With his delicate features he doesn’t look like a fighter, and that’s exactly the reason for Elijah Wood to play a hooligan. “The question that is stuck in my head is: how will I remain credible when the world is full of Frodos?”
Elijah Wood fights with a passion. The small actor kicks a skinhead in the stomach, after which he knocks down two Millwall supporters. Screaming, he makes his way across a smoky pub, heading in the direction of a new fight in the street.
Elijah Wood (1981) as a hooligan, it’s everything but type-casting. The short actor with the bulging eyes, world famous ever since he played Ringbearer Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, has nothing in common with a bruising fighter at first sight. With his soft face the twenty-three-year-old actor rather resembles a big kid. Moreover, his physionomy can no longer be disconnected from his Hobbit-part: ElijahWood will always remain Frodo – that he has been an actor from age eight and had success before The Lord of the Rings, in The Ice Storm for example, does nothing to change that.
“I experience success as a blessing. But I also have to draw conclusions from it. The Lord of the Rings is so big that it got stuck in everybody’s memory. Adolescents, adults, mass audiences, intellectuals. That makes it hard for me to shed Frodo. Yet it has to be done; nothing is worse than an actor who is constantly performing an old trick. Every script that so much as hints in the direction of Hobbits or fantasy I throw aside immediately.
In The Yank from German-American director Lexi Alexander, Wood is given the chance to overturn his image. In the movie, which is currently being filmed in London, he goes through a big change. Wood arrives in London as an American student. Because of his friendship with a fanatic football supporter he is thrust into the world of football, beer, fights and shorn heads.
“As an American I distantly knew about hooliganism. I had no idea that hooligan-culture actually exists. I thought it was something like the streetgangs in Los Angeles. But it is completely different. These European rioters are ordinary guys. Office boys. Out looking for trouble on Saturdays.”
During a shooting day in West-London, where in an empty shed a fake pub has been rebuild, Wood takes all the time in the world for some reflection on his career. With a clove in his hand he searches for a quiet spot, while delivering teasing punches to the extras there – huge Millwall supporters who, later that day, all want to be photographed with that ‘fuckin’ hobbit’.
“I have never had many problems with the side-effects of fame,” says Wood, who was sent to a meeting of the International Modeling and Talent Association in Los Angeles by his mother when he was six. “It is a reasonably controlable aspect of this work. In any case it is easier to handle than image. Because that question is stuck in my head: how will I remain credible when the world is full of Frodos? Really, I see myself everywhere. On mugs, posters, in books, on the Internet. ‘Frodo’ and ‘Elijah’ lay an incredible claim on Internet search engines.”
The solution he chooses – to play in a fight movie with his dollface – has a forced feel to it, but Wood says that is an ‘easy’ conclusion. “It is about the element of surprise, to strike from the dark. Indeed, I am no tough guy. But that is what I like. It is a misconception to think that every fighting machine looks like an animal. The most innocent people can loose their minds out of dissatisfaction.”
In England, after the premier of The Football Factory, a discussion was held last month, about the relationship between film and hooliganism. The paper The Guardian said productions such as The Football Factory and The Yank are advertisements for ‘wannabe warriors’. In such productions violence is supposed to be romanticized.
Wood followed this discussion with some surprise. He thinks it is disappointing that ‘apparently one has to keep silent about this subculture’, whereas ‘a normal approach can take away taboos’. For him The Yank is not a film about football violence, but about violence in general. “I see those violent explosions around the stadium as a need that most people tuck away deep within themselves. Man is not so civilised by nature. The fighting is a substitute for warfare. Many people like to fight.”
In a fake pub, where he has to film a scene, he quickly goes through a fighting choreography. A female sound technician tells him that outside, in the rain, about fifty girls are waiting, with posters and books ready – that morning a tabloid mentioned Wood is in town (‘Frodo seduced by hooliganism’). “I will go see them a little later,” he says smiling. “I know enough actors who’d kill for situations like these.”
Then there is something else he would like to know about. How do Europeans think about the careermove made by the directors Joel and Ethan Coen, who switched to a big moviestudio with their film Ladykillers? A shame, judges Wood, who likes to talk much and expertly about directors and actors. “That is what I mean by making choices. The Coens are not the least of directors. And still they get caught up in Disney’s web.”
He lights another clove (‘I have allowed myself to smoke no more than thirty a day’), and says: “Actors and directors are led by artistic motivations. But it is also about milions.It takes a lot of balancing to stay upright. I was very lucky with The Lord of the Rings. Now it is important for me not to succumb to this luck.”
Thankyou so much to Eva-Lisa for sending in and translating this article