Three The Hard Way
Elijah Wood survived the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and all he got was this lousy sword. By Scott Desimon.
As the final installment of the Tolkien trilogy rolls through a mega-multiplex near you, Elijah Wood reflects on coming of age in Middle-Earth. When we met, the actor was bivouacked with the rest of the cast at New York City's Hotel Regency to talk about The Return of the King, the brooding and emotional conclusion to the blockbuster hobbit saga. Wood sank into a banquette in the hotel bar, a sprite of a man with eager eyes, to talk about life after Frodo and his persistent Tobey Maguire problem.
NYLON: So, everything's done done with Lord of the Rings?
Elijah Wood: It's done offically now. I'm done with Frodo, which is kind of amazing. It's sad in one respect because it's been such an incredible journey, and I think some of us felt like it would never end--in a good way. But it's nice to have a sense of completion, particularly with this last movie, which I think we're all the most proud of. Now we just have to promote it, which is exciting.
You almost convinced me that you like doing these junkets.
I mean, look, it's completely exhausting, but it is a particularly good film. It's very dark and grim and emotional. I just saw the last hour of the film, and I could not stop crying. I've never been made to cry so intensely from watching a movie before. Part of it probably has something to do with being so involved with it and the film mirroring the end for us in the cast, so my emotions were wrapped up in that.
These movies have been such a huge part of your young adulthood. You could say this has been your college experience in a lot of ways.
It was, completely. I was 18 [when it started]. I made friends for life. It was a massive growing experience socially and in terms of my own confidence and understanding of who I was.
How did you say goodbye?
Because it was essentially our last involvement working on it, they gave each actor their own farewell party, which was really sad and emotional. Peter [Jackson, the director] would make a speech, Barrie [M. Osborne, the producer] would make a speech. Then they'd show a movie they'd cut together of that particular actor's work and some behind-the-scenes comedy cut with very funny songs. And then each of us received our sword from the film and the last clapper from the last take of the last part. It was really beautiful.
When you moved on to your first post-LOTR project, was it difficult to readjust to the standard Hollywood production?
Initially it was difficult to leave that world. I haven't really done anything on a large scale since Lord of the Rings. The last thing I did was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with [director] Michel Gondry and [screenwriter] Charlie Kaufman. I freaked out at the chance to be able to work on it. My main interest after LOTR was working on smaller films, projects that just told a small intimate story, with a small crew and a much shorter span of time. It was actually a bit of a relief.
Eternal Sunshine is about using medical technology to erase bad memories. Do you have any memories you'd like to erase?
No. I think what we experience in life, the good and the bad, is meant to teach us something, and we should wear that proudly on our sleeves. I don't really believe in the idea of regret. What's so great about this film is that it shows that whether you erase them or not, they still live with us.
[The phone rings. It's Wood's siter, Hannah--who's living in his New York apartment--arranging to go play celebrity charades that evening to support Philiip Seymour Hoffman's LABryinth Theatre Company.]
Are you familiar with charades?
Not really, no. I know the basic codes-- the movie, the book, how many syllables, sounds like, all that. Robin Williams will be there, who's a lovely guy, and that will make it really fun.
If you get a chance to get onstage.
Exactly. He'll take the stage and it will be over. I'd rather guess than be the one giving the clues. I'm shy.
From The Ice Storm on, you've done a good job making the tricky transition from kid actor to adult.
I'd love to say that there is some grand design, but it was just project-to-project. The things I loved just happened to be those movies that would not shoot me into some weird direction and make me uber-famous in that Hollywood way. [The Ice Storm] was influential for me, because I was part of something that I was proud of artistically and surrounded by actors that I really cared about. That became the way I was thinking. I want to be able to be proud of everything I do, even if it's a role I'm proud of in a shitty movie.
You're a young, good-looking guy. You make a good living. How do you not become a dick?
Thank you, that's very nice. I was raised very well by a mother who was always conscious of the dangers of the business. I was never allowed to be treated like I was better than anybody else, and I think, because that was drummed into me at such a young age, as I became an adult, that was just me. I hate the fact that there are people who, because of their celebrity, think that they deserve more and live a lifestyle that is higher than other people's and as a result they treat people like shit.
How often do you get mistaken for Tobey Maguire?
A lot. I have a great story and I hope it gets printed because I'd love if the guy read it. I was at a screening for Once Upon A Time in Mexico, and a guy leaned over my seat and said, 'Hello, I'd just like to congratulate you on Seabiscuit. I thought it was a really wonderful movie and you were great in it.' I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm not Tobey Maguire.' And without missing a beat he was like, 'I know...I'm just telling you that it's a great movie and you're Elijah Wood and you're in Lord of the Rings, which is also a great film, and I just thought that I should mention it because you should definitely see it because it's great. And I was just talking to Tobey Maguire who said that you guys are really good friends--you guys are really good friends, right?' I was like, 'Well, not really. I don't know him that well.' 'Well, he thinks you're great and he thought you were great in Lord of the Rings, and you should definitely see Seabiscuit and congratulations on Lord of the Rings.' It was unbelievable. He turned it around brilliantly. Not only did he try to fix it, but he went so overboard creating this incredible web of lies. That was the coolest fuck-up of that kind I've ever seen.
Looking back, are there any roles you regret not getting?
There were things I wanted to do with a passion that didn't work out, like Rushmore and Pleasantville. But in the end I was so happy even though I wasn't a part of it. Sure, I was bummed. I was such a big Wes Anderson fan I really wanted Rushmore, but then the movie came out and it was so good, I wouldn't have touched it for anything. Things work out for a reason and lead you to where you're meant to go, for good or for bad.
No fear of your career going the way of Mark Hamill [Luke Skywalker, of the original Star Wars trilogy]?
That's come up a bit. But with Hamill and Skywalker, it was such an iconic role, and he never really worked after that or before that, either, really. I feel like I had a career before, and if I continue to work now, it will show people that I'm not simply Frodo.
Also, there was no exisiting Star Wars subculture, whereas LOTR has been around for more than 50 years. Was it hard to break into that culture?
Sure, initially. When it was announced that I was going to play Frodo, at least half of the talk on all these LOTR sites was vehement hatred. Like, 'How can they do this? My life is ruined!' I entered into the film with a hefty amount of trepidation at taking on this character that millions of people have already known for years. It's difficult to compete with someone else's imagination, you know?
I've heard you're a big music nut. Do you have any specific musical associations with making the LOTR trilogy?
Oh my god, yeah. In fact, there's this project I've always wanted to do, which is to make mix CDs of music I listened to during every film. It seems like a really cool way to remember those experiences, because music always sends you back to a very specific time. During Lord of the Rings, I became a Stone Roses fan, mainly because of Dom Monahan [sic], who's Mancunian, so he grew up with that kind of Happy Mondays and Joy Division stuff from Manchester. I also was into the second Travis record during LOTR. I became a Clean fan, which is a New Zealand band. That was the one band that I really grabbed onto that was from there.
Is there a cast reunion planned?
We've talked about going back, but there's nothing planned. The great thing about where we stand now is that as the films end, we go on. The fellowship continues, and we well always be linked by these movies and always be linked as friends by working on them. We can leave the projects behind with less fear because we know we're not out of each other's lives. That's the thing that's most important.
Do you think you'll work with Peter Jackson again?
I hope to. I really want to go down there and visit while he's shooting King Kong, maybe get stomped on by Kong's foot or something. We'll see what happens.