Today is Monday, July 28, 2014 - 2:04 PM (PST)
Wood's fame has skyrocketed since his fabulous performance as Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and since then he hasn't plastered himself in front of the world with blockbuster schlock, instead he has been featured in smaller roles for Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Robert Rodriguez's Sin City.

The small role tale changes for Elijah as he will next be featured in a starring role as Jonathan Safran Foer for Liev Schrieber's writing and directing debut Everything is Illuminated. Based on the novel by Foer the film tells the story of Jonathan (Wood), as a young Jewish American, and his rigid journey to continue his quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather in a small Ukrainian town that was wiped off the map by the Nazi invasion.

In a movie filled with humor and emotion Wood brings just the right amount of quirk and heart to the role making Jonathan one of the more interesting characters brought to life on screen this year and I was happy to get the chance to spend some time with him discussing Everything is Illuminated, his past, present and his future...

Question: What was it that attracted you to Liev's script?

Elijah: Primarily because it is so different, but beyond the fact that it is so different from what I had done before and beyond the continued philosophy of trying to be a part of films that were very different from the last, particularly something like Lord of the Rings, which is so massive, the interest became even greater to be part of something different.

I really love the story, I love the script, and the opportunity as an actor to play this awkward, strange character and there were comedy elements that I really liked and I never really worked on anything that had those kind of comedic elements and the opportunity to work with Liev. I mean, I love the story, I love the character and then ultimately it was meeting with Liev that sold it for me.

His very strong perspective on what he wanted to do with the film visually, his ideas for the character, I remember we sat for like two hours yappin' about the film, talking about the cinematography for different parts and at one point we were talking about the character and one of the greatest references for him in his mind, the way he visualized the character writing him was the Chauncy Gardener character from Being There, which was a great inspiration, certainly not something that I consulted a lot, but in watching it and taking that in, it was a really great inspiration for the character, which is similar in the sense that he is very quiet, a bit of an observer and kind of has this whole other world going on that is very different from the outside world, sort of not comfortable amongst society, you know, doesn't really fit in so much, and yet there's also this kind of beautiful stillness to him as well.

Question: I haven't read "Illuminated"…

Elijah: I haven't either.

Question: Oh you haven't? Have you heard anything in reference to the translation from the book to the script? I know people are passionate about this story and have worries that it won't be done justice in movie form. Was that a concern on set; was that a concern of yours?

Elijah: That is true, the people that love this book love it with a passion. It wasn't a concern of mine, it may have been a concern of Liev's, but at the same time Liev adapted what he wanted to adapt out of this story, and I think he had a very clear vision of the story that he wanted to tell. I think he took relative liberty to a certain degree to simplify the story.

Now, the reason I didn't read the book, because I brought it with me to Prague, is because I started thumbing through it and I started to realize the structure of the book was really quite different from what Liev had adapted. So, based on that, I decided to stick with what his vision for the story was, and as a result of that, not reading it, not having met Jonathan until we had started filming, my choice was to just go with what Liev had written and the character he had conceived of in relation to the book.

So, unlike Lord of the Rings, which is a very, very strict adaptation to the book, always referencing the book, this for me, the book was almost irrelevant, not in a negative sense, not to discount the book necessarily, but it did feel like its own journey.

Question: And you met Jonathan?

Elijah: I did, yeah.

Question: And did you take anything away from that meeting, did you ask him any questions, was there any back and forth between the two of you?

Elijah: I didn't take anything away from that, I think it was interesting, some people until that point wondered if I had based my character at all on Jonathan the person, and I didn't. For me it was actually just a pleasure to meet Jonathan, having been a part of the process of adapting his book and from the perspective of watching someone who had written something being there on the set with these characters walking around, I was kind of fascinated by what the experience must have been like for him.

But I didn't really use it as an opportunity to ask him questions or to gain any further insight.

Question: So where did the character come from? Was it the script alone? Because you go out there with this one, he is not like the normal guy you would see walking down the street.

Elijah: He's weird! Yeah, Jonathan's weird and very neurotic and practical, awkward…

Well, it was kind of both Liev and my own interpretations of the character based on conversations that we had and his visual concept of the character with the suit and the glasses, trying to make him somewhat awkward and ways to do that, and it was all kind of conversations that we had, it was kind of a mix of both of our concepts.

Question: How often do you consult the source material or do you always decide to stick to the script?

Elijah: My perspective has always been… I guess, I've never really consulted the source material for one reason or another. I've always kind of stuck to the script and used that as the guide to move forward with the character and see it through.

Question: Did your quirky character from Eternal Sunshine inspire you to take on a role where you could be quirky and a bit strange for an entire movie?

Elijah: The process of trying to find a script, and the process of trying to find the next role and the next film is relatively organic and it's kind of difficult to actively look for a specific type of role. Specifically like quirky material or strange material because to a certain degree you are at the mercy of whatever is available. Basically if I read something and find it interesting and just respond to it on whatever level, be it a small role in Eternal Sunshine or something like this that is an extension of a character is slightly weird but over a whole film it just happens to be what is available at the time and what I was passionate about.

It's not a plan, but the greater plan is obviously just to want to be a part of different things and also challenge myself as an actor and constantly put myself into roles that are different from the last. I think one of my favorite things about being an actor is simply to be a part of someone else's vision, to help facilitate a vision for a film. Illuminated is a great example of that, wanting to be a part of Liev's vision and another great example of that is Eternal Sunshine. I would have done anything to be a part of that movie because I am such a huge, huge fan of Michel Gondry and think he's such a visionary and Kaufman as well as a writer. I wouldn't have cared what it was to be a part of that and for me sometimes, that simply is a concept that is more gratifying than specifically a type of role or a type of film, it is just to be a part of an interesting artistic vision.

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