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Still surprised to be here (part 2, Frodo's actor)

As I wrote in the previous post, my journey to Live Journal started years ago and it included many different stages: Reading Lord of the Rings in Dutch, in English, reading more of Tolkien, resisting the films, giving in and finally watching them and seeing my hero Frodo come to life. This post is about Frodo's actor, Elijah Wood.

That face

From Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). “The money shot”.

The first moment Frodo appears on screen is a bit of a shock. That face! Those eyes!
Is it a blessing or a curse for an actor to have such a very distinctive face? I really don't know. I suppose it depends on what the actor does with that face. And Elijah does A LOT with it.

Is that the same actor?
In one of the customer reviews I read on IMDb the reviewer describes sitting in the cinema and hearing someone ask during the Crack of Doom scene:
"Is that the same actor we saw in the Shire two films ago? I don't believe it!"
I totally understand this comment and here are the screen-caps to show what I mean. Incredible indeed!

Top row: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Meeting Gandalf: “You’re late”.
Bottom row: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Frodo tries to throw the Ring into the fire. 
Left: Still fighting. Middle: Paralyzed; he knows he can’t do it. Right: Frodo has lost his soul.

Learning to see the subtlety
It now seems strange to me but the first time I saw the films I didn't think Elijah Wood's performance was anything out of the ordinary. He was just one of a bunch of excellent actors. But then, why was I so deeply moved by Frodo, his sufferings, his fate. It took several more viewings and a bit of research to recognize the subtlety and the power of the performance. I owe most to T.G. Shaw's website www.frodolivesin.us. That site is no longer updated but, fortunately, it's still there. Using screen-caps and frame-by-frame analysis she shows what happens on that face, the use of micro-expressions, and how they convey emotions that a viewer picks up at a subconscious level. I'm sure that's exactly what happened to me. As micro-expressions are involuntary movements of the facial muscles, this actor must have "become" the character rather than "portraying" him. When I realized this I was very impressed!

Now I can see the subtlety and I can even try to explain what I see by posting screen-caps. I had many different scenes to choose from but I decided on this one from The Two Towers where Frodo, Sam and Gollum are resting during their passage of the Dead Marshes, It is one of the scenes I didn't GET at my first viewing but that still left me with goose bumps.

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002). “The passage of the Marshes”.

In this scene Frodo realizes for the first time that he is possessed by the same Ring-lust that Gollum experiences. In the top pictures he is caressing the Ring, as a lover. The tiny smile on his face in the second frame and his lustful expression in the third frame are just fascinating to see. In the next frames Frodo hears Gollum say "My Precious" while Gollum caresses an imaginary Ring in his hand. And the full horror of what is happening shows in Frodo's face in the last frame.

Who is this actor?
Being now thoroughly hooked, I watched the "making of" the films. Viewing "behind the scenes" footage and listening to the cast commentary was a mixed blessing. Perhaps I might have liked some of the characters better if I had just stuck with the films. But that was not the case with Frodo. I really liked what I saw and heard of his actor. Elijah listened to what the others had to say. And, young as he was, he seemed to encourage them. He also seemed to have this great sense of fun. I really fell for his personality and that feeling only increased when I started reading not_alone 's "A Journey With Frodo" here on LJ. Every interview I've read since then has confirmed that first impression.

From “The making of” Sean Astin’s short film “The Long and Short of it”. This guy is supportive, he really listens to other people and he has a great sense of fun.

From “The Fellowship of the Ring (EE): The Fellowship of the Cast”. ”He must have been so tired”.

I hope he didn't share Frodo's fate
Although I can see that Frodo's fate was inevitable from the beginning of the story, I have never really forgiven Tolkien for taking Frodo out of the equation in the last chapters of the book and shifting the focus to Sam. I really hoped that Frodo's actor wouldn't share Frodo's fate of being "little honoured in his own country". It seemed unfair to me that an actor who had given us so much in his creation of Frodo would be held back in his career by the success of the films. So, I started to follow Elijah on the Internet. At first, I didn't quite know how it had all worked out for him. But as I read on I began to understand his priorities better. He likes to challenge himself by taking on very different types of roles, he is interested in every aspect of film making and he has this strong alternative interest in his music. In a recent interview he said (when asked what advice he had to give about life): "Fail often, fail gracefully and try again". Someone who can say that is doing fine!

As I watched more of Elijah's films, I discovered that the subtlety of his Frodo wasn't a one-off. I recognized it also in his other roles and I was just as impressed by it. Here are a few examples.

