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Interview with Elijah Wood

Here is an interview with Elijah Wood talking about his character Frodo from eonline.
Frodo Speaks: An Exclusive Q&A with Elijah Wood
by John Forde | February 1, 2000
Frodo is relieved. Elijah Wood, the 19-year-old star who plays Frodo Baggins--the primary character in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings saga--has been dying for a chance to talk about this hush-hush project. Now he can. Relaxing between takes on the Hobbiton set, in his first interview since filming began, Wood opens up about Frodo, his costars, the technical demands of this massive trilogy--and big furry feet and little pointy ears.

Frodo goes on an enormous physical and spiritual journey--what part of that journey are you most interested in exploring?

I think he has a sense of strength, that he's able to take on this quest and take it to the end, which is very interesting to me. And what happens to him on the way interests me as an actor--you know, the fact the Ring starts to take hold and he starts to go mad and loses himself. It's an incredible arc, to watch that happen over time.

Many of Tolkien's main characters have a moment of confrontation with their dark side--they have to choose between taking on the evil power of the Ring or resisting it. What's it like to explore the dark side of Frodo?

We haven't dealt with it a lot yet, because we're still in film one, which is probably the least dark of the three. But I certainly did explore it a bit when we did some scenes from film three, and it's very interesting.

It's quite a dark dark it's not really Frodo anymore, y'know--it's kinda the Ring speaking. And the obsessive nature inspired by the Ring is so interesting. "No one can have the Ring, it's mine, so stay away." It's almost subconscious.

So, you see Frodo as being possessed by evil, rather than making a conscious choice to engage the Ring's power?

Oh, definitely. There was a conscious decision to take on the Ring, to destroy the Ring, for the better of Middle Earth and the Shire, but he doesn't ever make a conscious decision to go to the dark side. It's simply over a period of time he is beaten down, and his soul is beaten ragged, and he gets to a point where he can't handle it anymore, where he can't hold out against it.

What do you admire about Frodo... or not admire?

I admire the fact he's inquisitive and curious and wants to experience the outside world. He learns so much from Gandalf, he's learning Elvish, and he tries to be a worldly person. I also admire that by the time he makes the decision to take the Ring, it's selfless--it's for the better of Middle Earth and the Shire. And he wants to take this journey whether he may die or not.

That's an incredibly courageous and honorable decision. He's just got a spirit, you know? That's what I love about him...he's very alive and very lively. You don't get to see a lot of that--only in the beginning of the first film--but his spirit, the light that's in him, is what holds him together.

What about the physical aspects of the production--the prosthetics, the makeup...

Yeah! Every morning, I start with about two and a half hours of makeup, which means some very early mornings. We're usually picked up around 5 a.m. I come to the set, and I get into my feet, which takes about an hour.

They look comfortable.

They actually are very comfortable, thank God, but it does take a while to put them on. Initially, that was so exciting. Got the feet, got the wig and the ears. And then it was like, Ooooo-kay...I could do without this in the morning! Then I put on my wig--it's the first time I've worn a wig in a film, so that's exciting--and the [prosthetic] ears, which fit on very well, so it's cool. You feel like a hobbit. We really transform in the morning, which is neat.

Hobbits are similar to humans, but they're not human. How do you develop a character who isn't human?

I haven't really thought of it in terms of what could I do that would be hobbit-like. I've more approached it like, what are the elements of my character? How am I going to portray them. Because my character is less hobbit-like than any of them, really. He's not an outcast, but he's on his way.

His uncle [Bilbo] is a bit of a strange fellow here in Hobbiton, and everyone looks at him like he's a bit of a freak because he's got all these stories and he's been to all these places and he's a bit mad. And I'm on sort of that route, because I'm very interested in the route Bilbo took in his travels and the things he'd seen and the people he'd met. Which doesn't make me a typical hobbit.

What kind of journey are you on as an actor?

There are so many elements which are different and new for me as an actor. The sheer length of the project, the fact that I've got three films to develop a character, to hold that character and have him change and grow. Normally, you've got a couple of months to shoot a movie and develop the character, and it's not normally done in sequence. Here, we've got three films, being filmed mostly in sequence, so I get to experience the character's changes and live with the character over a long period of time, which I really enjoy.

How do you maintain your character amid all the technical demands?

It's easy to keep hold of the character. Peter Jackson is always in the moment, and he knows what's going on, and I try to keep myself focused on the scene.

What's it like working with Peter?

[Lets out an orgasmic gasp.] Absolutely wonderful! I've been a fan for a long time. I remember when I saw Heavenly Creatures. I absolutely fell in love with that movie, and I really wanted to work with him. I'd heard about Lord of the Rings about a year before I was approached to read for it, and the idea of putting Tolkien to screen was really interesting. When I heard it was attached to Peter, that did it for me.

Peter seems to encourage a lot of collaboration.

One of the best things about working on the project is that Jackson and Fran [Walsh, Jackson's screenwriting partner] are so open to suggestions. We have open meetings where we talk about scenes and where our characters are going. It's kinda everyone's film in a way. They certainly have their vision, but their openness makes our experience as actors so much more comfortable. Our opinions can be heard, and we feel just as much a part of it as they do.

You seem to have a good working relationship with your Hobbit costars. Tell me about that.

We had six weeks of prep before the film, so we really got very close very quickly, which is just wonderful. And I've made friends for life, truly beautiful people, and they're perfectly cast. The first month, we were just doing Hobbit material, so it kinda felt like the Hobbit movie for a while! We were the four Hobbits, always together. But now they're breaking us up, and we're doing different parts of the film, so it's a bit weird, you know, because we spent so much time together initially.

Were you a Tolkien fan before you joined the project?

Yeah! Well, honestly, I actually had not read the book before I started. I'd read The Hobbit, and when I finished it, I bought LOTR right away. I just never got around to reading it. So, when I started this, I started reading it, just to get into it. And it's interesting, because I read the three scripts when I started, and then went back to the book.

What are the differences between the novel and the scripts?

Well, obviously the level of descriptive detail [in the novel] is amazing. I found it really helpful for filling in more of the characters' internal processes and getting a sense of the whole quest.

You've been filming in New Zealand for about four months now.

Yeah, and this is the first interview I've had. I haven't been able, really, to talk with anyone from the press about it, so this is cool now that I'm right into the project. I've been looking forward to this!

Has it been frustrating to maintain such strict confidentiality?

Not so much. I've talked about the movie to friends, but I don't really reveal a whole lot.

Is it difficult being so far away from your friends and family?

I don't feel that far from home. I know I am, but I'm so at home here. I feel like Wellington is my home away from home. I just got a house--I had an apartment for a while--so I'm totally settling in, and I've got a second family here as well, with Dom and Billy and Sean and the other actors and the crew and everyone. I feel so comfortable. And New Zealand's just a great place to work, it's a really relaxed and constantly beautiful atmosphere, so it's a lot of fun.