Media Watch: Arena Magazine Talks To Elijah Wood
Maddelena x writes: I am writing to let you know that Arena Magazine (Its a British Men’s Mag) are currently running a massive article in their 29th November Edition There is a large bit On The Two Towers, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen. The Interviews are fantastic and the Pictures are stunning. Here is the interview with Elijah and there is also one picture of Elijah from within the Magazine.
Arena Interview : Elijah Wood
A year ago Elijah Wood was tripping out. He was gagging for a drink and almost delirious with excitement. He and some friends had just been to see a film, you see, and it was a good one. “When we got out of the screening we didn’t know whet to say,” he recalls. “We knew we loved it, but we didn’t know how to articulate it. It left us speechless.”
He and a select band of other actors, family members and agents had, in fact, just been privy to one of the first screenings of The lord of the Rings; Fellowship of the Ring in a tiny projection room in the LA headquarters of New Line Film, the studio which bankrolled the multi-million pound project. And it had gone down rather well. “It’s difficult to impart to people what it was like,” says Wood. “We spent 15 months in New Zealand working on this three-part film, and to see one third of that documented is like seeing your life flash before your eyes. So much of it that we hadn’t seen, there were elements of it that we had no idea about.”
Twelve months on and the first instalment of The Rings trilogy has flashed before the eyes of a fair few around the world, raking in more than $850m. Elijah isn’t working today. He’s doing what he does fairly regularly when he’s not on set: meeting up with some friends, with a vague notion to catch a film sometime later. It was the same thing yesterday: he caught The Ring, starring Naomi Watts (the new take on the Japanese horror favourite, Ringu), for the second time in Elijah’s case. Amongst the trailers was the second three-minute promo for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Elijah Wood, the 21 year-old from Iowa who plays Frodo Baggins, the Ring-bearer, the hobbit destined to save Middle-earth and the owner of the most famous bare feet since Zola Budd, felt that slightly sickening thrill of anticipation in the base of his stomach. Around the world, folk are gearing up for round two. “it was just amazing,” he says. “I’m excited beyond words. The first one was a fucking stunning movie, but I know what’s coming. The Two Towers has the potential to be a better film.” And before you ask, no he hasn’t seen it yet. That happens in three weeks, and he’s counting the days.
ELIJAH WOOD WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD the first time he acted professionally. Having been put forward for modelling by him mother after she noted her son’s hyperkinetic energy, his first gig was playing an “executive” ina a vidio for Paula Abdul’s single “Forever Your Girl”, directed by a wetbehind-the -ears David Fincher. That led to a string of films where Elijah played the wide-eyed kid, in things like Back To The Future Part II, The Good Son alongside Macaulay Culkin and with Mel Gibson in Forever Young. As his acting kudos grew, so too did the roles: alongside Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire and Sigourney Weaver in The Ice Storm and Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. On the set of The Faculty, filmed in Austin, Texas, with Josh hartnett, he met Harry Knowles, the ultimate film geek, creator of movie gossip site Ain’t It Cool News (and Arena contributing editor), who first mentioned the F word. “I remember it very clearly, “Elijah recalls. “Harry said ‘They’re making Lord Of The Rings into film,’ Peter Jackson is going to direct it, and you have to play Frodo.”
It wasn’t until a year later that casting began and, after more than 200 English unkowns had auditioned for Frodo (Jackson initially wanted someone with no “baggage” but with, apparently, an English accent, so they were duly inudated with Tom, Dick and Harrys from all over our fair isle), Elijah sent a video tape in the post. He and a friend, the director George Huang (Swimming with Sharks), had hired some costumes from a local fancy dress store and filmed themselves prancing through some woods giving it up, hobbit-style. It was clearly convincing. The tape earned him a meeting with Jackson in early 1999 and Elijah got the happy news in late July.
The Lord Of The Rings throws up plenty of metaphors one could draw on for the pupose of, say, a magazine profile, especially concerning Elijah’s role. His description of how he literally got into character by “putting on my feet” (the hobbits all wore large hairy latex prosthetic feet, which involved them standing for an hour every morning at 5am as the sock-like props were glued to their soles) can be applied to his task of becoming Frodo during the 15-month shoot in New Zealand. “I went through periods of not wanting to put the feet on,” he admits “Just before our first break for Christmas 1999, work was grtting particularly difficlt and I’d be coming to work, sitting around in my feet, feeling tried. For that period it was so exhausting I found it very difficult to get the energy up to do it.” You could also, at a push, see Frodo’s journey from carefree child-man hobbit, full of trust and frivolity, to the drained and withered protector of the greater good, as rather symbolic of Elijah’s own transformation during shooting, with the burden of New Line’s multi-million pound epic around his neck like some glossy, CGI-underpinned albatross. “That’s exactly it,” he sportingly agrees. “We began with that romance period of finding these great friends, and everybody’s jazzed, then reality sets in and everybody’s exhausted. We shot horribly out of sequence but as the shooting wore on one could draw on the reality of the situation. The more exhausted your character is – certainly with Frodo – the more the parallel is there. I think that’s why the film feels authentic as it does, as we wer going through those things.”
For The Two Towers, when the Fellowship splits and Frodo journeys to Mordor in the company of fellow hobbit, Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin), and Gollumhttp://theonering.net/movie/char/smeagol.html, the insidious amphibious creature whose life is bound by the Ring, Wood spent weeks filming solely with Astin and Andy Serkis, who plays Gollumhttp://theonering.net/movie/char/smeagol.html. “It was an interesting process,” he says of the shooting with what will be totally CGI realised character. “Andy would come on in a tight-fitting green costume and totallybeat himself to hell, whch was fantastic for Sean and me because we actually got to work with him as an actor – we had Gollumhttp://theonering.net/movie/char/smeagol.html on set.”
