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The Real Reason We Don't Hear About Elijah Wood Anymore

Once described by veteran film critic Roger Ebert as "the most talented actor in his age group in Hollywood history," Elijah Wood's transformation from child prodigy to global superstar can be summed up in five simple words: The Lord of the Rings. Like his character in Peter Jackson's original trilogy, the fresh-faced 18-year-old agreed to shoulder a heavy burden when he took on the part of Frodo Baggins, leading a blockbuster franchise that carried the expectations of millions of J.R.R. Tolkien fans the world over. 

Quite a few years have passed since then, and while the cultural impact of the films (along with the three prequels) has kept The Lord of the Rings relevant, its young star seems to have faded entirely. How did he go from being one of the most recognizable actors in the world to someone operating on the fringes of the industry? Here's the real reason we don't hear about Elijah Wood anymore.

He accused Hollywood of harboring child molesters

Wood recently got on the wrong side of Hollywood execs when he told a UK newspaper that the American film industry was full of sexual predators targeting young actors. During an interview with The Sunday Times, Wood said, "If you can imagine it, it probably happened." The actor further elaborated, saying, "If you're innocent — you have very little knowledge of the world and you want to succeed — people with parasitic interests will see you as their prey." He even compared the scale of abuse taking place in Tinseltown to the crimes carried out by reviled British TV personality Jimmy Savile, who used his status to prey on as many as 500 victims before his death in 2011.

However, Wood later backtracked on his controversial comments with a statement. "Let me be clear," he explained. "This subject of child abuse is an important one that should be discussed and properly investigated. But as I made absolutely clear...I have no first-hand experience or observation of the topic." Despite Wood's attempt to pour water on the fire he started, former child star and abuse survivor Corey Feldman backed up the claims, saying he personally "would love to name names" but has his hands tied by California's statute of limitations.

He wanted to avoid typecasting

When The Lord of the Rings came to its epic (if a little drawn-out) conclusion with 2004 Oscar juggernaut Return of the King, the face of the trilogy was in serious danger of typecasting. To make sure that didn't happen, Wood immediately sought out the most un-Frodo-like parts he could, playing a perverted technician in Michel Gondry's 2004 indie favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and a creepy cannibal in the 2005 adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City. He even went on to play a brutal serial killer in the 2012 remake of Maniac, but even then, he couldn't escape the shadow of the Shire.

"It's funny," Wood told The Guardian, "when Maniac was first announced all the references in the press were to Frodo, yet that was eight years ago! I've worked on a bunch of vastly different movies since then. I guess what it showed is that Frodo's never going away. The Lord of the Rings transcended the thing of simply being films. They've entered popular culture in an extreme and probably irreversible way." Of course, reprising the role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey probably didn't help matters any ... but then again, it probably didn't hurt, either.

He does lots of voice work

One way to deal with typecasting is to take on roles that don't involve showing your face. While Wood's time in the public eye has seemed spotty over the years, he's actually been hard at work behind the scenes, providing voices for animated characters in everything from kids' television to video games. He voiced the titular purple dragon in three consecutive The Legend of Spyro games between 2006 and 2008, and more recently, he's popped up in the "gorgeous, impeccably written adventure" Broken Age.

Of course, Wood's most recognizable voice role is that of Mumble, the penguin protagonist of the box office smash and Academy Award-winning animated feature Happy Feet. In 2009, he played the eponymous rag doll in Shane Acker's animated sci-flick 9, and a few years later, he loaned his voice to the 2014 Emmy Award-winning Cartoon Network fantasy miniseries Over the Garden Wall. Wood also joined the Star Wars universe, or at least his pipes did. He portrayed a racer and TIE fighter pilot named Jace Rucklin on the animated TV series Star Wars Resistance.

He's a music man

While most of us associate Elijah Wood with the movie business, the actor has actually been quite active in the music industry for a number of years. He even started his own label, Simian Records, in 2005, hoping to provide a home to talented bands from all genres. But he was first introduced to life in the recording studio by Viggo Mortensen, contributing to a song on the actor's 2003 collaboration with experimental guitarist Buckethead, Pandemonium From America. Titled "Half Fling" (a play on "halfling," a term used to describe hobbits), this bizarre track consists of a series of high-pitched squeals and insults thrown back and forth between Wood and fellow Lord of the Rings alumnus Dominic Monaghan.

In the years since, Wood has become a respected DJ and has played his eclectic sets at venues worldwide, from glitzy Las Vegas functions to the alternative music hotspots of Europe and even the VIP clubs of India. "They're both extensions of creativity I think," Wood said when comparing DJing to acting, "but with records in some ways there's something just more purely, uniquely me that doesn't relate at all to the other world that I work in." His career behind the decks hasn't always gone smoothly, however. He constantly has to shoot down rumors that his name is DJ Frodo, and he's even had shows cut off 40 minutes in for refusing to play pop music. In other words, it seems like saving Middle-earth is actually easier than making it in the music world.

He has his own production company

Wood rekindled his childhood love for the horror genre working on 2012's Maniac, a low-key slasher that only managed to bring in $31,081 at the domestic box office. Despite the poor numbers, Wood felt more films like Maniac deserved the chance to get made and seen, and after some deliberation, he decided to form his own production company, The Woodshed, later rebranded as SpectreVision.

