Having acted since childhood, Elijah Wood is increasingly turning his attentions to unique on-screen projects, like his new FX series, Wilfred, and his varied offscreen passions.It’s the weekly Monday party known as School Night at überhip Hollywood club Bardot. The room seems to reverberate as a crisp snare drum and mellow keyboards lay down the steady vibe. The cool porkpie-hat-and-hoodie crowd is here in force, with beautiful young club rats, slackers, nerds and nerdettes packing the small dance floor. Almost hidden away in the softly lit cocoon of the DJ booth, a seriously focused fellow wearing a green plaid jacket and headphones nods to the rhythm as he cross-fades between a chill-out lounge number and another track.
The happy disc spinner is actor Elijah Wood, best known as the little hobbit with big feet in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Who knew the guy that played Frodo was such a rabid music fan? While his Rings character was possessed by an ancient golden band, Wood himself is obsessed with golden oldie bands — as well as hip-hop, rock, reggae, jazz, country and nearly every other genre. The owner of more than 4,000 CDs and hundreds of vinyl albums, when he’s not appearing in movies (such as next year’s Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) or on television (the offbeat new FX cable series, Wilfred, airing now), he enjoys riffling through the stacks at indie record stores and, even more so, DJing at various bars.
“Standing in front of people and just being able to play good music for them at a very high volume is really fantastic,” he says. “I could do it all night.” Says his Wilfred co-star Jason Gann, “His knowledge of music is vast. We sing a lot on set in between takes and monkey around. I’m not going to put him on the spot, but the other day we even sang some Enya.” In fact, Wood loves music so much that he started an indie label called Simian Records.
Surveying the lengthy playlist on his computer’s hard drive, it’s more than just the sheer volume of songs the 30-year-old actor has amassed that’s impressive — it’s the humor and eclecticism of his collection. Along with the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin, as well as age-appropriate ?alt-rock from Nirvana, Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins, the wildly esoteric list includes cult-movie soundtracks, sludge metal, soul grooves, classic bluegrass, surf guitars, Turkish psychedelia, Nigerian pop, even ’70s-era Polish funk from Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego. Did we mention the Christmas ballads of Mel Tormé?
“My older brother was a huge fan of Prince and Depeche Mode when I was growing up,” says the actor over lunch a few weeks later at a crowded café in Venice, Calif. “At the age of 8 or 9, I started paying more attention to music, and from age 13 on, it became really important to me.” Fellow actors and crews on various TV and movie sets exposed him to a diverse range of sounds, and he embarked on a passionate collecting spree that continues to this day. “Getting all the B-sides and singles and knowing about bands in their entirety was a lot of fun, and it sort of just branched out from there,” he says.
You can’t blame Wood for wanting a different creative outlet — he’s been acting on-screen without a break ever since he was 8 years old, after starting by performing and modeling at an even younger age growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Moving to Los Angeles in 1989, he landed bit parts in a Paula Abdul music video and the first Back to the Future sequel, with more visible roles in Internal Affairs starring Richard Gere and Barry Levinson’s Avalon a year later. “I was lucky because, even though I played a lot of child roles — obviously — they were in films that weren’t made for children,” he recalls.