Tom Dawson talks to the actor ELIJAH WOOD about football rucks, the future of Hollywood and burying Frodo Baggins.
t‘s noon in New York. and lilijah Wood is
proving a courteous if cautious interviewee.
Promoting the football hooligan drama (irwn Street. he talks in terms of ‘character arcs‘. and his director's ‘vision and enthusiasnf for the story. and of the filming as a ‘relatively smooth process‘. Perhaps this formal language reflects the fact that Wood has had to grow up under a media spotlight: a child actor from the age of eight. who worked with directors such as Ang Lee (The [M Storm). Barry Levinson (Am/on) and Rob Reiner (NUI‘I/l). he achieved
36 me LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE w, 25; Aug mos.
global fame with his portrayal of the furry- footed hobbit Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord oft/w Rings trilogy. Down the years he seems to have mastered the knack of answering
journalists' questions. without revealing too
much of his own personality. and has kept himself out of tabloid headlines.
But what's interesting here is the gtilf between how he talks about Grew: Street. and the visceral nature of the lilm itself. Directed by the German- born female Lexi Alexander. herself a former world kickboxing champ. it‘s the melodramatic story of a young American student Matt (Wood). who. having been kicked otit of Harvard. rather improbany winds tip part of a notorious West Ham—supporting firm in London. As Wood‘s
wide-eyed innocent discovers the pleasures of
hand-to-hand-combat against rival gangs. he also enjoys the camaraderie and sense of belonging offered by his new surrogate family.
‘I enjoyed reading about an aspect of linglish culture that I wasn't very familiar with.‘ reveals Wood when I ask him what was special about the script. 'l’eople live and die by football in the United Kingdom and liurope. and people aren't too aware of that in the States. plus the hooliganism aspect is even more foreign. And playing a character. who is in a position where his life is like a blank slate. fascinated me. He‘s just otit of college. he’s trying to define himself. and when he goes to lingland. he gets mixed up in this violent world.‘
A Method-style immersion into the hooligan subculture was not for \Nood though. lior
research he went to several games. including the lirst match between West Ham and Millwall for 15 years. yet he didn’t read Bill Buford's Auto/1g the Thugs (an earlier real-life account of an American writer‘s involvement with British football hooligans). nor did he study Alan (‘larke‘s seminal television film The Firm. ‘My character Matt walks into this environment relatively blind.‘ explains Wood. 'and I wanted to let things come to me as they did. The reality of me playing .‘V'Iatt mirrored the reality of the character. We had a lot of ex-hooligans working on the film. and I didn't need to read about somebody else’s perspective on this world.‘
Where Green Street impresses is in the Iaddish banter between its characters. and in the way it conveys the excitement and danger of the violent inter-firm clashes. (l)iaries written by former hooligans invariably stress a quasi-sexual 'bu/x' factor enjoyed by the participants. which is hard to replicate in other more humdrum areas of their lives.) For Wood. 'it‘s not just the violence that provides the rush for these people. it's the lead-up to the violence. It's the game. the rivalry. the set—up to where you are going to meet. and the bragging if you win the light. These people that are taking part in violence aren't necessarily troublemakers in their daily lives. They have a Jekyll and Hyde-like quality.‘
Since making The Lord oft/iv Rings. Wood has appeared to be seeking out parts that will bury audience associations of him and Middle liarth. There was the memory—wiping technician in Michel (iondry and (‘harlie Kaufman‘s liter/ml