Elijah Wood explains making his Lord of the Rings audition tape

Frodo in The Return of the King

Elijah Wood is a filmmaker of many talents, and it looks like his wheelhouse of production skills helped him bag the role of the most famous Hobbit to live at ‘Bag End’. In an episode of GQ’s ongoing series where actors break down their iconic roles, Wood recalls how he got the part of Frodo Baggins after sending an elaborate Lord of The Rings audition tape to director Peter Jackson.

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary epic, Peter Jackson’s cinematic Lord of The Rings trilogy are some of the best fantasy movies of all time. The films follow the dangerous quest of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who is tasked with travelling to Mordor, and destroying the one ring before his world, Middle-earth, is destroyed by the forces of evil. The Academy Award-winning trilogy had an unbelievable cast, including the likes of Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, and Andy Serkis. Wood, in comparison, wasn’t as huge a name as his co-stars when filming for the first movie, The Fellowship of The Ring, began.

Before LOTR, the actor’s biggest role was in the 1998 science fiction movie Deep Impact. However, Wood isn’t just a fab actor; he also has a knack for production work. The star made an (uncommon at the time) audition tape, where he shot various scenes from Tolkien’s beloved story, and then edited the footage on VHS. His tape would impress Peter Jackson, and ultimately help win him the role of the famous hobbit.

“I went to a vocal coach for the dialect and enlisted some friends, including George Wang, who is a writer and filmmaker. We went out to the woods in Griffith Park and shot two of the audition sequences there and one at my house,” Wood explained. “There were three scenes, each one was sort of a different aspect of Frodo along the journey, the last one being quite deeply affected by the ring.”

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Jackson was a relatively unknown filmmaker at the time, having made waves with horror movies Bad Taste and Braindead before directing Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, and likely saw a kindred soul in Wood. The dedication and resourcefulness showcased in the tape obviously left an impression. “I got a call from Peter himself, which was amazing, totally mind-blowing and the adventure and opportunity of a lifetime,” Wood recalls.

Since LOTR, Wood has founded the production company SpectreVision, and recently starred in the thriller movie No Man of God. Middle Earth is also keeping busy these days, with Amazon Prime Video currently working on a new Lord of the Rings TV series, which is expected to premiere on September 3, 2022.

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