Jonathan Safran Foer in “Everything is illuminated” (2005): Saying so much without saying a word.

Aaron Feller in“Day Zero” (2007): That incredible intensity.

Ryan Newman in “Wilfred” (2011): Making me cry when I expected to laugh.

The fans
The whole phenomenon of fandom is new to me. Never before has an actor or actress interested me enough to become involved in it. I have now discovered that there are different types of fans.
The needy fans. I found them on Twitter. @woodelijah Retweet me! Follow me! Marry me!
The frustrated fans. These often turn into haters. They build up an unrealistic image of their idol and then blame him when he doesn't live up to their fantasy. I've seen them on IMDb and on Twitter. Haters also exist in many different forms but I'm sure sexual jalousie is behind it quite often.
The admirers. (Relatively) normal people who appreciate the guy and his work. I found them on Always and Forever and here on Live Journal. And I'm one of them, so I decided to join in.

So what do I admire? The character of Frodo, the performance, Elijah's personality?
Answer: All of them. It has somehow become impossible for me to separate them. Does this mean that my judgment of Elijah's future performances will be biased? Possibly, but so be it. I loved him in his two most recent roles: as Ryan in Wilfred and as Ben Gunn in Treasure Island. In a previous LJ post I wrote "An internally driven character needs a subtle actor AND a perceptive viewer". I am grateful that my "research" on Frodo and Elijah has made me a more perceptive viewer. And I discovered LJ along the way; that was a bonus. It's been great reading other people's posts. I don't know yet how I'm going to use LJ in the future; perhaps I'll just go with the inspiration of the moment. But I expect most of my posts will be Tolkien- or LOTR- or Frodo- or Elwood-related.

Elijah Wood as himself.
Behind the scenes of Max Landis’ short film

“Death and the Return of Superman” (pic from A&F; 2012)

The first part of this post is here: http://ambree40.livejournal.com/4493.html#cutid1

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You know, reading this is so much like reading my journey, only you express it so much better. I too initially loved the films but then inexplicably found myself drawn over and over to Frodo's scenes. I couldn't explain it to myself, had never experienced anything like it. But i eventually came to realise that there was no getting away from the fact that i was well and truly hooked. I suppose you'd call me one of his 'admirers' but it's so much more than that. As silly as it sounds to attach this label to someone i don't know personally, and know i never will, but i love him. It's as simple as that.

Thank you so much for this wonderful post!!!

ps. The last pictures of your series aren't showing up for me. They cut off just after the second in line.
pps. Can you tell me where "Fail often, fail gracefully and try again" comes from. I don't recall it and i hate to miss anything.

Thank you so much for you comments Belle.
It was a real challenge to try to put it all into words.
And you hit the nail right on the head "It's as simple as that".

Re ps: Perhaps the pictures cut off because of the lay-out of your own LJ? I can see all 3 (or 4)of them. Could you see the composite pics in my previous post? They are a little bit smaller than in this post so I could easily reduce them here too. Please let me know.

Re pps: It's the interview from Ringling College by that girl who insisted on getting a compliment at the end of the interview ("new girl"). I think it was posted in elijah_finds.

I am mostly a lurker, and I am not one for leaving intelligent feedback.

Just wanted to say I liked your entries and your self-analysis of what attracts you to Elijah and what you discovered on the way about other people's reactions to Elijah.

I think you discovered along the way rightly that no two fans are the same. And so my image of Elijah is a slightly, slightly different one to yours. (I don't idolise Elijah's performance as Frodo as much as you do - he is very good, and he invested so much into it, and he possibly is the best actor Peter Jackson could have found for what he had in mind for his Frodo, but I am not in awe of every microsecond of Elijah's acting or every single one of his facial expressions.)

But I like the things that all of the fans have in common much more than trying to see the things that separate them from each other. Whatever our age, our background, and our views, mostly we have the same point of interest, and that's Elijah. I see us fans as being all under one big umbrella.

Sometimes it's hard though, when people are losing all respect for / the necessary distance from celebrities, and assume a closeness that entitles them to do certain things or ask for certain things, which must in the end be very hurting / be very annoying for Elijah.

There's a German saying : "Was Du nicht willst, das man Dir tu, das fueg auch keinem Andern zu" ( = Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. ) , and that is such a simple rule to live by, and fans or simply people talking about a celebrity should heed that.

Anyway, thanks for your entries, they are always a pleasure to read.


- Karin.

