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Ex-child star is Hobbitt leader

By KAREN BUTLER   |   Dec. 20, 2001 at 7:14 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- In his new movie "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," 20-year-old Elijah Wood gets beaten up by monsters, battles evildoers with a sword, rows a boat and even takes a painful-looking tumble down a hill.

Asked if he used a stunt double for his strenuous role as Frodo the Hobbitt, the pint-sized actor sighed and told United Press International: "It's pretty much all me. It is."

Admitting that director Peter Jackson used computer-generated "digital doubles" for some of the actors' more physically demanding scenes, Wood insisted that conveying the range of emotions he and his co-stars did in the three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved trilogy was much harder than any fight scenes.

"These characters go through the shits to overcome this evil and as an a actor there is so much there for me to sink my teeth into. For everyone involved [to sink their teeth into,]" Wood said. "Everyone has a massive evolution. From an acting standpoint, this was no small feat and I don't think a lot of people really realize that upon first glance. It was definitely a challenge."

The first installment of the trilogy opened Wednesday to rave reviews and tremendous ticket sales. The other two movies in the series will be released in 2002 and 2003. All three movies were filmed simultaneously in New Zealand over a period of 15 months.

Best-known for roles he played as a child and teenager, Wood has his biggest, most important job yet as Frodo, a peace-loving Hobbitt charged with saving Middle-Earth from evil forces.

Acknowledging how much fans of the books have been anticipating the release of the first special effects-laden fantasy film, Wood explained how he hopes both the fans of the books and people who have never read them will delight in watching the film as much as he and his co-stars enjoyed making it.

"At this point, I feel like I've done the best job I can do. It's over now, so hopefully fans will respond well and appreciate it," Wood said.

The star of "Forever Young," "The Good Son" and "Avalon" described performances by his co-stars Ian McKellen, Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Sean Astin as "incredible."

"Everyone in the movie [had] some of the best performances I've seen out of ... them. It's just incredible. They become the characters. The book really does come to life on screen. It's beautiful. It's frightening. It's emotional."

Recalling the first time he saw the film complete with top-notch acting, spectacular fight scenes and dazzling special effects, Wood exclaimed: "It has some of the best special effects I've ever seen in my life... It was brilliant."

Wood also teased reporters who wanted a little hint as to what they can expect from the next two films in the series.

"It gets better," he confided. "It gets much more intense and darker. The third movie is my favorite."

Jackson said he hired Wood after the enterprising young actor rented a "cheesy" Hobbitt costume and made a video of himself playing Frodo in a backyard.

"Did he call it 'cheesy'?" Wood asked when told of Jackson's version of events. "Bastard! Ohhh! It was the best I could come up with!"

Wood said he donned knee pants, suspenders and a flowy shirt and stomped around the woods because "everybody and their mother wanted to be associated with [the project] and when I found out about it, I jumped at the chance and made my own audition tape."

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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