Click through for the interview and clip from 9... Elijah Wood first broke into movies at the age of 7 as "Video Game Boy" in 1989's Back to the Future: Part II and quickly shot to stardom with leading roles in Paradise, Forever Young (with Mel Gibson) and The Good Son (opposite fellow child star Macaulay Culkin).
But while the careers of so many young actors peter out as they hit that rocky patch known as puberty, Wood's began to thrive. He bolstered his indie cred with Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, headlined one of the most successful franchises in movie history with his turn as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and voiced the lead penguin in $197 mil-grossing 2006 animated flick Happy Feet.
In an exclusive interview, Wood dishes on his latest role, playing a "mechanized rag doll" fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world in Shane Acker's feature adaptation of his own Oscar-nominated short 9 (in cinemas 28 October); reveals whether we'll see Frodo (and who should play Bilbo) in the 'Rings' prequel 'The Hobbit'; and waxes nostalgic about his 'Future'-istic big-screen debut.
In The Lord of the Rings you were one of nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring, and you and your co-stars each got a tattoo of the Elvish symbol for 9. Now you're in the movie 9, playing a character named 9, one of nine "stitchpunks." This is just a shot in the dark, but does the number 9 hold a special significance for you?
[Laughs] I know! It does. It's following me around. It's so funny, too, because I didn't even make that connection. When I signed onto the movie and I fell in love with Shane's short and we were doing the movie, for some reason that was lost on me. And I'm doing these interviews and people are like, "Don't you realize how you were part of the nine members of the Fellowship and you have a tattoo of 9?" And I'm like, "Oh yeaaaah."
The movie has some similarities to Lord of the Rings' in that it's a band of nine underdogs on a quest to save a war-ravaged world from evil forces - did that appeal to you?
Yeah, it did. Like I said, it was the short film that really made an impression on me ... I was just so blown away by the short. I thought its art style was so unique and beautiful and unlike anything I'd seen. I was so intrigued by these characters that Shane had created, that were sort of inexplicable. I guess they're sort of mechanized rag dolls. But I also loved how organic everything was -- that they kind of appropriated old, ruined, organic elements from humans' past and turned them into something else -- very resourceful. I just loved that world that he created, and I loved the idea of being a part of it and then ultimately the idea of being a part of something that would flesh that out. Taking into consideration the journey that they all took, certainly there were similarities, but I definitely liked the characters and I think the character of 9 was interesting. They've already established a community, and he comes in with all these questions about who they are and what they are and that we need to get to the bottom of what these machines are about and what does this talisman do. They've all stopped asking those questions. I really liked that about him -- that he shakes them loose a little bit to get at who they are and get at solving the dangers that face them.
Watch a clip from 9...
The movie has a star-studded voice cast. Did you get to work off of each other, or was it more like you sitting alone in a recording studio reading lines by yourself?
There were a couple of days where we got to record in groups. I got to record with John C. Reilly, which was awesome. I'm a huge fan of his. And I got to record a little bit with Jennifer Connelly as well. But that's the unfortunate thing about doing voiceover work. More often than not, you're by yourself. I think we recorded all of my dialogue for the movie in the initial sessions in like one day. And then after that we had a couple of sessions with different actors. It's always more fun and rewarding to work with other actors. It's just for obvious reasons. You're getting to have more of an interplay, and the scene takes on a life of its own. It feels like it has more life to it because there's more of an interaction. But you do get used to the fact that you don't have that most of the time. Most of the time, after the initial sessions, we'll do sessions where I'll be by myself, but I'll get to hear the recording of the other cast that they've gotten so far -- so at least there's that reference, which definitely helps.
You voiced the titular dragon in the The Legend of Spyro video game. Will you be lending your voice to the film adaptation as well?
You know, it's funny. People have mentioned that to me. I'm not attached to do that. I know that there's talk of that. I did the video game [laughs]. I don't know if I'll do that or not. It'd be fun to carry on the character, but I'm not officially attached to that yet.
You've also been linked to the Iggy Pop biopic 'The Passenger' for a while now - has that gotten the go-ahead yet?
It has not gotten a green light. I've been attached to that for four years. It's one of those projects that's looking for financing perpetually [laughs]. It happens. But I sort of feel like that one will eventually happen, but I'm not sure as to when.
Dominic Monaghan mentioned a while back that he might somehow be involved in The Hobbit. Do you know anything about that?
That was something that was talked about [when] we thought there might be ... a [movie that would be a] bridge chronologically between 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings,' but I don't think they're going to do that now. From what I understand they're going to be splitting 'The Hobbit' over two films. And then they're going into some of the extended writings within 'The Lord of the Rings' that deal with some of the stuff that happens in 'The Hobbit.' For instance, the stuff with Gandalf -- like where Gandalf goes in between. So I think it'll be more those kinds of things, as opposed to getting into any period of time where characters from 'The Lord of the Rings' could exist. Certainly Frodo -- I don't think Frodo would exist during anything they would explore. It's seriously doubtful, but I'm super excited that they're doing it, and I'm really excited thatGuillermo del Toro is directing it. I think it's going to be awesome.
Who do you think should play Bilbo in the movies?
That's a tough one. I think Ian Holm really set a high bar for that performance. He really did an extraordinary job, and he really made it his own. There's a lot of quirkiness to that character. It's not the easiest character to play. One couldn't really do it straightforward -- there's some odd quirks to him. So it'll be interesting to see who they get. Nobody really comes to mind. They've mentioned a few people so far. James McAvoy is great. I think he could be interesting. But as far as they're concerned, they have not been thinking about anybody yet.
Of all the roles you've played, which is your favorite?
Well, Sin City was a pretty awesome role to play. Getting a chance to play a character like that, and also being a fan of the graphic novel, it was a real treat - not something that comes around often. So that's definitely one of my favourites. Frodo would be another of my favourites, for so many reasons. I also love the character in Everything Is Illuminated - just so different from anything I've really played before, so it was just fun. He's a very strange oddball [laughs]. I kind of enjoyed inhabiting that character for a couple of months.
Having been a child star, do you ever go back and watch some of your earlier movies and go, "Wow, I can't believe that was me"?
Sometimes. Yeah, I watched Avalon not long ago. I watched it last year, and I hadn't seen it in years. And I was 8 years old when I made that. There's a sense of detachment now, which is interesting, so I can kind of watch it like I'm not watching myself because I'm so much older. That was 20 years ago. But it's kind of great. It's interesting now to look back because it's like looking at a different person, in a way.
A lot of actors who get as famous as you did at such a young age basically just implode or fade away once they hit puberty - how have you managed to stay so levelheaded and keep your career on track?
I credit my mother [laughs]. Growing up doing what I do, she was always making it so important for me to maintain a sense of normalcy. Life outside of the work I was doing as an actor was very normal. I had strict rules that I had to abide by. I was always kept grounded. I was never allowed to believe that what I was doing was making me any more important than anybody else. It was ingrained at me at a young age.
What do you remember about your big-screen debut in Back to the Future: Part II?
Oh, actually the memories are pretty vivid. I was a huge fan of 'Back to the Future,' as so many people were. So, for me, getting to go on that set was such a head trip [laughs]. Because I was so familiar with that big huge square that you see in the future, but I was familiar with it from the context of it being in the past or the present. Walking onto that set, I knew that world, but I was seeing it in the future. Plus, I was so obsessed with anything futuristic, and I'd never really been on a movie set like that before. So I was totally blown away. I got to meet Michael J. Fox and Robert Zemeckis, and all of that just blew my mind. It was like the fantasy coming to life in front of my eyes. It was almost too much to handle. It was pretty awesome.