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Elijah Wood Reveals What It Was Really Like During Fellowship Of The Ring's Release - Exclusive

It was 20 years ago that director Peter Jackson was preparing to release his highly-anticipated "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first in an ambitious trilogy of films adapting author J.R.R. Tolkien's landmark fantasy novel, "The Lord of the Rings." Jackson had somehow convinced New Line Cinema to gamble a reported $270 million on shooting all three films at the same time — although if the first movie bombed, it would spell possible disaster for the fortunes of the remaining pair.

Jackson had shown around 30 minutes of finished footage at France's Cannes film festival earlier in the year (via News 24). The overwhelmingly positive response to the first-ever public showing of material from the project created a buzz of anticipation and enthusiasm that slowly began to offset any concerns about the viability of the project.

Star Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo Baggins, the unassuming little hobbit who ends up carrying the fate of the world on a chain around his neck, told Looper in an exclusive that in late August and early September of 2001, a little over three months before the release of "Fellowship," his own excitement about its release was high.

"We were unbelievably excited to come off of Cannes earlier in the year," he recalled, "where we had actually shown about 30 to 40 minutes of footage, which was comprised of a big portion of the cave troll sequence in the mines of Moria and then a smattering of various footage of the film. There was enthusiasm and excitement around that, because that was really the first time we'd seen any fully cut, finished footage with the score and everything."

How September 11 intersected with The Fellowship of the Ring

It was also just about 20 years ago that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization launched the September 11 attacks that drove airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon and changed the course of history.

For Elijah Wood, his memories of the lead-up to the arrival of "The Fellowship of the Ring" are inextricably tied to that tragic day. "We were in New York, a few of us," the actor said. "Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, myself, maybe Viggo [Mortensen] too, doing some long lead press in New York on September 9 and 10, and actually flew home on September 11. I flew home, but ultimately landed in Cincinnati on my way back to Los Angeles from Newark. I flew out of Newark, which is actually where one of the planes took off that hit the Trade Center. So it's crazy that will be 20 years ago, as well."

By the time "The Fellowship of the Ring" did come out on December 19, 2001, an epic fantasy about a battle between the forces of good and evil seemed like the kind of resonant escapism that a traumatized world was waiting for. But for Wood and his fellow cast members, who had toiled for more than a year on all three films, the instant success of "The Fellowship of the Ring" was electrifying.

"There was obviously a huge amount of anticipation and enthusiasm leading up to the release of that movie," said Wood. "You have to imagine that we had spent over 16 months and then many months after, shooting additional footage, with this intense anticipation of what that first movie was going to be. To see so much of that realized for the first time was just so unbelievably exciting. And then to celebrate that as a team and travel around the world, which is what we did subsequently for the next three years, was really kind of an amazing journey."

Elijah Wood's latest film, "No Man of God," is out now in limited release.