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Liv-ing Her Role

by Jenny Cooney Carillo. Dreamwatch, March 2002.

LIV TYLER saw her role as Arwen in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING grow beyond the character in Tolkien's book. Words: Jenny Cooney Carillo.

How did you prepare both physically and spiritually for your role as Arwen?

I am not very physical in the movie, necessarily. I have one scene where I'm riding a horse, but elves in general are incredibly elegant and graceful in their movements. They are just these outrageously perfect beings, which is really difficult (to play) as a human who is goofy and who slouches. I just tried to understand the way that they move. I also spent hours and hours working on my accent with my dialect coach and working on the Elvish, just understanding it all. It was hard but interesting, because they are supposed to move in a bizarre way. It's hard to take that off the page and put it on the screen and make it look natural, not stiff like an alien, so it took me a while because it was really important to me to look right it was a lot of just trying things, being goofy and finding the balance of it.

Could you talk a bit about your character? What abilities does she have?

She is an elf. They're very powerful. They’re very gentle, elegant creatures. They are all knowing and some of them can speak without words through their minds. They're highly intelligent. They're immortal. They've lived for thousands and thousands of years, so they have had to endure seeing the most beautiful and amazing things and also the most sorrowful things. There's so much pain. Arwen is a princess and my mother was Galadriel's daughter. so I'm the granddaughter of Galadriel and my father Elrond is half elf, half human but from ancestors far back, so I have a little bit of human in me. I am a bit of a rebel in that Arwen is in love with a mortal man (Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen) so what she goes through over the course of the three films is having a love of this man, this beautiful passion and intense love, which she is willing to give everything up for, forsake her people and her world and her immortality just to be with him and to share those years with him, short as they may be.

How difficult was it for you to learn Elvish?

I spent a lot of time just working on the Elvish and the accent in general. We went through different phases. At one point the elves were going to speak with an accent as if they had tapped l's and r's, always rolling your 'r'. It was impossible. I didn't like it, so in the end we wound up speaking with standard English accents. I spent a lot of time working on that and the Elvish was something I would work on more intensely when I had a line to memorise. The way I would do it was to memorise each Elvish word next to the English word so that I understood what I was saying. At first it was really hard because the sounds are very tin-American. There are a lot of ch's and th's and things that I wasn't used to, but over time it became really easy for me. Not easy, but something I could learn in a half hour or 20 minutes and remember. I can still remember most of my lines, which is fun, it stuck with me. It was really exciting then to be able to stand there and speak it. Even just in front of the crew I felt really good about myself because I could do it! (laughs)

Before this film you had never read the book. Have you now become a fan of the trilogy? Could you start understanding why the mythology of this trilogy has so much impact?

I began reading the books when they offered me the part, and continued to read them throughout the course of the film-making. What was really amazing to me was to be reading them for the first time and then to arrive in New Zealand which immediately felt like it was Middle-Earth. I then went to see the sets and went to the workshop and saw all the prosthetics and armour, to see what was in my mind and so many people's fantasies finally coming to life. It was kind of scary. I had really horrible nightmares when I first got there. Wellington's really windy so I would be sleeping at night, and the whole house would be shaking and I just had all these visions in my head of the Ringwraiths and Hobbits and big people and little people. It was really intense to have it all come to life like that so quickly. Yes. I'm a very big fan of it I wouldn’t say that I completely understand everything. I do understand the story, but I find that one of the things that's so great about it is that it's a kind of lifelong commitment to really take on everything. You would have to read the book a hundred times, and read every book about the book, to fully understand everything about it. I think that's one of the appeals for so many people, that you can always learn something new and it can always be with you. I have never been any good at remembering dates and numbers, so it was hard for me when I first started reading it but I realised I had to sort of get past that and just get into the story and not focus so much on all of the different names and places all-the time.

How long were you actually there in New Zealand and what was it like to make that kind of commitment to a movie?

It was hard for me. I felt like it was harder for me than anyone else and I don't know why exactly that was because I loved everyone. There wasn't one person that I could hate that would give me the excuse to why I was so unhappy. But I felt like New Zealand was very far away and it's the most stunning place and the most inviting, but I really did feel homesick a lot of the time. When I wasn't working I felt pretty miserable and I missed my fiancé. I would be e-mailing him, but it was just long. It was kind of endless. It wasn't like a normal film where there's a stop date and you know when you'll be done and you can make plans to look forward to. It was always changing and it was hard to schedule things. I wound up coming home when I wasn't working, in between the times when they needed me, which was interesting because I couldn't really do anything else Sometimes I would work for two months and I'd be waiting for the call to tell me when they would need me again. So on the one hand it was great because I was employed and getting paid even though I wasn't doing anything [laughs], but it was difficult and even now I don't feel like we finished the film. There are still pick-ups to and looping to do for the other two and we have all this press and it's a trilogy so it still feels like it's happening in a way.

You wear some amazing jewelry and outfits, were you able to keep any of it?

We didn't get to keep anything because it's still happening in a way, you know, so it's all in vaults somewhere, though I wanted to keep my sword really badly. I had this sort of test sword that I would use when I was practicing. It was all banged up and I loved it, but I don't know if I'll ever get it [laughs]. I really loved the costumes. I liked their sort of pre-Raphaelite feel, because I hadn't really seen that on screen before. I spent a lot of time with the costume designer, helping her come up with ideas, being a part of the whole process.

Do you have a favourite myth or fairy tale?

I used to read these books when I was a kid - I don't even remember what they were called - they were very big books and they had really detailed drawings and a story about gnomes and little people and fairies. I loved them so much and they're in storage right now or else I would have gotten them out and figured out what they're called. Things that I remember like the first book I ever learned to read was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and I love all of those stories.

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