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Status Magazine: Age of Enlightment
In this age of ennui, e-babies and the iPod populace have replaced medieval knights and epic odysseys. Us jaded young halflings need to slough the quarter-life crisis, get off the La-Z-Boy, hunt for treasures and pleasures, and rekindle that passion for adventure. Who can illuminate this path towards a post-new age? The ultimate quest seeker, ELIJAH WOOD, of course. |
Nowadays, people don’t have time for adventure unless it involves Finn and Jake. Elijah Wood, on the other hand, still regularly goes on algebraic acid trips with his furry best mutt friend. Ever since swimming around with Flipper, the young man has been navigating the zeitgeist through acting gigs, musical obsessions, artistic collaborations, and a healthy appetite for variety—in a way, embodying this young generation’s restless raring for life rife with exploration and expression.
After all, the actor has an exhaustive list of quirky experiences including rolling through sunflower fields with pop culture junkies, probing Jim Carrey’s memories, tap dancing with penguins, or getting tortured by man-eating wolves before being decapitated with a saw.
Besides voicing the main character in Disney’s new animated Tron: Uprising TV series, Elijah recently flew to Spain for Grand Piano—”I’m going to have to learn how to play certain sections of songs on the piano quite proficiently, so I feel like there are some roles that lend themselves to a certain amount of preparation more than others.”—and is looking forward to the release of Pawn Shop Chronicles—”It’s more of a comedy in a Raising Arizona/Pulp Fiction kind of way. I play a very twisted character who abducts women… The film is a series of stories that all take place in a Southern town and the connective tissue is this pawn shop. Items, people, and stories kind of get siphoned through this one place. It’s very good, very dark, and very funny. It’s awesome,” Elijah reveals.
His bold thespic choices—from off-kilter indie projects like Green Street to animated features like 9 and Happy Feet, a political drama (Bobby), and a coming-of-age story complete with a Debbie Harry sexual fantasy (All I Want)—garnered him the top spot in Miller-McCune magazine’s 2009 survey of critics’ all-time favorite actors.
“I think I try and look for characters that are not like myself,” says Elijah. “I suppose I’m most attracted to roles that are further away from my comfort zone.” Landing his most famous role, Frodo Baggins, took extra effort. After learning some dialogue from the novel, Elijah filmed himself in a “cheesy” (according to Peter Jackson) Hobbit costume in a nearby forest, then sent that video to the casting director. Actually doing the role justice was exacting and equally exhilarating. Besides dialect coaches and prosthetic feet, The Lord of the Rings was an unparalleled adventure for our young protagonist.
“There will never be an experience like that again, y’know? It was the most extraordinary experience of my life,” he exclaims. “It kind of transcends the idea of a role specifically or looking at it specifically from an acting perspective, ‘coz it was all-encompassing. I lived in New Zealand for 16 months. I made some of the best friends in my life,” a shout out to the fellowship and the Hobbits, “I traveled there when I was 18. By the end of the last film, I was 22, so it was a huge growth experience for me and a significant move forward in my life,” he says.
So much so that Elijah seems to have taken that merrymaking, storytelling, life-loving Hobbit mentality with him everywhere. Some say his eyes stay so sparkly blue because he never lost that sense of wonder.
Elijah Wood proves fearless in the face of the unfamiliar. Besides being the first guest on Yo Gabba Gabba! to do a Dancey Dance—for its pilot episode, no less—he was also the first celebrity guest on Jack Osbourne’s UK reality series, Adrenaline Junkie. In the episode, the two brave rabid white-water rapids, then Tarzan across the Victoria Falls (the world’s largest) for yet another first-time-in-the-history-of-the-world experience.
However, Elijah’s most significant foray into television remains to be FX’s darkly hilarious, Wilfred. “I was interested in television as a storytelling medium,” explains Elijah. Soon, he started going through scripts. Luckily, “Wilfred was the last one that I read. And I just fell in love with it, y’know?” He says, “I was interested in comedy. It was something I hadn’t done. It was a new challenge. Wilfred was so completely different from anything that I’d read or anything that I’d seen on television. It was so bizarre and dark and kind of oddly cerebral. And very funny… I was thrilled by it, by the opportunity to work on it, and to work on something so unique.” In its two seasons alone, the show has seen Elijah’s character, Ryan, having a pot of spaghetti dumped on him, taking a crap in his neighbor’s boot, and getting canine jizz-blasted.
His vigor for all things fresh has led the leading man to a path of passion-pursuing fancy. First on the list of Elijah’s multiple ventures into geekdom is his thing for film. Not just the moving picture kind—which his annual attendance at Butt-Numb-A-Thon should attest to—but the shooting-from-the-hip variety as well.
