by Ashleigh VanHouten
photography by Joe Pugliese
Elijah Wood is a pretty normal guy. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that he’s just one of your buddies when you speak to him on the phone. He had a cold when we spoke, more proof that he’s a mere mortal like the rest of us. All in all, he’s a regular dude – not taking into account the fact that he’s been a successful actor since childhood and has starred in one of the biggest cinematic successes of all time.
Elijah is a busy man, having completed the ensemble-cast movie The Romantics, due out in September. It’s about a group of old friends who gather for a wedding, and Elijah plays “slightly mischievous, often drunk” Chip. He also just filmed a pilot for FX, an adaptation of a show from Australia about a depressed guy taking care of his girlfriend’s dog – a dog who looks and speaks like a human, at least to Elijah’s character. “The script was unlike anything I’d ever read. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and strange and cerebral.”
Although he hadn’t been looking for any work in TV, he was certainly open to the prospect. “So many actors are moving to television because there are, in some ways, better opportunities in terms of creative projects and incredible characters to be played out in the context of TV – more than there are in film, certainly in the context of larger studio movies.”
So does Elijah watch reality TV like the rest of us? Is Jersey Shore his guilty pleasure? “I don’t know if I believe in the notion of a guilty pleasure. I was a huge fan of The Biggest Loser for awhile. I’m not really a huge reality TV fan, but that show, it’s just so emotional. It’s ultimately watching people strive to be better.”
Elijah has managed to accomplish a work/life balance that few of us ever manage, maintaining an acting career while pursuing his other passions and finding time to relax and do some pretty normal things. “I spend time with friends, barbecue, watch movies. I love photography. I play video games.”
While ambition and a laid-back attitude don’t always go together, it seems to be working fine for him. When asked how he keeps such a busy schedule without burning out, he says he finds his job relaxing because he can become so focused on his work, he doesn’t allow himself to think about anything else. “I find work very relaxing, to be honest. When I’m working on a project it requires all of my focus, so I find that quite peaceful in a way. I tend to just focus on the one thing I’m doing.
“Sometimes relaxation is difficult. People who lead relatively busy lives equate downtime with laziness. But if I’m on vacation, I find it easy to put my phone down.”
Elijah’s interests extend beyond acting. His passion for music led to learning the piano, taking singing lessons (“I can carry a tune, but I wouldn’t call myself a singer,” he insists), and starting his own record label. “I just love music, so I wanted to be involved in some way, and in the distribution of artists that I care about and that I think are good… [Music] will always be a part of my life simply because I’m such a huge fan.”
He admits to things that some A-list actors wouldn’t admit to, like the fact that he has checked out his own fan sites online. “I think that anybody with a site devoted to them, that person is always going to have that curiosity. I think that’s relatively natural. That’s also a danger in looking at those sites… There are people out there discussing elements of who you are. I separate it to where they are talking about me the actor, not me the person. To be honest, I don’t think about it often, and it’s probably healthiest not to.”
He admits to enjoying watching some of his own movies, but not just to see his own pretty face. “Seeing a film for the first time, I’m always really excited and I’m watching the movie as a whole, not just for myself. I’m just genuinely excited by seeing the final product come together when a large group of people have worked on it together.
“Now, if one of my films comes on television, there are probably only a couple that I will actually sit and watch. Lord of the Rings is one of them… I genuinely love the movies.”
Elijah is gracious and respectful of his career, with none of the resentment some actors have about being associated with an epic movie or character. Regarding his time as Frodo, he says, “I have such gratitude for that experience and how it shaped me as a person. I also respect that this movie is enjoyed worldwide and that it’s going to be with us for the rest of our lives. I think, in a way, to resent it would be such a shame and sort of foolish. Those movies are huge; they’re bigger than any of us as individuals. I know I will be asked about that role for the rest of my life, and what I’m thankful for is that it’s part of a movie that I love.”
Less-than-wholesome roles? Definitely. “I think it would be interesting to play a villain of some kind. A darker character, someone who doesn’t necessarily have redeeming qualities.” He also wants to explore the comedic side of things a bit more. “I love comedy; it’s such a challenge. It’s an art form that I don’t even know if I’m good at, but I would love the opportunity to try more of that. I’m constantly looking for something different from what I’ve done, something that will challenge me as an actor.” Well, one thing’s for sure: wherever you go next, we’ll be watching.