After a decade proving himself as Hollywood's best child actor, ELIJAH WOOD has come of age in The Faculty. So is it serious drama from here on in? Nah, first he's got to kill the evi aliens.
Words: James Mottram
ELIJAH WOOD LETS OUT A GROAN. 'THIS MOVIE, MAN! Every time I talk to a new group of people. it‘s like. "God. am I going to have to break it to them again‘.’"‘ Dressed in mandatory teenage clobber (black shirt and trousers). the young actor with a career steadily on the rise sets his blue eyes in focus.
‘My high school experience was home school. but it doesn‘t mean I don‘t have an understanding.’ he says. urging the notion that he's really just an all-American kid. I‘Ie needn‘t bother. Delicate of frame. Wood is sharp. jovial and accommodating. showing no signs of being a movie brat.
‘This movie really represents high school — very gritty and scary.~ he adds. He‘s referring to The Faeultv. the new teen-horror flick from two of the hippest names in the game: Front Dusk Til Dawn director Robert Rodriguez and writer Kevin Williamson. the man single-handedly responsible for revitalising the slasher genre with Seream.
Borrowing from the likes of The Thing and Invasion ()f
The Body .S'natehers. the film sees Wood play Herrington High's certified schoolyard geek. who turns hero when an alien parasite worms its way into a number of the teachers and pupils. causing all sorts of lesson disruption. Wood — who chose the role because he‘d ‘never really played a nerd before’ — sees it as a metaphor for the hormonally chaotic growing pains of teen-hood.
‘Being a teenager is scary enough: you‘re going through a change in your life. You're trying to figure out who you are. where you belong and where you want to go. High school is a magnifying glass to that. You‘ve got all these other kids going through the same experience — and some kids are in their own cliques and don‘t accept you. You think. “I‘ve got to do this to be accepted”. Everything‘s alien to you — so we picked up on that.‘
A Breakfast Club with extra-terrestrials. The Faeultv doesn‘t take itself too seriously. ‘It’s like a comic book.‘ Wood notes. ‘We represent all these archetypes and the challenge was to take the clichés away and make them more realistic.‘
18 THE lIST 145 Apr 1999
'It was so odd to have a completely naked woman walking around. This girl's completely naked, comfortable with her nudeness.’ Elijah Wood
Co-starring with newcomers Jordana Brewster and Josh Hartnett (who debuted in Halloween H20). Wood is the veritable veteran of the cast at the ripe old age of eighteen. Born in Iowa. but raised in Los Angeles. he began acting when he was just eight. appearing briefly in Baek To The Future Part II. A decade of features followed. in which he has worked with Mel Gibson (Forever Young). Kevin Costner (The War). Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith (Paradise) and. er. a dolphin (Flipper).
But it was not until a double whammy last year that mainstream audiences really sat up and took notice. Playing the boy—next-door in The lee Storm. Ang Lee‘s dissection of 70s sexual mores. and the courageous teen in Mimi Leder's apocalyptic disaster flick Deep lmpaet. Wood further demonstrated a range of emotions seen in an embryonic state in his previous films.
Blessed with a lively imagination — he once said that if he wasn't an actor. he‘d be a secret agent — Wood comes from a ‘healthy’ family environment: his father ‘owns businesses‘. his elder brother works in the video games industry. Expressing a passion for music and a weakness for CD shopping. Wood really does emerge as mature beyond his years — thankfully minus any whiff of arrogance. In other words. he‘s got it sussed.
Acting? ‘Over the last three years. I‘ve taken it more seriously. When you‘re a kid. everything was fun to you. I was enjoying everything about it.‘ College? ‘You can take courses where you can study on set. but I definitely want to experience college for itself.‘
He even resists the temptation to snicker furtively at the thought of the naked body double employed on The Faeulty’s set. expressing more than a healthy teenage curiousity. ‘lt was so odd to have a completely naked woman walking around. Just a trip. This girl‘s completely naked. comfortable with her nudeness.’
And his forthcoming body of work is only likely to cement his reputation as one of the most daring young actors around. Expect to see Wood in The Bumble Bee