It's hard to imagine Elijah Wood as a serial killer, much less one who slices off women's scalps and puts them on mannequins. Yet being an avid horror fan himself, it only seems right for the actor to get a little bloody and show us his crazy side in Frank Khalfoun's "Maniac," a remake of the 1980 cult classic of the same name.
The film, co-written by Alexandra Aja ("The Hills Have Eyes," "High Tension"), is shown from the killer's first-person P.O.V., only allowing us to see Wood's face in reflection shots -- an experience the actor called "liberating."
Moviefone sat down with Wood to talk about his uncharacteristic role, what it was like to hardly be on screen in a movie he stars in, and leaving behind the character he's most famous for: Frodo from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Moviefone: In this film, you decided to stay on set even during the shots you weren't in. Why was that?
When it was initially offered to me, one of the producers whom I'm friends with said "It'll be like two weeks of work just to film your reflections and then you'll be done." They were thinking about getting a double for my hands to do all the work outside of the reflection shots, and I was like, "Wait a second [laughs], I think that double needs to be me. I think they need to be my hands because I think those are choices that I have to make." So I was there every day.
The end result of the film is sort of surprisingly beautiful in a way I don't think we were necessarily anticipating. It was a real discovery process and I'm really proud of what it became.
Your Frank is so physically different than Joe Spinell's Frank from the original, who was overweight and unattractive. How do you think this separates your character from his?
Joe Spinell's performance in the original film is incredible and I think [it is] what makes that original film so compelling. This was different in the sense that the character is almost more believable in terms of how women could be attracted to him. I'm not sure which is scarier, but maybe there's something more unsettling about someone who you wouldn't anticipate doing these sorts of things. Maybe that also makes him more sympathetic. I'm not sure.
Some of that I also think is just in the characterization and the way we portray the character... I didn't want to look like myself. I didn't want to look too good. I actually cut my hairline back a bit just because I wanted to look as different as possible. So he's a little pale, he's got dark circles under his eyes, he's kind of exhausted, he prowls mostly at night so I don't think he's very healthy. There was a fine line with that though too, in not making him look too f*ucked up because we have to believe that he's capable of finding these girls online and setting up dates with them -- that his appearance doesn't set off any alarm bells. I think to a certain degree if you're going down the history of serial killers, most of the famous ones never really set off alarms with anybody.
Did any real serial killers or serial killer movie characters inspire your performance?
Not really. Maybe in a kind of unconscious way because I've done a lot of reading about serial killers in the past just out of sheer fascination with their psychology. I had a lot of that collected information in the back of my mind so I'm sure that was kind of woven in unintentionally.
Do you think you'll ever be in a horror film again?
Probably. Well, funnily enough, I have a production company called Specter Vision which is actually a horror film production company. Our first movie is called "Cooties" that we're starting to shoot in July and I'm actually in. It'll be one of the few movies that I'm in -- most of the time I'll just produce them. It's a horror comedy written by Leigh Whannell who wrote "Saw" and "Insidious," and Ian Brennan who was a co-creator on "Glee." It's about zombie children, a virus that affects children pre-puberty, a la cooties, and it's about a group of teachers who get stuck in a school. I play a struggling writer who moves back to his hometown and gets work as a substitute teacher.
You've said before that playing Frodo in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy never seems to go away. Do you see that as a negative thing or are you used to it by now?
I think I made peace with the fact that Frodo would kind of be with me forever a long time ago.. I'm extremely proud to have been apart of [the movies]. Those experiences exemplify some of the best times of my life so it's not a burden necessarily. I think what's surprising sometimes is how much time has passed and how it's still... this movie's a perfect example. When I started doing press for this film people were asking "Is this in a direct response to Frodo?" And I mean, not at all! Aside from doing a little bit in "The Hobbit" it had been eight, nine years since I worked on "The Lord of the Rings" and I've worked on so many things since then. So it's not at all apart of my deciding factor or in my mind of something as I'm trying to trump or move away from because I feel like I have to.
According to iMDb you're in parts of the next "The Hobbit." Is that right?
Just the first, not the second or third -- unless they've got some plan. But in terms of what we shot, everything that I shot was in the first one. And I know where it's going and I know how the third movie ends and it doesn't include me. [In the first movie], that was just a framing device and it's a brilliant nod to the original films.
Are there any scenes from "The Hobbit" that you wish you could've been apart of as Frodo?
The dwarves in the barrel run would have been pretty fun to be apart of. There's so much that I'm just looking forward to seeing -- I love that book so much, it was one of my favorites as a child. And the way that they're doing it I'm really excited about too because they're weaving in elements of the appendices of storytelling that was not necessarily written in "The Hobbit," but things that were happening at the same time. So it's actually deepening and expounding upon the storytelling in "The Hobbit" and that's really exciting.
"Maniac" is now playing at the IFC Center in New York and available on VOD.
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