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Elijah Wood Recalls His Unusual And Elaborate Audition For The Lord Of The Rings

Wood went to great lengths to convince Peter Jackson to cast him as Frodo--and it worked.


Elijah Wood famously portrayed Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings film series, and now the actor has shared some new details on his unusual and elaborate audition process for the movie. It involved filming three different sequences at a time when audition tapes were not common. Before telling his story, Wood recalled the earliest days of The Lord of the Rings and why he was excited from the get-go.

Speaking to GQ, Wood said he wasn't actually surprised when he learned in the late '90s that Peter Jackson, a relatively low-profile New Zealand filmmaker known for independent movies like Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, would be tackling The Lord of the Rings. Wood said 1994's Heavenly Creatures stood out to him in particular because it established what Jackson was capable of as a filmmaker. The movie combined fantasy with emotional honesty and depth, and he thought Jackson would do right by The Lord of the Rings by keeping these elements in mind.

Wood had read The Hobbit but not The Lord of the Rings at the time, and when his agent called to tell him they were looking to cast roles for the film, he jumped at the chance to try out for Frodo. The studio wasn't sending the script to actors, so he drove to the studio office and sat by himself for two hours reading the script.

"Driving home, I was so immersed in the world. It was so palpable and lifelike. It really came to life off of the page," Wood said.

In an effort to go the extra mile to get the part, Wood created a VHS audition tape, which was uncommon for the time. "I had never made my own audition tape before. And this was long before the time when that was common. I just had this impulse. Partially because I was a little nervous and second, I just didn't want to go into a white room and do it that way. I was just like, 'I've got to do something different,'" Wood said.

So Wood hired a voice/dialect coach to learn how to best give voice to Frodo. He also enlisted some friends, including writer/filmmaker George Wang, to film three audition tapes. Two were shot at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and another was filmed at Wood's home.

"There's three scenes. Each was sort of a different aspect of Frodo along the journey. The last one being like quite deeply affected by the Ring," Wood said. "We went into the Miramax offices that night, when Miramax was still a thing, and cut the scenes together and then I took that tape--it was output to VHS [laughs], and I took that tape to [The Lord of the Rings casting director] Victoria Burrows' office and then they FedEx'ed it to Peter [Jackson]. And then I got a call from Peter himself, which was amazing. Totally mind-blowing, and the adventure and opportunity of a lifetime."

The full interview is a delight, as the first nine minutes are dedicated exclusively to The Lord of the Rings. Wood shares other interesting anecdotes and stories about the cast and crew and uprooting his life and moving to New Zealand to film the epic fantasy trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring celebrates its 20th anniversary this December, and a new 4K Blu-ray bundle of the three movies is on the way with new bonus features. A new Lord of the Rings animated film is currently in the works, while Amazon's TV show will debut in September 2022.

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