Elijah Wood landed his Lord of the Rings role with an epic audition shot on a VHS tape
Twenty years after Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring came into our lives, it's hard to imagine anyone besides Elijah Wood playing the part of Frodo. And we can thank the actor for making that happen thanks to an epic audition tape.
Wood opened up about some of his biggest career roles — including that one — and detailed how they came to be in a new interview with GQ.
"I'd never made my own audition tape before, and this is long before the time when that was common," Wood said. "I went to a vocal coach for the dialect and enlisted some friends, including George Huang, 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 filmed three different scenes to illustrate different aspects of Frodo's journey before heading to the Miramax offices that night to cut the scenes together. "And then I took that tape — output to VHS — to Victoria Burrows' office and they FedEx'd it to Peter." Wood's over-the-top and dedicated approach worked: Jackson called him personally to offer him the role.
Already a fan of Jackson's work, Wood knew that the filmmaker was the perfect person to take on Middle Earth and had to go to the casting office to read the script because it wasn't being sent out due to security reasons. After spending two hours reading it and falling in love with the fantasy world, he was determined to land the role. However, Jackson wanted to hire lesser-known actors for his trilogy, so Wood wasn't initially at the top of his list.
In a 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, the director noted how he auditioned a number of other actors first (including Jake Gyllenhaal.) "I had heard Elijah's name, but I had never seen a film he'd done," said Jackson, who only watched Wood's tape at the urging of his partner, Fran Walsh.
Once he saw the lengths the actor went to in his audition, he knew he'd found his Frodo, famously going on to tell people, "Elijah cast himself."
While Wood calls the experience of filming The Lord of the Rings "totally mind-blowing and the adventure and opportunity of a lifetime," he admitted the cast had no idea how much they were going to become synonymous with pop culture history.
"All we knew was that the books themselves have a massive, very supportive fanbase. And have since its release. And so many people grew up reading those books. And that there was a great degree of anticipation on the films as a result of that," he explained. "But then again, at the end of the day, we had no idea of knowing, and the impact was the impact. It was way bigger than all of us could have imagined."
Watch Wood reflect on his journey to Frodo-dom in the first 10 minutes of the video below.