Role Recall: Elijah Wood on learning to curse from Jamie Lee Curtis, hanging from a cliff with Macaulay Culkin, and taking the role of a lifetime in 'The Lord of the Rings'

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

If you grew up in the 1990s, chances are you felt a certain kinship with Elijah Wood, the tender-souled, blue-eyed actor who came of age before our eyes over a string of memorable movie roles spanning the decade.

What you may not know is that his first film role came in a classic 1980s film series, playing a bit part as "Video Game Boy" in 1989's Back to the Future II. The roles grew bigger and bigger from there, with Wood moving on to Avalon (1990), Radio Flyer (1992), Forever Young (1992), The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), The Good Son (1993) and North (1994). Whereas many child stars struggle to sustain success as they age out of precociousness, the Iowa native's career grew with him as he took notable teen parts in The Ice Storm (1997), Deep Impact (1998) and The Faculty (1998).

In 1999, Wood landed the role of a lifetime when he was the first actor cast in Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03), playing Frodo Baggins opposite fellow hobbits (and soon-to-be close friends) Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd. The actor has continued to flourish into his adult years, with memorable parts in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Sin City (2005) and voice roles in animated fare like Happy Feet (2006) and Star Wars: Resistance (2018-present).

In more recent years, Wood has branched out into producing, with a specialty in oft-kilter genre films like Cooties (2014), The Greasy Strangler (2016), Mandy (2018) and Daniel Isn't Real (2018). He stars in and produces his latest project, Come to Daddy, a moody and surprising thriller about a young Beverly Hills man summoned to visit his estranged — and possibly threatening — father at this secluded clifftop home.  

In our latest episode of Role Recall (watch above), Wood, now 39, reflected about his eclectic collection of best-known films.

Some highlights:

On his first movie role in Back to the Future II

"For a kid of 8 years old, to be in the universe of a movie that I'd probably only just recently seen … and to walk around and see these cars that looked like these cars from the future, it was a confluence of so many things. Both a movie that I love and also this world that was absolutely transportive. And for a kid, being on a backlot that was that production-designed was just incredible. And getting to meet Michael J. Fox and work with him, he was so nice. It was an amazing experience."

On learning to curse (and flip the bird) from Jamie Lee Curtis on the set of Forever Young

"I loved that film. Jamie Lee Curtis played my mother in that film. Having the opportunity to work with her was super exciting. … She cursed a lot. I don't know if she curses as much now. But it was really fun for me because she would curse openly in front of the kids. And it was so exuberant and fun. It was a way to curse that was not negative or angry, it was this sort of fun, funny way. I think I learned how to flip people off in really specific way from her. I'm just recalling this now, sorry, Jamie."

Elijah Wood and Jamie Lee Curtis in Forever Young. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

On bonding — and hanging from a cliff — with Macaulay Culkin on The Good Son

"Macaulay was great. Home Alone was huge, and so many of the films he had done since then had been huge. There was a real excitement to meet him and work opposite him. … We were really hanging from that cliff [during the film's climax]. It was over Lake Superior, we shot just outside Duluth, Minn. We were on harnesses, there was a little bit of prep in regards to wearing harnesses and hanging from wires a little bit before that to get used to it. And then on the day, we were rigged up to a whole system for safety, we had harnesses on, but we were actually hanging off the side of the cliff. There were rocks just below us, so if we'd fallen, we would've fallen on rocks. … Not a whole lot of acting required for that sequence."

On the indescribable experience of shooting The Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand

"There's something that unites you in that experience, I can imagine, that no one else can relate to. We'd come back home, to our families and to our lives, and trying to articulate to people what it was like, because family would be like, 'What was the experience?' and having very few words to articulate it. It was like, 'You sort of have to be there.' To show photos was an easier way, but it was such a singular [experience] that only [we] experienced. Us, and like 2,000 other people [on the crew]."

Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin in The Lord of the Rings. (Photo: New Line Cinema)

Come to Daddy is now playing in select theaters and also available on digital and VOD.

Watch the trailer:

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