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
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...
was it that attracted you to Liev's script?
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
Elijah: I haven't either.
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
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.
you met Jonathan?
Elijah: I did, yeah.
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.
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
Elijah: He's weird! Yeah, Jonathan's weird
and very neurotic and practical, awkward…
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.
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.
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
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.