Elijah Wood, 24
You know him from: Playing Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has also been in Avalon, Radio Flyer, Flipper, The Ice Storm, The Faculty, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sin City.
What he’s hyping: Everything Is Illuminated (opens Friday). He plays a young American Jew who travels to the Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during World War II.
How was everything illuminated for you working on this film?
It exposed me to Eastern European culture that I hadn’t really known before. It sort of inspired … an idea that I hadn’t given much thought to in my life. That would be going over to Europe to investigate my own heritage. I hadn’t given it much thought prior to that. I haven’t found anything yet on my own grandparents, but I do know I have roots in Eastern Europe, specifically in Poland and Germany.
Your character is an obsessive collector of knickknacks. Can you relate?
I’m an avid collector. Especially music. I have like, over 3,000 CDs and I’m still counting. Over the years I’ve collected action figures and now I’m into Japanese toys. I’m also a total pack rat; like I’ll save pieces of paper that I wrote directions on, notes or receipts. Like Jonathan, I save things that remind me of experiences that I had or that have sentimental value.
Did you keep your eyeglasses?
For this movie, I didn’t keep anything. Now I regret that because I would have loved to have kept those glasses. They were relatively iconic in terms of the character. Maybe I can still get a hold of them.
This was actor Liev Schreiber’s first try at directing. Did you notice any flashing signs that said “Newbie”?
The fact that he almost worked too hard. He had so much invested that he’d stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning trying to do everything. Sometimes he made it more difficult than was necessary. … I saw him get progressively more and more exhausted, but he learned how to delegate along the way. Even though there were overwhelming situations for him to handle, he never lost sight of what he wanted. It was an amazing experience to witness that.
What is the most profound thing you’ve heard from a fan?
I met this woman who holds the record, very proudly, for the most times watched Lord of the Rings. I forgot the number, but it’s ridiculous. Like, she had seen each film in the theater more than 100 times. That, to me, takes fandom to an interesting level.
Are you proud of Dominic (Monaghan) and his success on Lost? Are you watching?
I do watch, it’s so exciting! And yes, I’m very excited for Dominic. That bastard (laughs)! Living in Hawaii? Surfing? What a hard life, huh? I’d love to guest star on that show.
I hear you’re set to play Iggy Pop in a film.
You could say it’s my musical debut. The script is wonderful, I immediately loved it, but then the reality came that I’d have to portray him, which was relatively frightening. Because he is such an icon that I admire so much, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining that. But what instills us with fear is what we should go for, right?
If you had free airtime to deliver a public-service message on national TV, what would be your topic?
That’s a rough one. My message? I’d like to say all you need is love, but the Beatles already said it. People always worry about making a difference in the world on a large scale. I’ve always believed that you can make a subtle difference in the world every single day by just being good. Being nice to people, smiling at them. That will affect one person and hopefully affect the next person and so on.
‘Everything Is Illuminated’
What it’s about: A young Jewish-American man travels to a Ukrainian village to find the woman he thinks saved his grandfather’s life during the Holocaust. He must rely on a Russian grandfather and grandson with a choppy relationship and a rickety vehicle. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Who’s in it: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin.
Bonus: Wood related to his character’s difficulties with culture and language. One night after filming, he says, he went out for a drink and it took four people to translate his conversation with the woman behind the bar.
Why the Willow House?
Stars typically grant interviews in a swanky hotel. When the former Mr. Frodo was in town last week he ensconced himself at downtown Phoenix’s Willow House to answer questions. Wood ordered an iced black coffee, answered questions, signed autographs, got back in his Town Car and took off. Why the Willow House (149 W. McDowell Road )? Turns out it’s a favorite of his publicist. While in town, Wood stayed at Scottsdale’s James Hotel, where the staff plugged his iPod into the poolside stereo system.