Nearly a decade on from the last 'Lord of the Rings' film, Elijah Wood's name is still interchangeable with that of his Hobbit, Frodo Baggins. He's had small roles in Michel Gondry's 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and Robert Rodriguez's 'Sin City', but the ghost of Frodo hovers.
He even voiced Frodo in a rather X-rated episode of the stop-motion comedy 'Robot Chicken,' and last December fans glimpsed him in a brief cameo in 'The Hobbit', the first of Peter Jackson's three films taking on JRR Tolkien's prequel to 'Rings'.
“It was like stepping back into time,” he says, admitting “it was strange” to be without his fellow Hobbits Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan and Sean Astin, who he got so close to on the New Zealand set of 'Rings'.
But in an interview with 'The Independent' newspaper, Wood insists that's it for Frodo, and that we won't see him again in Jackson's next two Hobbit films.
"It's funny – we were doing press for 'The Hobbit', and I was told by Warner Brothers not to say it was the last time. I don't know what that means! But I genuinely don't think there's any more place for Frodo to exist within the framework of what they created. In all likelihood I won't be going back.”
In his latest film, 'Maniac', a remake of the 1980 William Lustig film, he plays Frank, a New York loner with a mother fixation who stalks women before killing and scalping them.
Did he choose the role to help distance himself from the sweet natured Frodo? He says not, that he doesn't operate in such a calculated way. “To play something this extreme, that represents such a sharp turn, is just interesting in and of itself.”
The film is co-produced/written by French horror maestro Alexandre Aja (who made 'Switchblade Romance'). Wood notes, “I don't typically love horror film remakes – or remakes at all for that matter. There are exceptions, but I think what was so interesting about this was that I knew going into it that it was going to be done in a completely different way.”
Unlike the original, which starred Joe Spinell in the title role, this is shot entirely from the killer's point of view – with Wood off-camera for the most part, bar his hands and, occasionally, his reflection glimpsed in mirrors. Did his agents advised him against taking such a provocative part?
“Not really, no. I think the pedigree of those involved was quite high. It was an interesting opportunity for me as an actor. I think everyone saw it for the strange little art horror movie that it was. So there wasn't any advice against doing it.”
Born and raised in Iowa, Wood's folks ran a delicatessen; when his mother Debbie started putting her son up for commercials, the decision was made to sell the family business and move to Los Angeles, so Wood could start auditioning more regularly.
He was directed by David Fincher (in Paula Abdul video 'Forever Your Girl') and featured in a bit-part in 'Back to the Future II'. His performance alongside Kevin Costner in 1994's 'The War' had prompted critic Roger Ebert to declare: “Elijah Wood has emerged, I believe, as the most talented actor, in his age group, in Hollywood history.”
Now 32, that proclamation seems premature for Wood – particularly when he's put up against peers like Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender. He recently admitted that, after not working for two years in his late twenties, he went into a slump. “I've had things that I had to overcome, like everybody does,” he said. “I went to therapy for the first time. It was amazing. It made me learn to laugh a lot at myself, but I also learned a lot of groundbreaking things. It was like mental excavation.”
He's learned to diversify. His indie label Simian Records signed bands like The Apples in Stereo and Heloise and the Savoir Faire. And he DJs with a friend, Zach Cowie, under the moniker Wooden Wisdom. On the film side, his production company The Woodshed, which specialises in genre fare, has just wrapped an Iranian vampire Western shot in Farsi called 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'. He's also heavily involved in the LA horror festival Nightmare City, founded last year.
Other achievements for 2012 included completing two forthcoming movies in Spain – 'Grand Piano' and also 'Open Windows', a thriller in which the action plays out entirely on a PC, as his desk-bound techie tries to orchestrate the rescue of a kidnapped actress (ex-porn-star Sasha Grey).
'Maniac' is on general release.