Also Credited As:Elijah Jordan Wood
|Actor, Producer, Production Management, Music|
|Elijah Jordan Wood on January 28, 1981 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA|
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Born Elijah Jordan Wood on Jan. 28, 1981 in Cedar Rapids, IA to parents Debbie and Warren, Wood began modeling as a youngster, and after being spotted by a Los Angeles-based talent agent, entered film with small parts in "Back to the Future II" (1989) and "Internal Affairs" (1990), in addition to several made-for-TV movies. Impressed by the child actor's ability, director Barry Levinson cast Wood as the grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants growing up in mid-century Baltimore in his autobiographical family drama, "Avalon" (1990). The following year, he gave a heartwarming performance as a young boy who becomes the impetus for bringing an estranged married couple (Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) back together after the death of their child in "Paradise" (1991). Wood continued to hone his craft in the Richard Donner directed "Radio Flyer" (1992), the nostalgic story of two young boys who take refuge in a rich fantasy life as a means of escaping the physical and emotional abuse of their stepfather. The same year, the busy young thespian starred opposite Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis in the romantic drama "Forever Young" (1992), about a man revived after being cryogenically frozen for 50 years. Wood held his own against child star Macauley Culkin as an orphan sent to live with his Svengali-like cousin after the death of his parents in "The Good Son" (1993). On cable, he appeared as a child ghost haunting a Nazi concentration camp soldier (Gary Sinise) in the mini-movie, "The Witness" (Showtime, 1993), and landed the title role in the Disneyfied big screen adaptation of Twain's "The Adventures of Huck Finn" (1993).
More prominent roles continued to come Wood's way, with films like "North" (1994), directed by Rob Reiner and boasting an all-star cast. The tale of a precocious boy who feels so unappreciated by his parents, that he deems himself a "free agent" and travels the world in search of the perfect mom and dad, "North" was a rare misfire for Reiner and was savaged by the critics. Receiving a slightly warmer welcome was the family drama "The War" (1994), starring Kevin Costner as a father recently returned from Vietnam. After a brief hiatus, Wood returned with the movie adaptation of the aquatic family adventure series "Flipper" (1996), opposite Paul Hogan. In "The Ice Storm" (1997), the critically lauded Ang Lee film that examined the interconnected lives of several people in an upper-class suburb in 1970s Connecticut, he played the troubled son of Sigourney Weaver. Wood followed up the next year with two more commercially friendly features. "The Faculty" (1998), directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Kevin Williamson, was a teen horror movie about a group of high school students who discover their teachers' bodies are being taken over by malicious aliens. Also that year, Wood appeared in the big-budget, apocalyptic blockbuster "Deep Impact" (1998), which recounted the days leading up to an asteroid's collision with earth. Two years later, he made an appearance in James Toback's flawed experimental drama "Black and White" (1999), a largely improvised examination of race relations in urban America.
The high point of the young actor's career came when Wood was given the coveted role of the gentle hobbit, Frodo Baggins, in director Peter Jackson's epic film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings." Wood's character was the lynchpin of an adventure that began when Frodo inherited the "One Ring" from his elderly uncle, Bilbo. The magical ring would enable the evil wizard Sauron to hold sway over all of Middle Earth, and so brave little Frodo and a mismatched group of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and humans set out on a quest to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom. A truly massive undertaking - one that would have bankrupt New Line Cinema, had it failed at the box office - Jackson filmed all three installments at once over the course of a year in his homeland of New Zealand. The gamble paid off, as the first film in the series, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), was a smashing success with both fans and critics, launching Wood and his co-stars into the realm of international stars. The second chapter, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002), was an even bigger success. That same year, Wood was also seen in the direct-to-video "Life Without Dick" (2002), in addition to starring opposite Edward Burns in "Ash Wednesday" (2002), playing the younger brother of the director-actor in this look at the Irish vs. Italian gang wars of the 1980s. Frodo and company's quest at last came to an end in the rousing conclusion, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003), bringing one of the greatest adventure fantasies ever filmed to a close and garnering a Best Picture Academy Award.