Wood took his commitment to making high-quality horror movies seriously. He unearthed a gem of a filmmaker in Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour, releasing her debut feature A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in 2014, whereupon it enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. Wood doesn't mind unsettling audiences or grossing them out, as SpectreVision released The Greasy Strangler in 2016. Described as the year's "most disgusting movie" by Rolling Stone, it earned comparisons to John Waters' films for its frank and stomach-churning content.

Wood has continued to help guide the careers of horror filmmakers, producing well-received and innovative scary movies like The Boy, the H.P. Lovecraft-based Color Out of Space, and the surreal Daniel Isn't Real.

He might go into directing

Despite having his hands full with his ventures in the music industry, Wood still harbors dreams of one day becoming a director. His first experience behind the camera came in 2003 when fellow Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin asked him to get involved with The Long and Short of It, a short film they decided to shoot on a day off from Peter Jackson's trilogy. Wood came on board as first assistant director for the project, giving him a taste of directorial life. He then went on to direct the music video for "Energy" by The Apples in Stereo (the first band he signed to his Simian Records label), though he's yet to take charge of a feature film.

"Directing is always something that I wanted to do," Wood admitted during an interview with Vimby. " I'd been working as an actor for 16 years ... in some ways I feel like I've been going to film school for all that time. I've been so lucky to work with so many amazing directors on all kinds of different films, and I feel as though I've soaked all of that up like a sponge. I'm totally fascinated by every aspect of filmmaking." So, fingers crossed Wood will make a movie someday soon. With his creative vision, we're sure whatever he ends up filming will be something truly unique.

He spends a lot of time doing charity work

Wood dedicates a good chunk of his time to philanthropy, lending his name to a number of charitable causes. Liev Schreiber, who directed Wood in 2005's Everything Is Illuminated, described the actor as having a "sincere goodness as a human being," and this was highlighted by his work with LA-based The Art of Elysium. The actor was honored for helping the charity in their mission to engage hospitalized children in the arts, and he responded by telling reporters that being part of this "tirelessly dedicated family and the lives of the children they've transformed" has enriched his life. Wood later combined his music skills with his humanitarian efforts, pulling some strings to put together a charity album in aid of the non-profit. Called Elysium: A Benefit For The Art Of Elysium, the project included tracks from cult noise rockers Sonic Youth, lo-fi outfit The Kills, and a number of other credible indie acts.

However, his Good Samaritan duties almost got him into trouble in Chile, where he found himself caught up in an earthquake. Wood was in the country to help stray animals left behind after an devastating quake hit the area, but when he was preparing to return to the States, a second tremor struck Santiago, reportedly shaking the city on the last day of the actor's visit. Fortunately for Wilfred fans everywhere, Wood made it out okay.

He moved away from California

Everybody knows Hollywood is the home of the stars, but Wood turned his back on the LA lifestyle in 2011 when he listed his Santa Monica home for sale at an asking price of $1.85 million. (That's $400,000 more than he reportedly paid fellow actor Dylan McDermott for the Spanish-inspired property back in 1999.) The house sold the next year, leaving Wood free to make his dream move to ... Texas. The actor snapped up a million-dollar Victorian mansion within the city limits of Austin, near the hipster-inhabited Bouldin Creek neighborhood. The actor later revealed that he left Hollywood in search of a more laid-back existence in a place where he could feel comfortable as an outsider.

"That's the nice thing about Austin," Wood told IndieWire. "It's such a relaxed vibe. I feel like I've always been treated like a local there." Of course, Wood isn't the only celebrity who calls the Texas capital home. Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, and Willie Nelson all spend quite a bit of time in Austin, making the city something of Lone Star La La Land.

He doesn't like American humor

Recently, Elijah Wood appeared in BBC America's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, a remake of a British crime comedy series that got the ax after a single season in the UK. While promoting the show, Wood joined the debate about the not-so-subtle differences between comedy on both sides of the Atlantic, claiming British comedy is a much wittier brand of humor. "The British actors working on [The Lord of the Rings] spoon-fed me everything from The Day Today to Brass Eye to The Mighty Boosh," Wood told The Telegraph. "[British comedy] doesn't adhere to the same needs of American humor. It doesn't constantly require a laugh out of you. It's more sarcastic. There's more wit to it."

It wasn't the first time Wood had taken a swipe at the state of American comedy. He spoke to another British publication about his series Wilfred (another remake, this time of an Australian show) and expressed frustration at how such shows are handled in the United States. "I always hoped [Wilfred] would be similar to a British comedy series," Wood told the Radio Times, "where it would tell a story and be done with it, as opposed to the typically American thing which is to beat something into the ground over and over. I'm not interested in that." So if you were ever hoping for an Elijah Wood-Will Ferrell buddy comedy, you should probably just let that dream die.

What's next?

Well, as Wood rightly predicted when promoting Maniac in 2012, Frodo was never going to go away. It followed him into 2014's Cooties (he fought hard to have a hobbit joke removed but was ultimately overruled), and it will likely follow him for the rest of his career, though he seems to have found a safe space in genre films. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore was among the best-reviewed indie films of 2017, a movie Time Out said was "buckling with distinctly American rage, splattery violence and plenty of dark laughs."

Critical acclaim is unlikely to convince him to abandon his many other pursuits, however, and Wood's future will likely be as eclectic as his past. There are no signs of his DJ career slowing down, and his movie production company continues to expand. He and his partners at SpectreVision recently formed a new branch called Company X, which will generate "a diverse array of projects with no limitations on genre or budget." So while he hasn't regained his Lord of the Rings heights, Elijah Wood manages to keep himself busy with all sorts of interesting projects, and really, that's why we continue to love the guy so much.