Best known for portraying Frodo Baggins in the mammoth Lord of the Rings franchise, Elijah Wood is now starring in a much smaller project: a black and white biopic of Dylan Thomas timed to tie-in with the Welsh poet’s centenary. Wood plays fellow poet John M. Brinnin, who turned his hair-raising experiences of dealing with Thomas into a book. Here, Wood shares his own experiences in the ESQ&A.
ESQ: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
EW: I worked on a movie called Forever Young with Mel Gibson when I was 12 or 13, and I remember him saying that you can always do better. It is a relatively simple thing to say but I suppose what it means is that we all have goals and we all work hard at the thing that we do, but the idea of not being able to ever achieve a best, or to plateau, means that you’re constantly striving to do better work, and constantly striving to challenge yourself. And you never get comfortable. I think that’s really important, and I’ve held onto that ever since.
ESQ: What moment in your career are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the work I did as Frodo. The challenge with that role and those particular films was that people had very strong connections to them from literature, so to have made something that somehow aligns with people’s expectations was really gratifying. Playing a famous person, or a person in literature, it comes to a point when you have to let go of what you think people are going to think, and the research that you’ve done about who this person or character is – let it go and do it. And let the work and the process take over. I certainly felt that way with Frodo.
ESQ: Have you ever cheated death?
I’ve done adrenalin-based things, like a gorge swing, which is kind of like a bungee jump. That was pretty scary because a free fall from anything feels like you’re dying – your body literally is saying, “I’m not supposed to do this! I’m not supposed to fall! I’m going to die!”
ESQ: Where’s your favourite place in the world to eat, and what’s your order?
Spain. There’s a place in Barcelona called La Champagneria, and it is a meat sandwich place. It’s packed with people and they serve literally cava and meat sandwiches, and I would probably order the black and white sausage sandwich there because it’s phenomenal. It’s fucking good.
ESQ: What’s the best age to be?
My current age – I’m really happy. I mean, there are years throughout my life that I have loved: I loved turning 30; I loved my 29th year; I loved turning 21. There are these milestones but, in some ways, I’m probably the happiest I’ve been, the most fulfilled I’ve ever been. So 33. It’s fucking good. I’m really, really happy.
ESQ: What’s your hidden talent?
I’m relatively musical. I don’t play any instrument well so I can’t even say it’s a talent but I took piano lessons when I was young and I’ve been around music all my life. I’ve not been disciplined enough to actually take the time that I need to take with any of these instruments to play them well, but there is something innate in me that has a connection to music, and an understanding of it. You hold on to that.
ESQ: Who’s been the closest you’ve had to a mentor?
I’d say my mum. I wouldn’t be the person that I am had it not been for the way that she raised me. This is a funny industry – it doesn’t necessarily breed the best elements of people and it can kind of ruin people, especially if you’re young and impressionable – and I think my mum was very cognizant of that.
ESQ: Desert island film, book and album?
Fuck! God, that’s hard. It probably wouldn’t be anything too heavy – you’re stuck on a desert island – so something like Groundhog Day, which is a favourite movie of mine.
I’m dying to read Ship of Theseus. It’s a book that plays with the medium of books – it’s made to look like it was an old book found in a library and, in the book, there’s literally writing in the book, and you’re having to read the writing in addition to the book itself. So it’s kind of a meta-experience.
And I would probably bring a Beatles record. The thing about The Beatles is that I never get tired of listening to them. They’re such a huge band in my life, and a lot of people’s lives. It would be either Rubber Soul, Revolver or maybe The White Album.
ESQ: What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
Why is that hard to answer? I’ve had a lot of really good nights out but I don’t know if I can pick one. I worked on a movie in Barcelona called Grand Piano, and there were some pretty awesome nights out drinking and eating delicious tapas. I just love the culture there, and it was during late summer/early fall in Barcelona, so it was pretty awesome.
ESQ: What advice would you give to your twenty-year-old self?
Quit smoking. And stop biting your fingernails.
Set Fire To The Stars will be released in UK cinemas on 7th November 2014. Watch the trailer here.