Personal detailsName: Elijah Wood
Born: 28 January 1981 (Age: 34)
Where: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA
Height: 5' 6"
Awards: No major awards
All about this star
Surviving child-stardom is challenge enough. Usually chosen for their appeal to other kids, cinematic prodigies are so often stuck in a rut, fronting just a few teenie hits before adolescence and acne bring the hammer down on their career. It's a problem seldom overcome, yet Elijah Wood managed it. After his first (very) public appearances at the age of 8, he managed to pick a succession of roles that would keep his profile high and also allow him to become a real, grown-up actor. But then, as if avoiding becoming the next Macauley Culkin wasn't sufficiently tough, he chose to take on a part that might cement itself in the world's imagination so tightly he could never be accepted in another. Who could wear the hairy feet of Frodo Baggins and still convince in modern dramas? Surely this would be the (ho ho) hardest hobbit to break?
He was born Elijah Jordan Wood on the 28th of January, 1981, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a town of some 200,000 souls a couple of hundred miles due west of Chicago. His parents, Warren and Debbie, ran a deli in town, and were already supporting 7-year-old Zack, later a video game producer in San Diego (sister Hannah, later a poet, would arrive two years after Elijah).
Though unspeakably cute, young Elijah was a wilful child, known as Spark Plug to his benighted parents. His mother recalls a day when, at the age of only two, he locked her out of the house and proceeded to trash the kitchen as she watched helplessly through the glass in the door. Throughout his solo riot, she said, the boy was laughing, revelling in this all-too-real play-acting. Even at this tender age he was forever singing and dancing, trying to entertain, as if he were born to it.
Naturally, he took to the stage early, at 6 winning a bit part in his elementary school's adaptation of The Sound Of Music. By the next year he had graduated to the title role in The Wizard Of Oz, as well as serving as a choir boy in the Marion Creative Council production of See How They Run. Mother Debbie was not slow to notice the effect of her boy's looks and nascent talents, in 1988 enrolling him at Avant Studios, a modelling school and agency in Cedar Rapids. Immediately the endless round of auditions and studio calls would begin.
In January, 1989, just a few days before Elijah's 8th birthday, Debbie took him to Los Angeles to attend a convention held by the International Modelling And Talent Association. He was just one of 200 kids, alongside a further 300 hopefuls up to the age of 30. And, though he was simply seeking advancement in the world of modelling, his charisma and boundless energy caught the attention of one Gary Scalzo, one of the judges of Wood's monologue. Scalzo asked Debbie to bring Elijah to his office the next day, he and the boy read several scenes together, and Scalzo decided there and then to sign on as the boy's "talent manager".
No matter how highly he regarded the boy's potential, Scalzo can't have imagined the speed of his progress. With Debbie upping sticks and moving to LA (along with Zack) to give Elijah a better chance, the search for work began in earnest and, within a mere 6 months, was spectacularly successful. Aside from a brief part in Robert Zemeckis's Back To The Future Part 2, Elijah also won the main supporting role in a video by up-and-coming singer Paula Abdul. Adbul had risen to prominence as choreographer for the cheerleaders of the LA Lakers and moved on to work with the likes of Janet Jackson and INXS. Now she was being pushed as a solo star and her debut album, Forever Your Girl, promoted by such classic singles as Straight Up and Cold Hearted, was about to prove a massive success. Another single would be the title track, the video for which would see Elijah playing a pint-sized business executive. As Abdul's inventive and hi-octane videos (most of them, including Forever Your Girl, being directed by David Fincher) were her main strength, it was excellent exposure for the young wannabe.
With Elijah enrolled at St Patrick's Catholic School at Arroyo Grande (he'd see out just three grades before work pressures demanded he drop out and be schooled by one-on-one tutors), the family sold the deli in Cedar Rapids and moved en masse to LA, where Warren would work for Fed Ex and an air purification company. Another prime, if brief role was found for Elijah in Mike Figgis's superior police thriller, Internal Affairs.
At this stage it was more than likely that Elijah would go the way of Felix, the natty little dude who'd taken centre stage in a Madonna video then disappeared entirely. But Debbie Wood and Gary Scarzo were careful in their handling of him, seeking out meaty roles in lower budget productions, rather than pushing too hard too soon. The first result of their canny strategy was the lead in a TV movie called Child In The Night. This saw Elijah as a young kid who has seen his father murdered with a cargo hook and, quite naturally under the circumstances, locked the ugly memory in the darkest recesses of his mind. Thus child psychologist JoBeth Williams is called in the discover the truth, attempting to clarify the boy's visions where he sees himself as Peter Pan and the mystery killer as Captain Hook.