ELIJAH WOOD Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
August 31, 2005
In her drama Green Street Hooligans, director Lexi Alexander explores the shadier elements of British football through the eyes of an outsider.
When he is unjustly expelled from Harvard, American student Matt Bucker (Elijah Wood) moves to England to be with his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani), where he is quickly drawn to the more criminal aspects of football by her brother-in-law Pete (Charlie Hunnam). It is a world in which "firms," organizations dedicated to a particular football team, vie for notoriety through unabashed support of their club and violent confrontations with rival factions. After getting his first taste of fighting alongside Charlie and his friends, Matt immediately understands the sense of family and support that is involved with this lifestyle, and he soon becomes part of the Green Street Elite firm. But his journey down this path is not without its consequences, both for him and his loved ones.
In this interview, Elijah Wood talks about working on this project, his experience with British football, and the launching of his own record label.
MEDIA: Having joined the rest of the cast in London after they already had ample time to get acquainted with each other, did you feel like the odd man out?
ELIJAH: No. Actually, the experience of traveling out to London and those two weeks of rehearsal...it was really kind of incredible because it very much mirrored what my character went through--American, not really familiar with that world, having never been to a proper football match, and experiencing those things with the guys for the first time. So no, I didn't feel alienated at all. I know that Charlie was out there for like two months or something in advance, which was definitely great for his journey. For me, I didn't need that kind of research. I didn't need to put in that kind of time because my character does come into it so green and so innocent. So it was kind of perfect that I came in when I did. But it was actually a great time, those first two weeks. It really cemented our relationships with the rest of the guys, and that group became a very strong unit, which was important in terms of trying to depict that in the film. And we all had some pretty incredible experiences going to the matches and going to the pub before the matches.
Did you become a big football fan?
I appreciate it a lot more, especially going to matches. It is truly electrifying, unlike any sporting event I've ever been to. But largely, I don't really follow sports that much. I think if I were to follow sports, I'd probably follow football...definitely.
What kind of training did you do for the fight scenes? And did you get hurt during filming?
Didn't get hurt. We had pretty intensive training and choreography for the fighting. I did about three weeks of training before I went out to London, and then during those two weeks of rehearsals, we all trained together and choreographed the fights. It was a lot of fun to be trained in fighting and learn street fighting. It was very male and masculine. [laughs] Interestingly enough, I think we all kind of assumed, "Oh, those are going to be the best days...the fight scenes. The easiest, most fun...fighting and scraps and all that." They were the most complicated days! They were the most exhausting. Those scenes took the longest because it was all very, very specific. It's all these tiny little moments cut together to make it look chaotic and manic. So those were definitely the most difficult days, particularly the last fight [in the movie], which was actually, I believe, the first fight that we shot. That, I think, took two and a half to three days, and it was cold. It was exhausting. We were sore from just exerting ourselves. But it was safe. I think there was one injury. Ross McCall, one of the actors in the film, was rehearsing a particular punch with one of the other actors, and he clocked the guy on the nose. [laughs] Burst his nose, blood running everywhere, felt awful. Total accident, of course.
So you can handle yourself pretty well in a fight now, right?
[laughs] Ummm...I think I could handle myself pretty well, yeah. I'm certainly not looking for it, but yeah.
By chance, did you learn anything about football from your Lord of the Rings co-star Sean Bean?
No, not really. If anybody would have had more impact on my knowledge of football, it would have been Dom Monaghan. But no, I didn't really get schooled on it so much. By the time that I had read Hooligans, and certainly by the time that we started filming, I was pretty aware of the sport and had certainly seen games.
Do you keep a journal like your character does?
I should keep a journal. I wish that I had kept a journal all these years. I don't, and I'm now kind of bound and determined to do it, because I've gone so long without writing anything down or documenting my experiences in that way. I've always taken pictures, but I've never written anything down. And I have so many experiences and eventually it's going to get harder and harder to remember the details. So I am going to start doing that, for sure.
Is it true that you're starting your own record label?
In the process of doing that, yeah. Simian Records.
What prompted you to do this?
Well, I've always been really passionate about music, and I guess it was just a few years ago I kind of thought it'd be really interesting to start a label. I love music and I think it'd be really fun to find bands that I really believe in and be a part of that process of putting out music that I love and think people should hear. You know, kind of noble, small, "listen to this, it's great!"
Are you auditioning bands now? And will you be focusing on a specific type of music?
At the moment, it's a little bit more organic than that. The people that I will have on the label are people that are friends that I've met, or have been friends for a while. But it won't be a specific genre. It'll be really varied, because my taste is so varied. I never really conceived of it being one specific type of music.
As a child actor, you frequently played kids who were "wise beyond their years." Now that you're older, what sort of roles do you look for?
I'm always looking for something different from the last thing that I was part of. I guess that's the easiest way to put it. I don't think there's ever anything that I'm specifically looking for. I'm kind of at the mercy of whatever becomes available. I think the thing that I would be specifically looking for are just roles that would continue to build me as an adult, because I think I'm still perceived as a lot younger than I am. So I think that would be the one thing that I look for the most--roles that would be more adult in nature, and a bit older.