IT WAS a moment any actor would savour with pride. After 18 months
filming in the wilds of New Zealand, Elijah Wood returned to Los
Angeles with the world at his feet.
Global fame beckoned for the little-known actor who was about to
become a big star with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
But instead he sank into depression and shut himself off from the
As the hysteria grew with the release last Christmas of the first
instalment, The Fellowship Of The Ring, quietly-spoken Elijah refused
to capitalise on his success. And when the hullabaloo died away, he
was left feeling deflated.
Now Elijah, 21, faces the tumult again as The Lord Of The Rings: The
Two Towers is released next week.
And he has spoken for the first time about how his life was turned
upside-down by playing the mild-mannered hobbit Frodo.
"I did not want to work, did not want to party and did not want to
leave the front door," he says. "I was wiped out. I did not want to
do anything apart from sit around."
For Elijah, a child actor whose first film appearance was in the 1989
movie Back To The Future Part II, it was the first time he had
stopped working in a 25-film career.
"It was time to just sit, listen to music, read a book and relax," he
"I have not wanted to stop before, but this gave me a powerful
feeling of anti-climax. I had the world's best experience as an
actor, and when it was all over I found it difficult to cope.
"You have to imagine what it was like. We had been on location in New
Zealand, working non-stop on three films over 18 months. We had built
up a great team spirit.
"So what can compare to that experience? We had all the pressure of
trying to deliver something to the screen which would match people's
expectations of the book.
"We then had all the buzz of it being talked about, travelling the
world to promote it and a feeling of high expectation. To come down
from all that has been a shock to the system.
"I think I am stronger as a result, but for a while I did wonder
whether I would ever find anything to match it. Here I am, still a
young actor, thinking: 'Maybe this is as good as it gets.'"
Elijah is already a film veteran, with child-actor roles opposite Mel
Gibson in Forever Young and Paul Hogan in Flipper.
He graduated to teenage appearances in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm and
the sci-fi thriller Deep Impact before landing the role of a lifetime
Now he can command up to £3million for making a movie. Yet Elijah
seems unsure where his future lies. Even when he eventually agreed to
work again, in his next movie Ash Wednesday, he had second thoughts.
"I met Ed Burns, who is directing the film, and loved the idea of
working with him," he says, sitting in T-shirt and jeans in his New
York hotel suite, looking more like an off-duty bellboy than a major
star. "It sounded great and he seemed cool.
"I said: 'Yes - definitely.' But when I was driving home, I was
thinking: 'Do I really want it? I am tired. I don't want to work.' I
almost gave him a call to pull out of it or give an excuse.
"I am glad that I did agree, because it got me started again. It's
not a big role and it was great to be around a film set and actors
again. I was outside the comfort zone of Lord Of The Rings and I
needed to push myself."
Elijah also turned his back on women. Despite rumours linking him
with the stunning German actress Franka Potente, he says he has not
had time to go dating. "It just hasn't happened for me," he says.
HE adds: "Sadly, there was nothing in that rumour about me and
Franka. It's not that I don't want to date - it's just that nothing
has really gelled in that area."
Elijah still shares a house in Santa Monica, California, with his
mother, Debbie, and he credits her with keeping his feet on the
While other rich young Hollywood actors have let the money and fame
go to their heads, he has been careful to steer clear of the club and
"I owe it to my mother and the way she raised me," he says.
IT'S OVER: Elijah felt deflated after his spell in the blockbuster
"It is difficult to raise a child at the best of times, but she was
doing it alone - my father had walked out on us - in a difficult
"It has kept me going, in the sense that I have been able to enjoy a
normal childhood. I have seen what can go wrong, with people like
"I once met him and liked him. But child acting is cut-throat. It can
be frightening and silly.
"Mom created a strong sense of reality and stressed that I needed
more and more of that as I got older.
"When people started to get to know me through films, she was always
there to balance all the fuss and the praise you get. She provided a
family life, completely separate from the false reality of the film
That must have helped Elijah when he came to star alongside some of
the biggest names in Hollywood. They are happy for him to call them
whenever he likes, but he says his Lord Of The Rings co-stars will
always mean the most to him.
"I have a big file of telephone numbers from people I've worked with,
like Sigourney Weaver, Brooke Shields and Salma Hayek, but it never
feels right to call them," he says.
"I don't think that will be true of someone like Ian McKellen, who
plays Gandalf. I look on him and the rest of the hobbit actors as
Perhaps his mother's influence also explains why Elijah, who has an
elder brother, Zach, and a younger sister, Hannah, has kept his feet
on the ground when it comes to dealing with his huge pay packets.
"I do not buy stuff all that often, apart from CDs," he says. "I go a
little insane on that. I also spend money on going to shows. I saw
South and Cornelius in Los Angeles recently, which was awesome.
"Before that, I saw the Sneaker Pimps and Flaming Lips. But no one is
going to go through a fortune on listening to music and watching
bands. I am a bit of a geek in that way.
Elijah also loves buying movie memorabilia. He says: "There is so
much merchandising linked to Lord Of The Rings. I said to the film
company: 'I do not ask for much but I want all the toys.' I wouldn't
say no to underwear - even a lampshade.
IT doesn't matter. I have this wonderful opportunity to get all the
merchandising. I've loved being made into an action figure and,
sadly, it'll never happen again.
"Some actors are unnerved by the fact that they have been reduced to
a model or toy less than a foot tall. But it honestly suits me - I am
proud of it."
In the flesh, Elijah seems slight and almost elfin himself. But his
boyish good looks still cause him problems.
"It's ridiculous," he laughs. "I get asked for ID tons of times,
especially when I'm buying alcohol or going to clubs. What's worse,
I've been asked for an ID when buying cigarettes."
But he admits that looking young for his age is not all bad.
"Looking young can be pretty helpful, because I get away with murder
sometimes," he grins, mischievously.
"But I'm hoping to change that perception of me a little, I guess,
because although it'll be great having a baby face when I'm older it
isn't so good now, when I want to play roles that are my age.
"I've certainly lost the chance to do some parts because I looked too
young for them. But hopefully that will change as I get older."
The last movie in the trilogy, The Return Of The King, will come out
at Christmas next year. In the meantime, Elijah is happy with his
work in The Two Towers and thinks there's a message in the exploits
of Frodo as he steps up his fight against the forces of darkness
plotting to control Middle Earth.
"There is a constant battle against evil, which is particularly
appealing to me," says Elijah. "I very much believe in the goodness
of people triumphing over those who always wish to do harm.
"I think this is why the first film was so successful. People want
something good to believe in - and these films deliver that."