It wasn’t really quite actor Elijah Wood’s birthday Tuesday (he actually turns 31 this Saturday), but that didn’t stop an auditorium full of people on the Ringling College campus from bursting into Happy Birthday during his appearance there as part of the digital film lab program, which regularly brings moviemakers to town to speak to both students and supporters of the school.
Wood, who was charming, funny and smart during his Q&A session with college president Larry Thompson and the audience, remarked that it was the largest group of people who had ever sung the song to him, and certainly there was a fan feeling in the crowd (someone even held up a large “Team Elijah” sign at one point). Wood has built that fan base with a career that already spans 23 years (he began as a child actor with a part in Back to the Future)—with the most notable role for many being that of Frodo in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Wood answered questions about that experience, including how he got the part and how closely the actors on the film bonded, during the session Tuesday, which followed a previous day and morning spent on campus talking and working directly with students (even helping one film student to do a first edit on his project). But he also talked about his other wide-ranging roles, including on his television show, Wilfred, and the soon to be released horror film, Maniac, where the slightly built actor plays a serial killer. In fact, he found common ground with one couple in the audience, K.T. and Chris Curran, whose daughter, Tiger, served as costumer for that film. “Tiger rules,” he told them.
The actor also discussed how he tries to find roles that not only give him a diverse body of work but a chance to work with certain film makers, as for example with Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And certain projects seem to appeal to the “just for fun” part of his brain, as with his work on the Nickelodeon program Yo Gabba Gabba! and the recent short Fight For Your Right Revisited with John C. Reilly and Seth Rogen—a tribute to the Beastie Boys, a band Wood grew up listening to.
A “sizzle reel” of film clips featuring Wood’s performances included video of production on the long-awaited film he just finished shooting: Peter Jackson’s prequel to LOTR, The Hobbit, where Wood once again dons the shoes and ears of Frodo. His fans can’t wait.