Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Lord of the Rings, Wilfred, Flipper
Currently Known For:
Actor, Producer, DJ
2000s - Present
January 28, 1981
The Lord of the Rings, Wilfred, Flipper
“I think being different, going against the grain of society is the greatest thing in the world.” Over the last three decades, Elijah Wood has made the transition from child star to leading actor and film producer look effortless. He launched his acting career in 1989 with a minor role in Back to the Future Part II and gained even greater recognition with award-nominated performances in Avalon (1990), Paradise (1991), Radio Flyer (1992), Forever Young (1992), and The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993). As a teen, he settled into his fame with performances in North (1994), The War (1994), Flipper (1996), The Ice Storm (1997), and Deep Impact (1998) before his career took a drastic turn in the new millennium.
In 2001, Wood caught another major break when he was cast as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003). Going on to reprise his role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), Wood has been unstoppable over the last two decades with credits in feature films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Sin City (2005), Everything Is Illuminated (205), Bobby (2006), Maniac (2012), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), and many more. Also lending his voice to Mumble in the Happy Feet films, Wood saw two other dreams come to life when he founded his own record label—Simian Records—and his production company—SpectreVision. Most recently, he’s turned his attention to television with starring roles in Wilfred (2011-2014) and BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017).Early Life and Career
“I was lucky in the sense that I started work very young but had a solid family base provided by my mother.” Elijah Jordan Wood came into this world on January 28, 1981, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where his parents, Debbie and Warren, ran a local delicatessen. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic home alongside his older brother and younger sister, Wood started modeling and taking piano lessons at the age of seven. Showing an early interest in performing, he made his stage debut in his elementary school’s production of The Sound of Music and later landed a leading role in the school’s production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Wood appeared in several local commercials and caught the first of many breaks in 1988 when he was cast in Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl” music video. The following year, he landed a role in the television film Child in the Night (1990) and had a minor role in Back to the Future Part II (1989), which prompted his parents to sell their delicatessen and move the family—his mother and siblings, not his father—out west to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, Wood appeared in several ads and television commercials before getting his first taste of rejection in 1990 when he failed to impress the producers and wasn’t cast in Kindergarten Cop. Told his audition wasn’t believable, Wood was crushed by the rejection.
Fortunately, things soon improved for the nine-year-old when he landed a part in Avalon (1990). The film earned four Academy Award nominations and received widespread praise from critics, which boosted Wood’s name recognition in the business and earned him even bigger opportunities. He snagged minor roles in Internal Affairs (1990) starring Richard Gere, Paradise (1991) starring Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, Forever Young (!992) starring Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis, and Radio Flyer (1992) starring Joseph Mazzello.
In 1993, Wood snagged his first starring role in The Adventures of Huck Finn and joined Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son. The following year, he starred opposite Kevin Costner in The War (1994) in a performance that finally caught the attention of film critics like Roger Ebert who wrote, “Elijah Wood has emerged as the most talented actor in his age group in Hollywood history.” Similar praise followed as Wood made the transition from child star to teen actor in the mid-1990s with credits in North (1994). He appeared in the music video for The Cranberries’ “Ridiculous Thoughts” in 1995 and returned to the silver screen as the star in Flipper (1995) and The Ice Storm (1995). He rounded out the decade with Oliver Twist (1997), Deep Impact (1998), The Faculty (1998), Black and White (1999), and Chain of Fools (1999).Joining the Sci-Fi Realm: Frodo Baggins and Beyond
“It’s a simple battle of good versus evil that everybody can kind of relate to. It’s this kind of hero’s journey that is present in literature as far back as Norse mythology. And since The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter films, there’s certainly been a resurgence in it.” Wood’s career took on a new direction in late 1999 when he was cast as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Giving Wood top-billing as Baggins alongside well-known names like Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom, and Cate Blanchett, the film was an outstanding success and spawned two sequels—The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), the latter of which earned a record-setting 11 Academy Awards.
“It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It created more opportunities than it hindered,” Wood said of the film trilogy and his overnight stardom. “What surprised me most was how intimate such a large-scale production felt. I had nothing to compare it to then, but this quality has become more special over time. All of us embarked on something that had never been done before on such a massive scale, tucked away in beautiful New Zealand, and it all felt homegrown, like the world’s largest independent film. That feeling of family and forging a path as we were working was truly extraordinary.”
Thanks to The Lord of the Rings, Wood became an overnight star but, fortunately, did not fall into the same traps as many other young actors. That’s because his mother always kept a watchful eye on his schedule and ensured he remained humble. “She instilled a strong sense of perspective and humility in me from a very early age,” he said. “Also, that kind of excess has never interested me. I find it boring. But I don’t envy people who are suddenly thrust into fame because there are no tools to understand how to deal with that… I was lucky in the sense that I started work very young but that I had a solid family base provided by my mother.”