WOOD IS EASY COMPANY – RELAXED, content and intelligent. Curiously, during conversation his accent and vocabulary flits between American and a cross-breed of New Zealand and British patiois. He’ll pepper his speech with the occasional “wicked” and, when asked about the bar where the cast spent much of their feer time on the shoot, he replies, “Oh it’s a lovely place” in much the same manner you’d expect from an upper class uncle. He has a commendable enthusiasm for swearing, though his fondness for the more colourful bon-mot has waned since Arena caught up with him 12 months ago. Reminding him of that sparks off all manner of reminiscence. ” It was just spending all of that time with brits and Aussies,” he insists. “The word ‘Cunt’ came up quite a lot. I was fascinated by that and how it could become not so dirty. It’s one of the few swear words that still shock people. Is that why you called Cate Blanchett “Her Cuntliness? “Not my creation,” he pleads, ” She was called that by Viggo Mortensen. I put the blame on him. It was used during the making of the movie and seems a bit silly now.”
Enlarging the profanisaurous aside, the inner circle of the cast got on famously, going so far as physically marking their bond for posterity. The nine members of the Fellowship got tattoos of the Elvish word for nine, the language Tolkien invented for his fantasy epic. Ask nicely and Elijah might show you his, etched onto his stomach where others might bare an appendix scar. It looks like a Celtic figure, a dark V with two quater-circles in the middle. Not to feel left out, Peter Jackson later got the Elvish “ten” carved into his back. If you have got this far, and have still yet to see the first part of the LOTR saga, you may yet have clocked Elijah recently appearing unannounced on another of this year’s great cultural achievements, MTV’s The Osbournes. It turns out that his younger sister, Hannah, is friends with Jack Osbourne, and over time Elijah met and befriended Ozzy Jr, and , of course Kelly. They found a mutual hobby in throwing up devil signs in the front row of a variety of rock gigs and rapport was forged. Just in passing, let it be known that Wood is a music fan of spectacular proportions. Get him started on any subject in that field and, with the addition of food and water, the pair of you would be set for many a day without the need for additional stimulus. In the space of ten minutes he will deconstruct the success of The Strokes, display an embarrassing knowledge of The Vines demo material, argue both for and against Pop idol as a phenomenon and enthuse over Boards of Canada and Squarepusher. “We went to a Zwan show, which is Billy Corgan’s new band,” says Wood, as we return to the Osbourne experience, “and afterwards we went back to the house, and they filmed us all hanging out. They have cameras there for 24 hours, every day,” he says, by now a mixture of fan-boy geek and incredulous observer. “it was weird, but it’s amazing how quick you forget about them. it was my first and probably only experience of reality television.” there won’t be an Elijah Wood show then? “Fuck no. No thank you. I don’t want people to be following me around when I wake up. I want my fucking life! I have a lot of respect, I guess, for people who handle it. When I saw it I thought it was wicked to be a part of it. But they left a bunch of things out. We made grilled cheese sandwiches and ramon noodles and they didn’t show that.” Such are the perils of International stardom that one’s culinary expertise may be overlooked. Despite this, Wood talks endearingly about the closeness of the Osbourne family, perhaps because in some ways their unique familial sensibilities mirror his own. Despite his parents divorce when he was six (Elijah now has no relationship with his father), the remaining Wood family is what the American hip hop fraternity would call “tight”. Elijah still lives with his mum. “I’m away for such long periods, its great to come home. I’ve been thinking I should go on vacation more, but being on vacation for me is being at the house.” What does take him away from home with such regularity is, of course, his filming commitments. There are pickups to be done for the remaining LOTR film, The Return Of The King, as well as the upcoming Thumbsucker, with Vincent D’onofrio and Tilda Swinton. “It’s about this kid who still sucks his thumb at 19, and his orthodontist puts him under hypnosis so he can’t gain any comfort from it anymore, and moves him from one aural fetish to the next,” he explains. 2It’s a great serious story told through an hilarious perspective.”
There are others to come, as you’d expect from one his age and with his current bankability. Try seventeen is a smart teen movie about a 17-year-old who inherits cash and a collage scholarshipfrom his grandfather, but drops out of school, buys a flat in a dorm and has “experiences” with his other tenants. Maybe we’re not selling it to well. “It’s actually very, very funny,” insists Wood with a smaile. “It’s really refreshing to do something like this after coming off something like Rings. Something more intimate,
more focused.” You sense that dispite having a year to get used to it Elijah Wood is still dealing with the level of fame Frodo Baggins has given him. “I’m much more recognisable now,” he says. “It’s every time I go out. But I don’t change my life to avoid it. It’s all positive.” So who comes up to you now? Geeks? “No, you get fans of the book, you get scool girls, people in their 30s and 40s.” but you’ve got to appreciate one sector’s interest more than another, no? He laughs, but entirely without ego. “Attention from women is never ever a bad thing,” he says. It’s been interesting.”
Elijah is somehow both awestruck and unphased about his status in the canon of young girls fantasy figures. Certainly, his is far from the obnoxious brat persona you suspect most 21 year olds would adopt in his position. Wood seems to be able to enjoy what is happening to him, without being caught up in the foolishness that often surrounds this kind of experience.
Now though Elijah Wood has to run. He’s got his friends to catch up with, and, if you recall, there are films to be seen. As he prepares to leave, he relates a string of recent experiences he has had with fans, and despite yourself, you’re rather touched……
“I get people come up to me,” he says, getting up,
” and they say, ‘man it’s you, it’s fucking Frodo.
I can’t wait to see the next movie.
‘ Me too.’
‘have you not seen it yet?’
‘No, i’m still waiting as well. I’m just like you…….. ”Posted in Old Special Reports on November 29, 2002 by xoanon