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Screenwriter Philippa Boyens on The Hobbit, Tolkien Trivia, and Dwarf-Elf Sex

Philippa Boyens.

Want to spar with someone on The Hobbit team about Tolkien trivia? When Über-fan Stephen Colbert was in New Zealand for his cameo spot in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, he did just that, deciding screenwriter Philippa Boyens was the one to beat. Against all odds, he actually won the challenge by three questions (though he admitted later that one of his answers was wrong). Thankfully, that has not deterred Boyens from geeking out with other fans — Vulture included — about all things Hobbit. Herewith, our conversation about orc crushes, elf-dwarf sex, and creating a new character from scratch.

When we last spoke at the premiere of the first Hobbit movie, I asked you about something that you said would be in the second movie, and then it wasn’t. So I have to ask: Why we didn’t see Thráin, Thorin Oakenshield’s father, give Gandalf the map and key?
Ah, yes. That’s going to be in the extended cut of the second film. In the end, it became about length and time and pace, and yeah, it’s a very important part of the storytelling, but really, that’s part of the brutality of filmmaking. As much as it informs Thorin’s story, you’re bringing in yet another character that you have to explain. We did actually shoot it. But Peter made the decision that this stuff is going to work best in the extended cut. If you’re a Tolkien fan, you’re going to want to see how this plays out.

What were the hardest calls to make about what to add and what to cut?
It is like killing your babies, yeah. It’s hard when there’s stuff that’s in the book that you always imagined you’re going to do, and you actually find, “Ah, no. We can’t.” Like Bombur falling in the river. That will probably be another extra. The elves feasting was an easy one to cut. I think if we’d made The Hobbit first, we probably would have had elves feasting. But to me, it was too A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It would have felt fairy.

You created a new character, Tauriel. How did you come up with her?
The Galadriel-Gimli story had these two races who loathe each other, and Gimli’s dark, dark suspicion about elves and about the fact that he had heard of this woman, Galadriel, and he calls her the witch of the wood, but when he meets her, it all falls away. We always loved that story, and we never got to tell that properly in The Lord of the Rings. Professor Tolkien writes brilliantly for women, like Eowyn, but we thought the fact that he didn’t write one for The Hobbit shouldn’t stop us. We decided she should be an elf, a Mirkwood elf, and she naturally came into being. The dwarves are being captured, put in the cells, and all of the those moments made it obvious — she’s got to be one of the guards.

You get the sense of why Legolas might not like dwarves, if a dwarf stole the girl that he liked.
Yes! We didn’t set out to write a triangle, but Legolas looks at Kili with pure loathing — you know that look? [Laughs] But it can never be. But then you say, “Why? Why can’t it be?” I suppose we’re messing with the audience a little bit. But it’s saying that the connection is fragile, but that doesn’t make it less real.

But then there are the other questions it raises. Can elves and dwarves breed? What is elf-dwarf sex like? If elves are tantric lovers, as Orlando Bloom says …
They probably would! Dwarves wouldn’t be that patient.

And apparently I wasn’t the only one wondering about interspecies sex in Middle-earth. I heard you guys had T-shirts made on set regarding Azog the orc, saying “You Can Defile Me Anytime”?
[Laughs] I know! Manu [Bennett, who plays Azog the Defiler] is actually a very sweet guy. But boy, is he powerful and furious when he takes on that role as Azog! It was that strange moment when you saw Azog, and it was like, “Really? What’s wrong with me?” He looked quite attractive! It was funny. But you can’t have a crush on an orc.

What other running jokes did you have on set?
Richard Armitage, when we were doing ADR, he kept saying, “We’ll just use the toilet and go,” anywhere it would fit when Thorin is murmuring something to Dwalin. It didn’t get into the movie. We’re not that naughty. It was for our own private amusement.

I think I glimpsed Peter Jackson chomping a carrot in Bree, for his cameo.
[Laughs] Can I tell you, Fran [Walsh] said, “Really? You’re going to do that?” He made me laugh, I have to say.

Stephen Colbert has a cameo in this one, too. Where was he?
Ah, did you not spot him? He’s in Lake-town. As Stephen Colbert would, he works for the Master of Lake-town, he works for the politician. He’s one of his spies. So if you keep an eye out for the guy who has a fake eye patch …

When you guys quizzed each other on Tolkien trivia, what answers did you stump him on?
It was at a party at my house, most of the cast was there, and I’m sitting down with a glass of wine. Pete comes up and says, “Oh, Stephen and I had this hilarious idea that you’re going to have a Tolkien-off with Stephen Colbert.” And I had heard how good he was. Somebody said, “Ah, you’ll take him,” and I said, “I don’t think so. I think this is going to be really bad.” And we were probably the only two people in the room who knew if we were getting it right or wrong! [Laughs] Afterward, there was one where I thought, “No, he got that wrong.” And he actually wrote me a very sweet letter afterward, and he said, “I think I got one wrong.”

Which one?
Who built the Argonath? And I also got him on, Which of the dwarves is not related by blood to Thorin Oakenshield? He got me on all the great elvish questions. In my defense, I hadn’t been able to read The Silmarillion in like the last fourteen years, because we don’t own the rights, and so we’ve deliberately kept away from a lot of that stuff. I love Tolkien, but I’m certainly no Tolkien scholar, and Stephen Colbert probably is. He’s the real deal. And he would have beaten me anyway, even if I had been studying! He would have taken me out.

If you guys could get the rights for The Silmarillion, would you …
Oh my God, no! If [co-writer] Fran [Walsh] ever heard you say that, she would have a nervous breakdown! No! I would say no! We’ll let that pass into the hands of somebody else. It’s a phenomenal mythology, absolutely extraordinary. Balrogs riding dragons, come on! I mean, there’s stuff in there you would just want to see. But no.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s fans call themselves the Cumberbitches. Are you a Cumberbitch?
Um … He’s actually as nice and funny and smart and gorgeous as you think he is. So huge fan, nobody’s bitch!

Hobbit Screenwriter Philippa Boyens on Dwarf Sex