How Peter Jackson Got Evangeline Lilly Out Of Retirement

Evangeline Lilly has become a pivotal part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stealing the show in Ant-Man and now getting promoted to double-billing for Ant-Man and the Wasp. But it almost never happened — if not for Peter Jackson.

Lilly shot to fame after the beloved ABC sci-fi series LOST premiered in 2004 to rave reviews, with Lilly transforming from unknown to household name virtually overnight. But the frenzy around the much-debated, oft-divisive show turned Lilly off to Hollywood, and she decided to retire from acting altogether. Until she suddenly got a call from none other than Peter Jackson.

When Evangeline Lilly retired in 2011, she didn't anticipate returning to the film industry at all, the actress revealed to the Hollywood Reporter. But thanks to a determined Peter Jackson, we were not robbed of one of the best female characters in the MCU.

Lilly told THR all about her temporary retirement and her unexpected return — nay, Unexpected Journey:

I don't know if you're familiar with my journey with acting, but it's been a unique one, it's not your typical story. Basically, by accident, my first speaking role in film or television was Lost, and so I was instantly launched into international stardom, and that was really uncomfortable for me. I instantly balked, didn't know how to deal with it and felt very uncomfortable after that situation. I ended up deciding to retire after I finished Lost. I did a film called Real Steel with Hugh Jackman and then I walked away. I said, "I'm done, I'm never doing this again."

I had a baby, I was writing scripts, I had a quiet little life, and two years later — and I mean, throughout those two years, I had no contact with Hollywood at all — I got a covert call from Peter Jackson, who I knew through my relationship with Dom[inic Monaghan] back in the day, and he said, "Nobody in Hollywood seems to be able to reach Evangeline, but we want to get a hold of her because we want to cast her in this film." And I was so torn because I had genuinely retired, I thought I was done, but I really wanted to do the movie. The little 13-year-old girl in me was like "I get to be a woodland elf? What?"

Lilly's is not an unusual situation — we've seen plenty of child actors or longtime TV actors up and retire from Hollywood after being disillusioned with the whole thing. But it's rare to see them return through an even bigger franchise than the one that initially brought them fame. And Lilly came back with two.

"[Making The Hobbit movies] helped opened my eyes to the fact that, OK, this job can be a joy, it's just a matter of how you approach it, and what you do with it, how much I put myself out there, and to a certain degree, how much I work," Lilly added. "And so as I was finishing press for The Hobbit, that's when I got the call from Marvel, and I thought, 'I just need to either draw a very firm line in the sand and say I'm done, or I need to just make my peace with the thing, find a way to be happy and do it in a way that makes me feel comfortable and satisfied.'"

And now Lilly is the co-lead in a Marvel film — with hopefully her own solo outing in the future. It's way better than going down in history as the girl who was great at finding trails and starting love triangles.