This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of The Fellowship of the Rings, the first movie in Peter Jackson’s beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This series was a game-changer for the fantasy genre, but it was hard to see that when you were in the center of it. At the time, Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins) was just trying to come to grips with living away from home for the first time.
Wood talked to Empire about the experience; mostly what he remembers is the fun times he spent with his castmates. “Meeting for brunch on weekends. The time in between setups—we’d have a couple hours where we’d take naps in each other’s trailers, or bring rented DVDs or VHS tapes from the local video store and watch them in one of our trailers,” he said. “It’s stuff like that I sort of treasure the most, because these movies are so massive and the scale of them is so extraordinary, and they really are the culmination of thousands of people’s work and artistry.”
And then came the night the lot of them actually watched the movie, which was surreal:
"It was totally overwhelming. I didn’t know what to feel, to be totally honest with you. I knew I loved it, but I couldn’t process it. I remember all of us walking away kind of in a daze, sort of bowled over and overwhelmed and in love with it, but couldn’t make heads or tails until we saw it again. And I think that was just the enormity of it all and separating our personal experience from what it is, seeing it for what it is, an amazing experience. I certainly haven’t had that since."
What Wood has had is a series of roles that couldn’t be further away from the innocent Frodo — a serial killer in Sin City, a man who gets way too close to his neighbor’s dog in Wilfred — he seems to have made deliberate choices to distance himself from Middle-earth. “I just felt like if I just kept working on things that were really different, I could have a healthy separation from Lord of the Rings,” he said.
The Lord of the Rings will be with Elijah Wood “forever”
I think Wood has done a good job of carving out a new identity for himself as an actor, although he’s quick to admit that he’ll always be associated with The Lord of the Rings. “These characters that we played will be with us forever,” he said. “And in many ways, they will probably be the first thing that people think about when they think about us, which I never really had an issue with.”
"It doesn’t feel like it’s been dated. But I also think that there’s a lot of heart in those films. I think that’s Tolkien. It’s the great power of those stories. There’s sort of something in it for everybody. At the core of it, it’s the story about literally the smallest person in the world being capable of changing, of affecting real change, and I think that message is universal. Everybody can relate to that on some level."
But as much as Wood praises the series, it may surprise you to hear that he never actually finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. “The book is dense and verbose and incredible and literary and beautiful, but heavy,” he said. “I found it taxing to read the book with all the work in tandem I was doing on my character. I sort of pivoted my focus to just live in the world of the character as written in the scripts and trust the process.”
"I still haven’t read it, 20 years later. It’s ridiculous that I haven’t. It is my cross to bear. It’s so dumb. Everybody else has read it."
Well, there’s always time to read it before the reboot…
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