“I think I’m just always looking for something that moves me,” he offers. “And something different and challenging and unique. It can be a number of things that make me fall in love with a project or instill me with that sense of passion to wanna be a part of something,” Elijah says. “If anything, I’m just looking for something that feels good.”
Elijah excitedly tells the story of the favorite photo he ever took, a grainy 1996 black and white shot of the Statue of Liberty peeking through a vignette of underexposed high-rises in the dusk, taken on his old school pre-digital Canon (“It may have been a Minolta,” he ponders).
“We can use apps like Hipstamatic that can emulate film, and so I tend to shoot with that now, more than anything, which is kind of a bummer,” laments Elijah. “It’s kinda made me a little bit lazy, so I’m trying to stop myself from shooting so much with my iPhone… I had rolls and rolls of film constantly, so I’d love to get back to that place,” particularly the Lomo boom of the early 00s. “I never really kept a journal, so I think it’s been my way of documenting my life,” he shrugs.
It’s a valiant endeavor, seeing as he’s avoided paparazzi prying throughout his career. Elijah’s personal life—besides blind item rumors about his obsession with Nicki Minaj and Pink Friday merchandise—stays private. He openly discusses his love for cuisine, video games, yesteryears, travel, discourse, and the state of new media; self-reflection, though, sends the usually articulate gentleman into stutters. As the interview wraps, he goes back to his two favorite topics, “Anytime I get to talk about food or music, I’m excited.”
His love for music culminated in the establishment of Simian Records seven years ago, though it’s currently “in a state of flux.” He mentions, “It’s still something I wanna be involved in. I wanna put out records; I’d really love to get into doing reissues as well and compilations. So much of the music that I buy and listen to and so many of the labels that I love are predominantly reissue labels… I love digging back, so I’d love to be a part of that process as well.”
More recently, he’s been DJing at backyard gigs, production wrap parties, and other events you probably weren’t invited to. Before you hipsters and music snobs roll your eyes, consider that Elijah plays vinyl-only sets (he’s currently obsessed with 45s), and his eclectic taste ranks obscure Turkish DIY records he got off eBay as must-play tracks.
Not to knock his jetset agenda, but Elijah is grateful for his short break in New York, where our shoot takes place. After a delicious brunch (thanks again to whoever picked up the tab) at Soho Grand, Elijah starts revealing his foodie nature. The California resident bursts into gastronomic gusto over comparing his two most common locales’ culinary scenes, from Momofuku pork buns in New York to Sushi Zo and La Curacao in Los Angeles. “It’s my favorite burger in the world,” he says of Cabo fixture Henry Public’s grass-fed beef offering while also praising the East Village’s Veselka in the same breath as Fairfax Avenue hotspot, Animal. On a roll, he implores us to try The Breslin, Spider Pig, The Tasting Kitchen, Jolina, and several other spots between NY and LA. Elijah continues to outdo himself by spitting trivia about Austin’s booming food truck culture. A common thread in his eager rave: these places are an amalgam of experimentation, tradition, and modernity.
Currently, Elijah is swirling amber liquid in his glass. “Little Draper action,” he mumbles. He looks up from his drink and continues to talk about where he stands, three decades into his personal history. “I’m 31 now, and I feel like I’ve gone through periods of time where I’ve cleaned out my closet and tried to pare things down… Every time, I’m, like, ‘I’ve done this before, but I still have so much shit I need to get rid of.’”
He’s talking about his fashion sense, though his eyes suggest a bigger metaphor at play. “I really liked ties. I still like ties, but I wear them less now,” he confesses. For the shoot, he’s dignified and dapper in his favorite brand, Band of Outsiders. His suits—velvet Dior or otherwise—frame his shoulders precisely, and his shoe game consists of worn-out boots, Italian hand-crafted wingtips, and everyday brogues. “My personal style has gotten simpler, more focused, and more dependent on fit. The older I’d got, the more aware of fit I became, and what works for me and what doesn’t,” drawing inspiration mostly from the slim lines of the 50s. It may have taken him different rites of passage to get here, but it’s been a worthwhile adventure.
“I’ve learned a lot about the things that don’t work when I turned 30,” he laughs. “My 29th year was significant in terms of self-reflection and recognizing some things that had always been a part of me that I didn’t realize ‘til then. I had to sort of figure them out,” he pauses often to contemplate. He speaks of the transition between his twenties and thirties as an inexplicable tipping point, and finally concludes, “I can be complicated but also incredibly simple.” Exasperated, he catches himself, “That’s a contradiction.” But we gladly leave it at that anyway. It’s a good resolution to have coming into this new age: Stay complicated, stay simple, contradict yourself.