Determined not to rest on the success of the film trilogy, Wood kept pushing forward in his career. He returned to the silver screen in the Academy Award-winning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) starring Kate Winslet and surprised fans the following year when he played a serial killer in Sin City (2005). During this time, he pursued his passion for music when he launched his record label—Simian Records—and signed his first artist, The Apples in Studio, in 2006. Months later, he snagged a starring role in Everything is Illuminated (2005) and teamed up with an ensemble cast featuring Helen Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, and Anthony Hopkins in Bobby (2006). As if his schedule wasn’t already packed, he later lent his voice to Mumble in the 2006 award-winning musical, Happy Feet, as well as in the 2011 sequel, Happy Feet Two.Life Today
“This bizarre industry presents so many paths of temptation. If you don’t have some kind of foundation, typically from family, then it will be difficult to deal with.” Over the last decade, Wood worked on several independent and smaller projects like Day Zero (2007), The Oxford Murders (2008), and 9 (2009). In 2010, he landed his first starring role on television in the FX series, Wilfred, which ran for four seasons until 2014. The series earned widespread critical praise with Wood earning a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actor in 2011. The next year, he reprised his role as Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), which rekindled his fame as the film grossed over $1 billion at box offices around the globe.
Throughout his time on Wilfred, Wood had even more time to pursue his passion for music and launched his career as a DJ. Over the years, he’s become a well-known DJ hired for popular events like the Bushmills Live 2012 festival and the 2012 pre-Emmy party at The London West Hollywood hotel. “I DJ records as a hobby, which has increasingly become a source of enjoyment and expression,” Wood said of his growing musical interests. “I’ve always wanted to open a bar and perhaps a restaurant, as I’d love to marry the creativity of designing a space whilst giving a great chef a place to create. And opening a record store is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager. There’s certainly no shortage of things I’ve dreamed about.”
Apart from his many other interests, Wood returned to acting with credits in Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012), Maniac (2012), Grand Piano (2013), and Over the Garden Wall (2013). Over the next two years, he snagged roles in The Last Witch Hunter (2015) starring Vin Diesel, The Trust (2016) starring Nicholas Cage, and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) starring Melanie Lynskey. Then, amid his hectic film schedule, he jumped at the chance to return to television in the BBC America series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which ran from 2016 to 2017.
“It’s based on Douglas Adams’ series of books. It’s difficult to summarize, but it’s essentially a wild, funny, mad detective show with a case that is constantly revealing itself as it goes along,” Wood said of the series. “Dirk Gently, a detective that relies on intuition and coincidence rather than clues and gathered logical information, leads the swirl of mad activity. I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it and I’m excited for people to dig in.”
Part of Wood’s draw to the project was his love for British comedy, which he gained from his time with The Lord of the Rings. “The British actors working [on the film trilogy] spoon-fed me everything from The Day Today to Brass Eye to The Mighty Boosh. It doesn’t adhere to the same needs of American humor. It doesn’t constantly require a laugh out of you. It’s more sarcastic. There’s more wit to it,” Wood said of British humor. As for the Dirk Gently script itself, that proved to be a little more difficult to unravel. “The scripts were so extremely layered and complex that they had to be described to us all at great length,” Wood said. “There were all these tangential threads thrust at us that were seemingly unconnected, so we were initially quite in the dark. The series’ writer Max Landis would mention something like time travel, for instance, and then go, ‘Oh s—t, haven’t I told you about that yet?’”
With Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency canceled after its second season, the 37-year-old Wood has had more time to focus on other projects like his record company, his production company, and his growing popularity as a DJ. As for his personal life, Wood sold his $1.75 million estate in Santa Monica, California in 2012 and moved into a $700,000 estate in Austin, Texas where he’s often mistaken as Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. “It’s really common,” Wood says. “And apparently the same happens to him with me!”
Still living in Texas today, Wood focuses a lot of his energy on his philanthropic work with charities like The Art of Elysium, which helps hospitalized children use creativity as an outlet for healing. Beyond that, Wood has high hopes for the future. When asked where he says himself in 15 years, the former Frodo Baggins doesn’t hesitate: “Still making films and hopefully directing. And I imagine I’ll still be talking about these films: my love of New Zealand, the closeness of the cast and crew on The Lord of the Rings, the craftsmanship of the various departments and the new roads they paved, and so much more. These films and the making of them truly encapsulate so many experiences, memories, and life that I never tire of discussing them.” LOTR fans never tire of it either.