“There were a few years here and there that were more stagnant, but in some ways it’s the times when you’re not working that you appreciate work all the more.” – Elijah Wood
Though to many people he’ll always be Frodo Baggins, actor Elijah Wood has had a number of memorable roles ever since he made his film debut as a child in a small role in Back to the Future Part II. After more than twenty-five years as a working actor at only the age of thirty-four. Wood spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the differences of being a child actor and an adult actor and whether or not he ever thought about quitting acting.
Wood explains that even as a child he understood the mechanics of acting. He says, “The very first role I had was in a Paula Abdul music video. I knew who she was, so the whole thing was very exciting. But somehow I had an understanding of what I was tasked with, and that carried on to the commercials and film roles that came later. I somehow understood the mechanics, but I can’t explain how. I didn’t have any training and there was nothing prior that set me up for that. From that age, I was 8, the primary thing in my head was, it’s play, this is a character, and I’m making it as realistic as possible. That was the bare minimum of my understanding. I was also very social, and half of the fun was being in new environments with new people.”
When asked how difficult it was to do emotional scenes as a kid, Wood actually says it was much easier than it is as he’s gotten older. He points out, “At that age, prior to being a teenager, you’re not as self-aware, so you lack the fear of how you’ll be perceived. That’s why someone like Henry Thomas can cry in his audition tapes for E.T. so easily. There is no boundary until you’re a teenager and you suddenly become insecure and weird. I definitely had to cry in Radio Flyer , and in The War , but by that time I was about 13. The older I got, the harder it became.”
Unlike some other child stars, Wood never gave a thought to giving up acting to live like a “normal” kid. He explains, “Never bored, but there was a period of time when I was getting nervous more. But as quickly as I felt it coming on, it faded. The only other drawback was that I was going to home school, so most of my life was either at home or working on a film. That was the most difficult thing: to not have any friends my own age to hang out with”
Perhaps that’s why Wood is one of the few child actors who transitioned to adult roles with little difficulty. He considers himself extremely lucky to have worked so consistently through his nearly three decades as an actor. He says, “I marvel at the fact that I’m 34 and still working, and managed to continue doing that all the way through from age 8. There were a few years here and there that were more stagnant, but in some ways it’s the times when you’re not working that you appreciate work all the more.“