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Ready for her Close-Up: Evangeline Lilly - "Real life is not a photo shoot"

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Evangeline Lilly doesn’t subscribe to the Hollywood version of dealing with the baby weight.

Forget about leaving the delivery room and three days later walking the red carpet in some slinky little number. “I don’t believe in this idea that you should have your body back two seconds after giving birth,” says Lilly, who plays a fierce, sword-wielding elf named Tauriel in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” opening Friday.

To wit: She gave birth to her son Kahekill with boyfriend Norman Kali in May of 2011. Just three months later, still carrying baby weight, she was on a plane to New Zealand to film “The Desolation of Smaug.”

Lilly likes a challenge. Consider that she delivered her son during a natural homebirth that included a 30-hour labor. The former Kate Austen on “Lost” knows what she didn’t do right afterward: Hit the gym.

“I didn’t work out after giving birth,” says Lilly, who looks fit and strong over coffee at the Beverly Hilton on a cold winter morning.

“I couldn’t work out. I was a new mother and I wasn’t making enough milk at the time, so there were issues.”

She adds, “I hate that women put this pressure on themselves to be in perfect shape right after giving birth. What if it takes a year or two? It’s about YOU feeling healthy, so you can care for both yourself and your baby.”

It might be illegal to say this in Hollywood, but Lilly is the straight-talking type. “Real life is not about always looking good for a photo shoot,” she says. “That’s because real life is better. Real life is not a photo shoot.”

The 34-year-old from Alberta, Canada, knows about the pressure of pretty. She was discovered as a teen by the Ford agency and modeled to help pay for her University of British Columbia tuition and expenses. Soon she was seen as the face of L’Oreal Paris.

Her film career includes the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” and the Hugh Jackman action film “Real Steel.” When she was offered the “The Hobbit,” accepting was a given.

“It was my favorite book as a kid, and the elves were my favorite characters,” she says. “When it came to ‘The Desolation of the Smaug,’ I was offered the role of Tauriel and immediately picked up the phone quickly and said this character is not in the book.

“I gulped,” she confesses. “I thought ‘Whhhhaat? Everybody is going to hate me.’ But it didn’t take long for Peter Jackson to convince me.”

She says that all the sword fighting scenes in the film required tough training that was quite physical. “I loved the sword training because it did get me in touch with my body. Also, I loved that it wasn’t just about the heroic men. I love that they truly made her a hero.”

One aspect of her look wasn’t everyday. “It is interesting to wear the elf ears and I loved it. They actually give you three different set of ears – small, medium and large, and ask, ‘Which ones feel right?’ I said, ‘Probably not large. I’m more of a medium ear type of elf,” she says with a laugh. “They still looked huge on me. I think my ears are bigger than the ones Orlando Bloom wears.

“He has ear envy on me!” she cries. “But I do have very long hair that’s shockingly red, so it balances it all out.”

Also freeing was her new short hair in real life. “I just like short hair on women. I’ve always wanted to chop off my hair,” she admits. “When you’re on a TV show, they don’t allow you to cut your own hair. For the last eight years, I wanted to cut my hair, but I had the long, flowing locks.

“I got so sick of it that I just chopped it off and it was so amazing. I do feel free,” she says. “I’d advise every woman to try it at some point in her life. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.”

“Don’t stress out about it either,” she advises.

HER DE-STRESSING SECRETS

*Take Some Time to Pause. There were rumors that Lilly retired after “Lost.” “I thought I had retired into what I thought would be a life of quiet motherhood and writing. I really didn’t plan to take any more acting gigs. It was five years before I took a meeting or engaged in a new project. I was so far off the grid that when Peter Jackson tried to find me for ‘Hobbit,’ he wouldn’t reach me. But I think it’s good to take a pause now and then to de-stress and re-evaluate your life.”

*Find Your Inner Athlete. Her character Kate on “Lost” was always climbing trees. “That’s because I love to climb trees. It’s important to find what you love to do in an active way and then do it. If you love it then you will get moving.”

*Listen to Your Gut. “I like to say I make cerebral choices. I will say, ‘Here is X, Y and Z. What should I do?’ We all know by gut instinct what works and what does not.”