Elijah Wood goes from hobbit to horror

Elijah Wood (second from right, with tie) stars in Cooties, a film about child zombies attacking a school. He is joined by (front row, from far left) Jack McBrayer, Rainn Wilson and Leigh Whannell.
Elijah Wood (second from right, with tie) stars in Cooties, a film about child zombies attacking a school. He is joined by (front row, from far left) Jack McBrayer, Rainn Wilson and Leigh Whannell.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood has skipped big-budget epics to go for smaller, oddball films such as Cooties

The brave and tenacious hobbit Frodo in the blockbuster The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003) was the role of a lifetime for actor Elijah Wood.

Since then, he has steered clear of big-budget epics, going for smaller and off-the-wall projects such as murder mystery thriller Grand Piano (2013) and now, child zombie flick Cooties, which opens here tomorrow.

Do not mistake that for an attempt to distance himself from Lord Of The Rings, though.

Speaking over the telephone from New York, he declares: "I've never felt burdened by Lord Of The Rings. It represents one of the best experiences in my life, they are films that I love and I hold the whole thing very dear. I've always embraced it and been proud to be a part of it."

Despite what the Internet claims though, he has never performed under the moniker of DJ Frodo even though he is a big music fan and even set up his own label, Simian Records, in 2005.

Wood, 34, clarifies: "I honestly don't know where that came from, but it sort of started online and people kept referencing it. I would never ever call myself DJ Frodo, that would be embarrassing."

But he is also capable of laughing at himself and, in Cooties, co-star Rainn Wilson accuses him at one point of sneaking around like a hobbit. That line was actually improvised by Wilson and it got a laugh from everybody on set.

"I actually tried to get it out of the movie because it was sort of breaking the fourth wall a little bit, but I couldn't deny the fact that it gets a laugh," Wood says.

Cooties was made by his production company, SpectreVision, and the humour was placed on equal footing with the horror, as a group of bloodthirsty kids descend upon a hapless group of adults.

"It doesn't hold back. It was important to us that it be very funny. And in setting up a premise like that, it was important that we deliver on the brutality as well."

Not to worry though, no children were traumatised in the filming process. He chuckles and says: "No no, no, they were all relatively well- adjusted kids. The horror aspects and the zombie aspects, the kids loved. It's like they got to dress up for Halloween every day and they relished playing little monsters."

Wood himself started out as a child model and his first job as an eight-year-old was appearing in singer Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl video, directed by none other than David Fincher of Fight Club (1999) fame.

He says: "He obviously wasn't David Fincher the film director at that time. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I realised he'd directed it."

What was exciting for him was getting to be part of a pop star's music video.

While it is almost de rigueur for child actors to veer off course in Hollywood at some point, he seems remarkably well-adjusted and he credits his mother for keeping him grounded.

"The film industry, especially to a young impressionable mind, can present all sorts of temptations and pitfalls, but I never went through any of those things because I had such a strong sense of my family and who I was as a person."

He is the second of three children and his deli-owning parents divorced when he was 16.

The actor continues to work steadily and one of his recent projects is adventure fantasy flick The Last Witch Hunter, with action star Vin Diesel.

It turned out that Diesel was a huge fan of writer J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote The Lord Of The Rings.

The two actors talked about the trilogy and Wood says: "He had a lot of questions about the films and he wanted me to tell (director) Peter Jackson to make The Silmarillion because he wants to play a role in it."

•Cooties opens here tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'From hobbit to horror'. Print Edition | Subscribe