I'm glad you like the posts Karin. Nice of you [as a self-confessed lurker ;-)] to write a comment. It's very much appreciated.

Perhaps I should have explained one point a bit better. I'm not using screencaps because I'm in awe of every microsecond of Elijah's acting. I'm using them because they help me to understand why a certain scene has a certain emotional effect on me. And I want to "understand" that because that's the way my mind works (professional deformation, I guess). I first learned to appreciate what screencaps can show us when visiting T.G. Shaw's site. For me, that site is still the very best.

I agree with you completely that respect should be the basis for everything!!

I love reading about your journey to LJ and your observations of Elijah as Frodo/an actor. I've been impressed with him since I saw him as a child in Huck Finn. I remember thinking 'Wow. I'm going to have to remember this kid.' and then promtly forgetting his name. :) It was only after I started looking at his filmography after FotR that I remembered thinking that.

I was also surprised at how many of his other films I had seen and had enjoyed his work, but never connected him to any of his other roles. I can be pretty obtuse, I'm afraid. He was amazing even as a child.

I'm glad you liked the posts Addie.

"never connected him to any of his other roles"

Perhaps the best compliment you can give an actor is that you remember his characters, rather than himself.

"Is that the same actor we saw in the Shire two films ago? I don't believe it!"

It's amazing, isn't it? I remember something Sean Astin said at the 2003 Comic Con I attended: "Wait and see where Elijah goes with this role." I still marvel at it.

And he wasn't even that much older than in the Shire scenes. I believe the Crack of Doom scene was shot right in the middle of the first period of filming.
Thanks for commenting shirebound. Much appreciated.

Thanks for these great entries, and you are right "the best compliment you can give an actor is that you remember his characters, rather than himself".

I'm glad you liked them jaramajo. Nice to see you here.

Your journey is beautifully described, Ann. I especially love the caps from the "Passage of the Marshes" scene -- you did a great job of capturing the nuances of Elijah's acting there. Thanks for sharing it.

In my case, I was gobsmacked by Elijah's acting in FotR straightaway, but it was surely at least partly because I'd been a great admirer of his acting talent since he was 10. I first encountered him in Radio Flyer when I was 15. I didn't follow everything he did in his adolescence, but I saw his work here and there. I went to see FotR solely because my best friend had told me Elijah Wood was playing Frodo, and I wanted to see what kind of actor he'd become as a young adult. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed.

Like you, though, my appreciation of him as a person definitely hinged on what I learned of him outside his acting. I was awed by his beauty and his talent, but I really expected to find that he was a shallow, self-obsessed, generally intolerable erstwhile child actor. Instead he turned out to be an interesting, articulate, intelligent, kind young man... someone who was actually worth my attention. It's been a decade, and he's more interesting and admirable to me now than he was then.

Thanks Robin, I'm glad you liked it.
"someone who was actually worth my attention".
Yes, he is and, as you say, he has become even more interesting as he grew older. I am still working my way through Elijah's childhood films. One film I'd love to see but can't find anywhere is The Bumblebee Flies Away. I'll just keep looking.

Quote from Belle "You know, reading this is so much like reading my journey, only you express it so much better" I feel the same my journey was exactly like yours, only then I worked in an office all day and when I was alone I always had Elijah & the A&F to enjoy...it was my little secret !
Thanks Love

Hi Carol,
For months before I decided to get an LJ account I regularly checked the Elwood-related sites that I had been able to discover. Your ejw-site was one of them. It used to cheer me up when there was some interesting news or when you had posted some nice new pictures. It still does, so please keep it running. ;-)

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Elijah, they are very much like my own. Elijah is an extraordinary and gifted person and I will always admire him, appreciate his amazing talent and love the man he has become.

Thanks for your comments Jane. Finding an actor I can admire not only for his talent but also for his personality is a totally new experience for me. I find it interesting and heart warming.

Another enjoyable post, Ambree:) For a long time I've been promising myself another viewing of the entire LOTR EE trilogy instead of just the bits I get to see working on 'Journey'. Your pics, especially the 'Ring lust' pics, have just intensified that wish 100%!!

