For more than two decades, the actor Elijah Wood has kept a pair of furry hobbit feet in the same box they were given to him.
That was just after the main photos from Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy were packaged in New Zealand, and he can’t remember if the feet are a new set or what he wore on-screen as Frodo, the brave hero of small stature who was entrusted to him with the destruction of an evil gold bond.
“I’m sure they will deteriorate over time because I don’t think latex will last forever,” Wood said by phone from Los Angeles. “But the last time I looked at them, they were in good condition.”
The strange memento remains a tangible reminder of the unusual production in which the three fantasy epics, adapted from the JRR Tolkien novels, were shot for 16 consecutive months, followed by three years of occasional pickup shots and fall publicity tours.
A semblance of finality didn’t come until 2004, when the third installment, “The Return of the King,” won the Academy Awards, taking home 11 trophies, including best picture.
Explore the world of the ‘Lord of the Rings’
The literary universe built by JRR Tolkien, adapted into a popular film series in the early 2000s, inspired generations of readers and viewers.
It was not the first time that the trilogy had come into contact with Oscar. Recently added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, the first chapter, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” won four frames upon its release on December 19, 2001. Twenty years later, Wood, now 40, was reminiscing about the monumental film adventure. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.
When you think about the “Lord of the Rings” movies and how they redefined your career, what are the memories that stay most vivid for you?
What I often think about are the in-between moments, not just the incredible set pieces with hundreds of extras in orc outfits, which is certainly something extraordinary, but the seemingly mundane moments, like removing our hobbit feet because we had to leave set when it started to get too crowded. to snow. We sit in the hotel on top of a washer and dryer, taking our feet off with a glass of whiskey. Or take surf trips at the weekend with the other hobbits and Orlando [Bloom, who played the elf Legolas] and the camaraderie and everyday life we had. We all left the variety of places we came from and made our lives in New Zealand together. Twenty years later, we are still connected that way, even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time.
At what point did you feel that this episode in your life had ended? How hard was it to leave such a transformative achievement?
The most profound moment of feeling like I was stepping away from it and wondering what I was going to do next came after the main photography. That’s when we were all the most exhausted. We were deeply invested in the world of the movie we were making, and all of a sudden we weren’t, which is often the case when you’re making a movie: you’re in that microcosm, and then you’re pushed to the other. end of it. And then you are back in your reality. It was that experience multiplied to a great extent. My experience of life was so defined by being in New Zealand with this group of people that the sudden shift of being back home felt very abrupt. I just wanted to keep working on things that were really small and very different from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. I felt very sad to see it all come to an end, but also ready to move on with my life and have new experiences.
Close brotherly relationships between men like those of Frodo and Sam in the trilogy are now more prevalent in the media. What did you think of this friendship between these two characters at the time?
When I read about it, it was about an incredible company. While my character of Frodo is seen as this hero, there is even more real heroism in Sam [the hobbit played by Sean Astin] and the way he picks up the pieces where Frodo can’t go any further. Those two need each other, and Frodo certainly needs Sam. There was real understanding. When I first met Sean, we both had to get our wigs done at a hotel in LA. I immediately gave him a hug and I just said, “Hey!” because I knew who he was. We hugged because we knew we were about to go on this incredible journey together, as well as acting with other actors, but there was also that intuition of, “You and I are going to take this journey together too.” That was very true. So much of what we see in the film, both in our relationship and in others, reflects the reality of what we experienced. The power of storytelling lies in our own relativity with what is being expressed. I’ve heard many different views of Sam and Frodo from the LGBTQ community, as well as people struggling with addiction who interacted with Gollum.
Frodo is a rather fragile creature with an unimaginable burden on his shoulders. What have you learned by embodying him for so long?
One of the great messages of the books in regard to Frodo and the hobbits in general is the sense that even the smallest person, not only in stature but in terms of what one feels they can do, is capable of greatness, of influencing real change, having real impact. What Frodo was dealing with seemed insurmountable, and yet he was able to achieve it in large part thanks to goodness, kindness, a pure heart, and perhaps innocence. Those are the things hobbits embody, and inherently why they can withstand the corruption of the Ring longer than humans. But what makes Frodo unique is a way of seeing the world without any form of cynicism. There is also courage, perhaps even blind courage, not to necessarily know what lies ahead and therefore not to let oneself be afraid. If I have to learn one thing from all of that, it’s that there’s steadfastness in his vision that makes it all possible.
Do you think these movies can still be made today as they were then?
There was a great sense of lack of supervision. Peter and the bigger team were allowed to make the films however they wanted to make them without much outside perspective. That doesn’t mean the studio wasn’t scared or invested. They knew the risk of making these movies back to back. I don’t know if he could make them the same way now. Look, the internet is different too. There was less control over the films. Less was known about them. We were able to make the movies in a bubble. We had weird issues, like there would be photographers on a hill, but it was quite small. [Laughs.] I don’t know if that would be possible now. Now the world is online and virtually everyone has access to everything.
Has it always been overwhelming to be associated with “The Lord of the Rings”?
I accepted a long time ago that I would be forever connected to Frodo, so it doesn’t bother me. Frankly, it would be such a sad burden if it were. [Laughs.] I’m so used to people on the street calling me Frodo and not calling me by my name. It is representative of one of the greatest experiences of my life, movies I love and memories I will cherish forever. At the end of my days, I’ll probably be associated with that more than anything else. I can only compare it to similar scenarios like Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford. They are associated with their classic [“Star Wars”] characters more than others. Now that we are on the abyss of 20 years, which is so hard to comprehend, my reflection is one of such gratitude and such love that I will never be angry to be associated with those films or that they are the greatest are in people’s memories of who I am.