necklace that she wears. She had that beautiful line in the first film where she says, 'The light of the Evenstar does not wax and wane; it is constant even in the greatest darkness.' That is sort of what she is and what she represents. In everything, especially her relationships with her father and Aragorn [Viggo Mortensen], she's a symbol of endless hope, belief and encouragement."

That the character makes such an impression on the proceedings is a tribute to Tyler, Jackson and co-screenwriters Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. Arwen rates as a major figure in the trilogy despite the fact that Tyler spends relatively little time on screen. "I didn't really think about it like that, about making an impression," the actress notes. "That would be more of a Peter question, in the developing of the screenplay."

"I know that at one point, my part was much bigger. They felt that the love story and the character of Arwen were beautiful and important, particularly in the supporting and understanding of Aragorn once you get to Return of the King. But they were kind of confused at how you take these two people who are on opposite sides of the world from each other, who have no physical connection, and make a believable situation where the audience understands and is invested in their love story. Originally, they wanted to make her more of a fighter, as Elves are incredible warriors. They thought, 'We'll show her strength, and she'll be a tough cookie.' "

"That was interesting because I was suffering a lot during that time. We were already in New Zealand, and I was homesick, depressed and felt like I wasn't connecting to the character. I didn't really know what was wrong with me, but then I figured it out when we decided that wasn't working. We admitted it and were able to say, 'OK, let's just scrap everything, reinvest ourselves and look at this again.' And we realized that we didn't have to put a sword in her hands to make Arwen a strong woman or presence in the film, that there was a way to truthfully stick to the story in the appendix and convey this incredible connection that these two people have. "

"I wasn't shooting yet, I was just preparing, and I was like, 'What's wrong with this picture? Why am I here for three months?' I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me, but then I realized, in talking with friends, that [the filmmakers] didn't know what they wanted and were struggling to find the direction for Arwen. So, once I realized that I could participate in the development and the finding of the character, a whole new world opened up for me and I was able to invest myself in it and become excited and inspired by that possibility. Now I think that it works really well, especially the [dream visions]. But it's hard for me to step outside and watch the movie."

Her Eternal Love

Jackson, Boyens and Walsh wove Arwen into the Rings tapestry in a fashion different from Tolkien. She's a supporting character within the film's A-story, so to speak, whereas in the novel she's a peripheral figure mostly relegated to the appendices. Jackson, Boyens and Walsh also heightened the romantic triangle only hinted at by Tolkien, more or less pitting Arwen and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) against each other albeit from afar in a quest to win Aragorn's affections. At various points in the production, the filmmakers considered flat-out pairing Aragorn and Eowyn. And had he wanted to, Jackson could have pushed matters further simply by choosing alternate takes of scenes in which either Mortensen and/or Otto expressed more yearning.

Observant moviegoers will notice that Arwen and Eowyn never interact or even make eye contact during the coronation sequence in Return of the King. And Tyler confirms that no such scene of them doing so was ever shot. "Initially, we shot a big version of that sequence, and then we came back and did that in pick-ups," she explains. "Everyone was separated. I was there on the same day Miranda was, but I didn't have any scenes with her. I never thought about that until you said it. I'm happy with the film the way it is now. There are really only these two women in the films, and I don't think Pete wanted them to be seen fighting over the same guy."

That's not to say Arwen isn't a conflicted Elf. She is, and very much so. But that conflict isn't about giving up immortality to be with the man she loves; it's more to do with the fact that in order to stand by Aragorn she must leave her people. "I felt that she had already made her decision," Tyler says. "I know that there is a lot of drama in the story, with Arwen communicating with her father and expressing these visions, but there's still a part of her that knows deep down inside that this is what she's going to do no matter what. It's quite a scary moment in The Two Towers when he shows her the vision of what will come and what will be, and I think that she accepts and realizes that, and is still willing. Arwen would rather have 50 years with this person whom she loves rather than spend an eternity alone, never having experienced that."

Talk to the trilogy's cast and, to a person, each can rattle off scenes, lines or random bits of character development depicted in the book that didn't make it into the movies. Tyler is no exception. "The things that I loved the most, character-wise, are at the end of the books, which we don't ever see in the film," she explains. "There's a sweet connection in the books, because it's actually Arwen who gives Frodo her place on the ship to the Undying Lands. You don't see that in this film. And she gives him the Evenstar. That's quite a beautiful moment, and Arwen says to Frodo, 'When you're remembering and it makes you feel scared and sad, this will protect you and help you feel better.'" Tyler, however, didn't share her concerns with Jackson, Boyens or Walsh. "I would never do that," Tyler notes. But why? Was it just not her place to do so? "No, it was at certain times," she replies. "You would have to ask them that."