Fresh off the monumental trilogy, Wood soon appeared in his first significant post-Frodo role in the off-kilter but visually enthralling "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004), playing opposite stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as an ethically challenged lab tech, specializing in erasing unwanted painful memories. Next, Wood went far against type as the silent, razor-nailed, cannibalistic killer, Kevin, in the hyper-stylized adaptation of Frank Miller's violent comic book series, "Sin City" (2005), marking his second collaboration with director Robert Rodriguez. Busier than ever, Wood also appeared in two small films that same year. "Green Street Hooligans" (2005) found him playing an expelled American undergrad who befriends a football thug after he begins living with his sister in England. Wood rounded out the year with "Everything is Illuminated" (2005), playing a young man on a humorous and bizarre journey to the Ukraine in search of a woman who saved his grandfather's life during World War II. For George Miller's animated "Happy Feet" (2006), Wood provided the voice for Mumble, a vocally-challenged penguin who discovers his only chance at wooing a mate is through his slick dance moves. Then in "Bobby" (2006), director Emilio Estevez's ensemble piece chronicling the hours leading up to the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, Wood portrayed a young man about leave for Vietnam who wants to marry a young girl (Lindsay Lohan) he barely knows before he is shipped out.
Wood's next project, "Paris, I Love You" (2007), was another ensemble film, comprised of several separate vignettes, each with its own internationally renowned director, all dealing with romance in the city of love. In the independent drama "Day Zero" (2008), Wood played a novelist with a terrible case of writer's block, brought on when he is drafted into military service within 30 days. He also took on more voice work with the visually stunning, albeit plot- light, animated sci-fi adventure "9" (2009). After this came the feeble "The Romantics" (2010), a romantic comedy with aspirations of being the next "The Big Chill" (1983), in which Wood and a group of former college chums gather for a wedding, only to air their collective dirty laundry after a night of heavy drinking. The academic murder mystery "The Oxford Murders" (2010), co-starring John Hurt, also saw a very limited release that same year, before being banished to DVD. In a more high-profile project, Wood returned to the Antarctic to voice the toe-tapping penguin Mumbles for the animated sequel "Happy Feet Two" (2011) prior to taking on his first regular TV series role on the black comedy "Wilfred" (FX, 2011- ). Based on the critically-acclaimed Australian series of the same name, it starred Wood as Ryan, a deeply depressed young man whose life is turned around by the appearance of Wilfred (creator Jason Gann, reprising the original character), a foul-mouthed, vice-prone Australian man in a dog suit who everyone else sees as a normal canine. Although Wood's absurd new endeavor met with wildly divergent appraisals from critics, it proved a success with viewers, who tuned in in droves, making it one of FX's highest-rated debut sitcoms
Wood's screen presence ramped up considerably the following year with a slew of diverse projects that began with his turn as Ben Gunn, a cohort of the treacherous Long John Silver (Eddie Izzard) in the U.K. adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of skullduggery, "Treasure Island" (Syfy, 2012). He was next seen in a contemporary setting in the indie romantic-comedy "Celeste & Jesse Forever" (2012) as the business partner of Celeste (Rashida Jones), a single woman involved in a dysfunctional platonic relationship with her ex-boyfriend (Andy Samberg). At the same time Wood could be heard on television as the voice of Beck, the rebellious, computer-generated protagonist on the animated sci-fi adventure spin-off "TRON: Uprising" (Disney XD, 2012- ). Near the end of the year, the actor delivered a fearlessly unhinged performance as a dangerously obsessed mannequin shop owner in the indie-horror remake "Maniac" (2012). By far the biggest headline grabber for Wood, though, was his return to the role of Frodo for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012), the first in a trilogy of films, once more based on Tolkien's beloved tales of Middle-earth. A reunion of sorts with director Peter Jackson, the highly-anticipated film also brought back the likes of Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Andy Serkis to their key roles.
By Bryce Coleman