>>But then, why was I so deeply moved by Frodo, his sufferings, his fate. It took several more viewings and a bit of research to recognize the subtlety and the power of the performance<<

I believe this really applied to me too. At first, I was so overwhelmed by the character of Frodo that I found it quite difficult to separate him from Elijah. I was so moved by Frodo's fate it actually haunted me. When I actually got round to giving it more thought, and it dawned on me that this young American boy had brought the character to life so perfectly, I was in awe of his ability. He really did 'become' Frodo

That 'money shot' was my first introduction to Elijah/Frodo. Before then I was completely unaware of his existence. I must have seen him in the LOTR trailers I'd seen but amazingly I hadn't really noticed him then. I was completely fascinated - mesmerised even - by the character and the actor. As time went on and I got to know more and more about Elijah, the actor and the person, fascination was replaced by something else, an attachment which really defies description or category. I have to agree with bellewood, I hesitate to use the word love - but when, in addition to admiration, you also care deeply about someone's welfare and happiness, what else can it be? And I do believe he is a rarity when compared to others in his profession. I love David Zuckerman's quote - it may be rather coarse language-wise but it has so much truth - he said "Elijah makes all other actors look like assh***s"!!

Wow, not_alone, there is a soft breeze blowing in your profile picture. How lovely!

You wrote: "I was completely fascinated - mesmerised even - by the character and the actor."

That describes my own reaction, exactly. And my fascination with Elijah as he is 10 years after filming LOTR is just as strong. Because I discovered him only last year I have read everything I know about him over a short period of time. What has impressed me most is that he is absolutely consistent in his reactions. So few people are. He is also totally without, what I call "coyness" (I don't know if this is the correct English word for what I want to express). Most people (not only actors) exude a certain vibe of: "look at me, ain't I something special". Elijah is totally without that. Very, very rare indeed. I believe it's one of the reasons why he inspires such loyalty. As a variation on David Zuckerman's quote I would even say "...Elijah makes many other people look like assh***s".

I'm so glad you liked my "journey to LJ" posts. You've been quite important in getting me here! :)

great post again! ((hugs you))

i remember orlando saying in the commentary of FOTR that in the third movie elijah's look is very intense. it was like he wasn't the same person... or something to that effect. brad doriff said the same in the TTT commentary. such a fine line elijah walks and he did it perfectly. it was seen even while filming.

you have excellent examples of the craft elijah owns with his subtly.

as far as fandom, i've run the gamut on the types but never, ever the hater. keep writing your posts just as you are if you're not sure what's going to come. these have been so great to read and talk about. :-)

"you cannot ESCAPE my POWERS". No, you can't! ;-)

I remember Orlando's and Brad's comments about Elijah. What's so impressive is that all three films were shot at the same time and that scenes were shot out of sequence. Elijah himself has commented on that. It must have been incredibly difficult to judge Frodo's state of mind when you're filming out of sequence. WOW!

Thanks for your comment about my posts, lady. A girl needs a bit of encouragement now and then. :)

And now I'm going to rush off to your tutorial!!!

The needy fans. I found them on Twitter. @woodelijah Retweet me! Follow me! Marry me!

LOL That is so true. I also see that a lot at fan communities and it's nearly all young teens who think if they're annoying vocal enough, the object of their dreams will actually marry them. I have been following the three Italian teen singing sensations, Il Volo, and the girls are going bonkers over them at Twitter and Facebook.

Great photos. I love the ones of Elijah yawning. So sweet.

Hi yeuxdebleu,
Sometimes I get annoyed with those silly girls on twitter, like the one who numbered her demands for a retweet and got to > 100. She has now disappeard, perhaps because a lot of people reported her for spam and her account got blocked. However, I often see the funny side of it. Those girls probably like to brag about it to their class mates.
When I made the screen-caps of Elijah's yawn it was so infectious. Couldn't stop yawning myself.

Great post I love it thank you so much!:) he is so a great actor!!

"The needy fans. I found them on Twitter. @woodelijah Retweet me! Follow me! Marry me!"

I have seen then and I afraid I have some few that follow me they are like that*terrible*

About the haters I try to ignorent them!
Like Lady says keep writing your post !:))

*big hugs*

I'm glad you liked the post mumis.
So you have those spammers following you too? That must be very annoying.
And I absolutely agree with you about the haters. It says more about them than about Elijah.
I'll try to keep writing posts that others than myself can also enjoy. Thanks for the encouragement!

(Deleted comment)
You know, I actually feel quite relieved to see that other people have the same reaction to Elijah that I have. I never experienced anything like this before and, at my age, that is rather disconcerting. Elijah is the only person I "know" who seems to be completely "himself" in all his public appearances and even, strange as it may seem, in his movie roles. He is such an enigma!
Thanks for your comments mews. Hope you are OK. Judging from your recent posts times are difficult for you. Wishing you all the best!

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