Tyler isn't knocking anyone or the films. Every actor wants what's best for their character. In the end, Tyler notes, the trilogy captures the essence of both Arwen and Tolkien. "Absolutely," she says. "I see them as one film. I've never really sat down and watched all three. I've only seen the third one once. So I'm really looking forward to, in the future, being able to sit down and digest them more as a whole."

Her Elvish Courage

The experience of making Rings will live on even as the movies themselves fade into memory. Tyler will remember the physical training, lessons in speaking Elvish and her long sessions with costume designer Ngila Dickson. Likewise, she'll always think fondly of the two actors with whom she worked most closely, Mortensen and Weaving. "Actually, out of all the cast, Viggo is the most mysterious to me," Tyler explains. "I didn't personally get to know him all that well and yet I feel like I understand him. I believe, in retrospect, that I learned the most from Viggo because never in my entire life have I seen an actor completely give in to a character and experience it to that capacity."

"There were times when I would get mad at him because he would push me harder. There was a weekend when I got really sick and had a horrible flu, and that was my one and only day to sleep and recover and not work. We were supposed to go horseback riding together and I cancelled it because I wasn't feeling well, and Viggo gave me a really hard time about it. So I went, and it was one of the greatest days of my life. It was actually the one time, while I was riding, that I really broke through to the other side with the canter and becoming more comfortable on the horse. I had a beautiful day and am incredibly grateful to Viggo for pushing me further. He taught me so much about that, about really being willing to submit and submerge yourself into making the film and the character work."

"With Hugo," Tyler continues, "it was sometimes quite funny and hard for us because the Elves are so bizarre, sort of alien and otherworldly. We used to laugh a lot after the Elvish lines. Hugo would have the most incredibly serious speeches, and they were so funny. I really adored working with Hugo, and I enjoyed the father-daughter relationship."

And when she looks back, Tyler will also recall her last day. In her final scene, a moment from the coronation sequence, Arwen and Aragorn kiss. She shot that not only as her farewell task during pick-ups, but also as her last bit during principal photography. "That was interesting as well as sad," Tyler notes. "I sort of didn't feel like it was happening, like it couldn't be possible. But the moment that I looked into Fran's eyes, we both just started to cry. I'm crying thinking about it now. We both had a big cry there, and then they brought everybody into a big room with all the crew and cast that was around that day."

"They had a party with champagne and snacks, and Peter got up and spoke and presented us with gifts. I was given one of my dresses and my sword and then they showed these absolutely brilliant gag reels. That was such an incredible example of Peter Jackson and the whole experience because half of it was completely serious, except for the song, was kind of goofy. My song was 'Total Eclipse of the Heart,' and it was like, 'Turn around, every now and then...' and shots of me turning around. There are so many shots of Arwen, when you watch them in that context, turning around and crying and so sad and heartbroken. And then it cut into 'Walk This Way' [an Aerosmith tune sung by her father, Steven Tyler], and it became me, Liv, who's such a goofball. It was hysterical clips of me messing up my Elvish lines, doing blue screen in slow-motion and blue-screen moments where I was riding and getting nauseous on the horse. At the Wellington, New Zealand premiere [in December 2003], we all got a DVD with everyone's goodbye reel on it as a gift. I haven't been able to watch the whole thing yet, but I've seen a few and they're hysterical."

Now, with the Lord of the Rings adventures under her belt, Tyler is moving on with the rest of her life and career. She has a new film coming out in early 2004, the comedy Jersey Girl, in which she costars with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. A newlywed, she lives in New York City with her husband, musician Royston Langdon. And she's the face of Givenchy in its international ad campaign. Juggling it all, Tyler admits, can be a challenge, but it's nothing she can't handle. "I think that at this point in my career, because it's not the beginning for me, like it is for Orlando Bloom he's going through what I went through just a few years ago I've now gotten to this place where I'm able to be selective."

"The Lord of the Rings and the perfume campaign, financially, gives me the opportunity to spend time at home and with my family. It's really important for me to know that I'm going to work for a certain amount of time and dedicate myself to that project, and that's wonderful, but I also then need to know that I'll have time to dedicate to myself, my own heart, family and loved ones," Liv Tyler concludes. "I'm always trying to balance those things, but I don't find it particularly hard because I love what I do and I'm fortunate to have a husband who is so encouraging, loving and supportive of me. I don't think I could do any of this stuff if I didn't have his support and encouragement, because there are times when I'm like, 'I'm going to die. I can't go on,' and he says, 'You're doing great. I'm so proud of you.' That really helps me a lot."

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