NewsWire: Hobbit Star in Middle Earth 'Madness' Down Under - Reuters

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.
by Sinead O'Hanlon

LONDON (Reuters) - Young American actor Elijah Wood is almost lost for words when he describes the experience of filming the three Lord of the Rings movies back to back in New Zealand.

"Madness, absolute madness," he said, shaking his head in disbelief, as he faced journalists in London ahead of Monday's world premiere of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Wood's lingering sense of wonder, two years after he began filming the $270 million trilogy, is understandable.

Now 20, Wood had only just turned 18 when he landed what many would consider the role of a lifetime -- that of the hobbit Frodo Baggins in director Peter Jackson's ambitious big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novels set in the mythical realm of Middle Earth.

Wood's slight frame and blue-eyed, innocent looks seemed to make him a perfect candidate to play the child-like, diminutive hobbit, one of Tolkien's imaginary race of small folk who live underground.

But Wood said he had to pull out all the stops to get the role -- he was so desperate to be cast in the movie that he made his own audition video rather than go to the casting office.

"I was very passionate about being a part of it," he said.

"I decided I should do something special so I got into costume, jumped into the woods and filmed some scenes.

"There was added pressure because I knew they were looking for an English actor so I felt like if I went the extra mile it might have a bit of influence."

His initiative and passion paid off when Jackson cast him in the leading role.

"I was completely overwhelmed. There was nothing complacent in my response at all. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I just had to be part of," he said.


Like all the leading actors, Wood was asked to commit to an 18-month filming schedule in New Zealand, with all three films being shot at the same time, out of sequence, in some of the most remote parts of the country.

"I was basically being asked to go on an adventure, go and live in New Zealand for a year and a half at a very significant time in my life. I was very excited about that -- and nervous and scared and all those things."

Wood, who began his Hollywood career as a child in films like The Good Son, Flipper and Forever Young, is prepared for Lord of the Rings to propel him to a new level of fame.

"It feels like a turning point in my career, just because it is the largest thing I have ever been involved in," he said.

"Its new ground for me and it kind of feels like I am on the brink of the rest of my life."

Wood said he was struck by how real the character of Frodo became for him once filming began, a feeling that has been heightened by seeing the "incredible" end result on screen.

"He became alive for me. The way we shot the movie, everything was so authentic that we all believed that Frodo and the others really existed in history," he said.

"Once I had on my prosthetic ears and feet for the first time, I knew what it was to feel like a hobbit."

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