Elijah Wood Has His Eyes On The Prize
by, Kate Williams April 18, 2016 NYLON Magazine
Photographed by, Darren Ankenman – Stylist, Christine Baker
Grooming, Carola Gonzalez at Forward Artists using R+co
It would be easy to talk to Elijah Wood all day, especially in a setting like this. It’s raining in Los Angeles – the meteorological equivalent of a unicorn – and post-photo shoot, we’re sitting on a velvet couch in a house that seems built for esoteric discussions on drizzly days. There are gold polka-dot pillows, smoking candles, piles of books on every conceivable surface, and musical instruments propped on the floor.
Wood smells like cigarettes, and stuck to the lapel of his frayed cardigan is a pin emblazoned with the face of Michael Myers of Halloween slasher-film fame. The overall effect makes me forget that he is an A-list actor and producer with more than 25 years of screen credits to his name, including a starring role in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead, it just seems like I’m chatting up an interesting acquaintance who turns me on to something new every time I happen to run into him. “My favorite sandwich in L.A. is at Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese,” he says. “It’s the No. 3, the soppressata salami.” He asks, “Have you seen Blue Ruin? It’s so great. Green Room is coming out soon, that’s Jeremy Saulnier’s next film.” Then he tells me that “the Floating Points record [Elaenia] is one of the best new things I’ve heard in a while.” I write it all down.
Now 35, Wood got his start in the ’80s with a small role in Back to the Future Part II, then in the ’90s went on to star in Flipper and The Ice Storm. When he was cast in The Lord of the Rings, it marked the clean, grown-up transition that is so elusive for many child actors. “It’s an obvious benchmark in my life, and an easy reference point, but it’s a significant one in that I left home at 18 to go live in a foreign country for 16 months,” he says. “I was becoming an adult in a really profound way. I felt genuine independence and was living my own life for the first time.”
While filming in New Zealand, Wood also started to DJ and hasn’t stopped since. Now, when he’s not working on films, he plays festivals as one-half of Wooden Wisdom, his DJ duo with friend Zach Cowie. Though he started with CDs – I was always carrying around Case Logics,” he says – and had a stopover with the iPod, Wooden Wisdom spins only vinyl.
“When I was in my 20s, I started frequenting record stores, and there was one in particular called Tropicalia in Furs in New York City,” he recalls. “It’s closed now, but it was one of those magical places where you would walk in and the owner would start playing you records and not let you leave. It was such an education. That’s what you want – someone to pull a box out from behind the counter like, ‘This is the good shit.'” “The way he says it, you can imagine his palms sweating in anticipation.
Wood’s love for music is indicative of his approach to most of his interests: When he’s in, he’s all in. Such is the case with horror movies, of which he’s been a fan since he was too young to be watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 or Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness, but did anyway. In 2010, he co-founded a production company (then named The Woodshed, later rebranded as SpectreVision) to help make more of the kinds of movies he wanted to see. “We’re always looking for films that have a unique voice and are pushing things forward or doing something different with horror and genre cinema,” he says. Their latest film, The Greasy Strangler, does exactly that – after it premiered earlier this year at Sundance, The Guardian called it “a playful oasis of filth and depravity.” “I’d never read anything so bizarre and kind of fucked up, but deeply funny,” Wood recalls of first reading the script. “It’s very much a comedy, a serial killer who covers his naked body in grease and kills people!”
His latest acting venture is the much more mainstream, but still off-kilter heist film The Trust, in which he stars opposite Nicolas Cage. The first time Wood appears onscreen – playing a depressed cop who hates his job, he’s banging a hooker and then debating whether to throw her an extra $10. “He’s just an odd character, and I found him fascinating and interesting,” says Wood, though he notes that the role he’s going to play is never his sole motivation for picking projects. “As much as my primary vocation is that of an actor, if anything, I feel like I am more excited about filmmaking in general, so it’s not always a specific role that I’m attracted to, but rather an entire piece that I want to be a part of.”
For The Trust, working with Cage was a big part of the draw. “He’s so fucking funny, and he’s always got ideas,” he says. “You could see the wheels spin. It was electrifying. Most of our scenes were just the two of us, and I remember one day between setups, he turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t this great? I love it. Do you love it?’ and I said, ‘I do.” That was awesome.”
The rain is coming down harder now. “This is good music-listening weather,” says Wood. I’d love to keep chatting, but no doubt the multitasking Mr. Wood has plenty to do – or at the very least plenty of tunes to listen to – so I bid him farewell and venture into the storm.