Elijah Wood's Lord Of The Rings Audition Was A Little Out Of The Ordinary

When it comes to casting, the stakes are never higher than when adapting a much-loved book. That's something Peter Jackson took to heart when he embarked on the monumental quest to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy tale "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy to the big screen. The journey undertaken to create the films was a colossal epic in itself — one that famously saw the director fight tooth and nail to maintain the integrity of Tolkien's story by giving each book its own movie. When it came to casting the roles of such iconic characters, Jackson knew he needed to find actors who were either already deeply reverent of the source material or were willing to go the extra mile to show their commitment to the project.

It's no secret that Christopher Lee, who played Saruman, was an avid reader of Tolkien, or that the novels themselves were closely consulted on set. When it came to casting one of the narrative's most important characters, the youthful Hobbit and unlikely hero Frodo Baggins, actor Elijah Wood took matters into his own hands to ensure his passion was unquestionable. After starring in films like "Flipper" and "Deep Impact," "The Fellowship of the Ring" is what launched him into the limelight. So what exactly did Wood do to set himself apart and score an enviable role as Tolkien's most famous Hobbit?

Elijah Wood made his own audition tape

Audition anecdotes are a Hollywood staple, like when Eddie Redmayne went overboard for his attempt at Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit." Luckily, when trying out for the younger Baggins, excitement and creativity made the difference for Elijah Wood. In an interview with Charlie Rose that also featured Peter Jackson and Viggo Mortensen, the Frodo portrayer described how he resolved to get the attention of casting:

"I did [make my own audition tape], as a result of not wanting to being put on tape at a casting office against a white background. I thought, 'I'll put on the Hobbit costume.' You know, I knew [Peter Jackson] was looking for an English actor and I had to sort of basically prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could be English. And so I had the odds against me. And so I thought I'm just going to do something completely mad and make it my own and show my passion for the project or for the character that way. And it worked. I went out to the woods and shot the scene."

Unfortunately, that video has yet to make its way onto the internet. Fortunately, the actor gave a full account of the hastily created tape during an exclusive with GQ. "I went to a vocal coach for the dialect and enlisted some friends, including George Huang, who is a writer and filmmaker," Wood explained. "We went out to the woods in Griffith Park and shot two of the audition sequences there and one at my house." Who knew that hills around Griffith were so reliable a double for the landscapes of Middle-earth? Now all we need is a photo of whatever makeshift Hobbit getup Wood put on to get himself the part.

Finding a one-in-200 Frodo

Obviously Peter Jackson was impressed by Elijah Wood's tape. Once he and wife/"Lord of the Rings" trilogy co-writer Fran Walsh saw whatever the actor filmed in the woods of Griffith, they knew who their Frodo was going to be. "I saw Frodo," he told Charlie Rose. "I mean, it's interesting because I'd never seen an Elijah Wood film at that point in time." Jackson continued:

"It's actually true that I hadn't. I mean, I've read all the movies that Elijah has done and for some reason or other I've never actually seen one of them. And so I heard of Elijah's name. Fran Walsh, my partner, had seen 'The Ice Storm' and she said, ”No, no, you should really — we should really check out this tape because he's a very, very interesting young actor.” And I saw — I just saw Frodo. I saw everything that we'd been looking for. And we had maybe auditioned 200 Frodos at that point in time."

Being that one in 200 is no small feat. I'd like to think the selling point for Wood being Frodo for Jackson was seeing him do one of his camera staredowns, which can elicit a well of emotion with its teary silence as it does in "The Fellowship of the Ring" after Gandalf's fall or with a small well-earned smile when he boards the Elven ship at the end of "The Return of the King." The moments speak to even the nonverbal ways Wood so easily seemed to slip into the role — not to mention the undying chemistry the quartet of Hobbit characters/actors all seemed to have.

Jackson waited to tell Wood he got the part so he could meet him

Even though Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh knew Elijah Wood had the part, they waited on telling him. As the director told Charlie Rose:

"Yeah, except we didn't say that to Elijah straightaway. We had to go and meet him because obviously I had never met Elijah and you don't want to work with somebody who you kind of can't get on with. So we had to go through the process of meeting with him up in L.A. and having a chat. Because one of the things with casting this film was the fact that we wanted to get actors who were going to stay with us for 18 months because, you know, an actor couldn't bail out at the end of the first film. They had to stay there for three movies."

Jackson highlighted a crucial factor when embarking on adapting a trilogy like "The Lord of the Rings." If you're going to cast someone in a role that requires you to work with them for years, you better get along. We've all heard horror stories about the kind of headaches behind-the-scenes drama can cause on set and the disastrous effects it can have on a production.

There's a reason the cast of Jackson's films are still doing little reunions here and there nearly decades later. And if you're like me, someone who spent their childhood poring over the hours of behind-the-scenes footage the extended versions offer, the general goofiness between the cast and crew is proof of just how much they all liked working with one another. Case in point, Viggo Mortensen didn't miss a beat to quip sarcastically about Jackson and Wood's get-together: "They hired him in spite of that meeting."