Elijah Wood Interview

The former Frodo plays a soccer hooligan in Green Street Hooligans and a quiet teen in Everything is Illuminated

Elijah Wood has been pretty busy since finishing up the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Of course, he's been trying to shed his Frodo image in everything he does. Not that he ever wants to forget his time in those movies, but he's said he wants people to see him in a different way.

He does pretty well in Green Street Hooligans. He becomes a football hooligan - and yes, the real game of football (known to American's as soccer). After being expelled from Harvard University (for covering up something his roommate did), Elijah travels to London to visit his sister. He quickly becomes engrossed in the world of 'firms' which are basically gangs associated with different football clubs in the London area.

In Everything is Illuminated, Elijah travels to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Holocaust. The film marks the directorial debut of Liev Schreiber, the actor from The Manchurian Candidate and The Sum of All Fears.

Elijah spoke with us about both films recently and found a little bit of himself he never knew he had. Find out about his own personal connection to his character in Everything is Illuminated:

What kind of scripts are you looking for now?

Elijah Wood: I'm always looking for something different than the last thing I was a part of. I don't think there's anything I'm specifically looking for; I'm kind of at the mercy of what becomes available. I'm definitely looking for roles that will continue to build me as an adult because I'm always perceived younger than I am.

Did you feel alienated in Hooligans being brought in last?

Elijah Wood: No, the experience of traveling to London for those two weeks for rehearsal was incredible. It very much mirrored what my character went through; an American, who had never been exposed to football before and getting to know these guys, it was sort of perfect. For me, I didn't need to put in as much research because my character comes in not knowing about the culture and so innocent. But it really cemented the guys and we became a real unit which is important.

Are you a fan of football now?

Elijah Wood: I appreciate it a lot more, just going to the matches is really electrifying, it's like no other sporting event I've ever been to. But largely, I don't follow sports.

How intense was the fighting? Did you get hurt?

Elijah Wood: I didn't get hurt; it was actually intense training two weeks prior to going to London with Pat Johnson, who was our trainer. During those two weeks of rehearsals, we were all together choreographing the fights. It was a lot of fun to be trained, male and masculine. We all thought those days of shooting would be the easiest, but they were the most exhausting; those scenes actually took the longest to make it look manic and make it look chaotic. The last fight actually took two days to shoot, there was only one major injury.

Do you think you could handle yourself in a fight?

Elijah Wood: Yeah, I think I could; I'm certainly not looking for it, but not bad.

Both of these films have a tie of an American traveling to find something; have you ever gone on a journey to find yourself?

Elijah Wood: I haven't, but something I'd like to do; I have family in Eastern Europe, oddly enough. Illuminated kind of came at a time when I was searching for my roots. But I haven't been on that journey of self discovery; the closest thing would have to be the Lord of the Rings experience – leaving home at 18, living away from my family for 16 months; it was really the first time I lived as an adult outside of my comfort zone.

How was it to work with Liev Shreiber (on Everything is Illuminated)?

Elijah Wood: It was wonderful to work with a director who had never directed before and was an actor first. It really depends on the actors since it's a character driven film, so to have an actor at the helm of that was really helpful. It was actually fascinating to me to watch a first-time director go through those first steps. And he was so incredible and knew exactly what he wanted, very confident. And it was a good look into what it would be for me if I ever decided to direct, really educating process. If anything, he was too hard on himself.

What about the other actors in the film?

Elijah Wood: It was wonderful; Eugene (Hutz) brought a freshness, in a sense, to the process. Boris was always delightful and gave a great performance. The approach is different cause we're dealing with two different languages and you can't just read through the script. They were written by Liev for a specific rhythm, some of it comedic and some of it for the language to time out. So that was really interesting, the dynamic of the three of us working that out.

You've started a record label recently; can you talk about that?

Elijah Wood: I've always been really passionate about music, and a few years ago I thought how interesting it would be to start a label; I love music and it would be fun to find bands that I'm really interested in and be a part of that process of putting out music. The people who I have is friends, but the style of music will be varied because my taste in music is varied.

Do you see a similarity to you and Jonathan (character in Illuminated)?

Elijah Wood: Yeah, I'm not as socially inept of neurotic as he is, at least I don't think I am. Am I? But I certainly grasp onto his wanting these memories; I'm a collector, not nearly as organized as he is. I attach sentimental value to everything, so in that sense I grasp hold of it. And that's my way of not keeping a journal, except they're not in scrap books, but if I pull it up I know what it means. So one day I'll have to put it all together; I certainly relate to that, I put so much meaning to everything.

Well, it just so happens that Elijah is competing against himself at the box office in these two independents. Green Street Hooligans opened in limited release on September 2nd and will be in world wide release by the end of the month. It's rated R.

Everything is Illuminated opens in theaters on September 9th; rated PG-13.