Ben Hopkins

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Posts Tagged ‘Robert F. Kennedy

Elijah Wood: Bobby, Iggy and me

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An oldie, from Clash in December 2006 or January 2007. What happened to that Iggy Pop biopic that he was meant to be in?

As Elijah Wood welcomes Clash into his hotel room, it’s striking that his famously soft features and piercing blue eyes have been offset by a layer of facial hair that’s not quite stubble and not quite beard. Indeed, with a tie adorning his otherwise casual attire, Wood’s overall appearance is more British indie guitarist than it is bona fide American movie star.

The primary purpose of Wood’s visit to London is to promote Happy Feet in which he provides a voice to Mumbles, a penguin whose dire singing voice is compensated for by his amazing tap dancing ability. Cute though that is, Clash is more interested in his role in Emilio Estevez’s Bobby which focuses on a group of people based in the Ambassador Hotel on the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot. In a typically strong performance, Wood plays William Avary, a young man set to marry Diane (Lindsay Lohan) in order to change his draft classification and thus avoid being sent to Vietnam.

When asked if he can identify with Avary, Wood is fairly non-committal; it’s a situation that he considers himself lucky not to have experienced. His reaction when asked if he’d do the same is more intriguing; after all, when faced with a potentially controversial question, most interview subjects remain guarded or offer a stock answer. Wood, conversely, is happy to elucidate his opinions in detail, meandering between outlooks to finalise an answer opinionated yet ultimately safe.

“I think so. I don’t know if I could bring myself to go to war for something I didn’t believe in, I think I’d find that very difficult… and the interesting thing about that is that you risk not being sympathetic or understanding of those who are at war and are risking their lives for their country,” he says with concentration etched on his face. “Do you go based on your belief system or do you go based on blind belief in the country? Why die for something you don’t believe in? Even if it’s something your country is messed up in, it’s not like it’s a decision you’ve made. I do believe in fighting for the country and a certain amount of patriotism as long as it’s reasonable and makes sense.”

Clash suggests that the essential problem with patriotism is that is often oversteps the mark.

“Patriotism tends to be blind; patriotism without questioning is when it gets dangerous to me,” he concurs. “I’m all for being patriotic and for believing in your country, but I don’t believe in blindly believing in your country without questioning why we’re in the situations we’re in and why we’re going to war, that’s foolish. The country has to be held accountable for its mistakes too.”

What makes Bobby such a success is how Estevez not only uses the Ambassador Hotel as a microcosm for issues in late sixties America as a whole, but also how he weaves the strands of this all star ensemble cast (Anthony Hopkins, William H. Macy, Heather Graham and Christian Slater are amongst the many famous names) into the inevitable finale. As Wood agrees: “The first time I saw it I was blown away at how well all of those were fused together without feeling it was a collection of small stories… A lot of people say that America’s innocence died with Bobby Kennedy. I don’t think it’s that extreme, but our hope did – we didn’t have anyone to invest in after that.”

Bobby is Wood’s latest venture in a string of interesting roles since making his name in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The likes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Everything is Illuminated and Sin City have established him as a character actor rather than someone who would be content doing little more than reprising his most famous role in LOTR approximations. “It’s been a conscious decision to try new things, but you’re also at mercy as to what you read too. A lot of the films I’ve done have been smaller which is not exactly a choice, it just happens to be that the films that I find I’m passionate about have been smaller movies.”

Elijah Wood in Bobby

It’s a philosophy that spreads to his upcoming work as the lead in the Iggy Pop biopic The Passenger. How does he feel about the prospect of portraying Iggy?

“Scary as shit!” he laughs wholeheartedly. “I’m a huge fan and a huge, huge fan of The Stooges too. It’s been in the pipeline for a while. In independent cinema it takes a long time for things to get made and financed properly. Iggy read the script and really liked it. But it’s totally daunting; it’s a huge responsibility and it scares the shit out of me. Part of me doesn’t want to do an impersonation; the thing about Iggy is that he’s got a very deep voice and physically I have to change myself and I feel that is going to establish the vibe and the look of who he was. And a lot of it is his performance and how he moves.”

The Passenger isn’t his only music-related project; a long-term music obsessive, Wood has formed his own label, Simian Records, which will debut with the release of Apples In Stereo’s sixth album New Magnetic Wonder. An innovative collision of contemporary indie and retro-psychedelia, the album is expected to receive a UK release in March. Wood couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s great! It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” he glows with a sense of contagious enthusiasm. “I met the Apples about four years ago at SXSW and our paths crossed again about a year ago when they were looking for a label. At the time my label hadn’t really been fully formed, so it wasn’t the right time as they were finishing their record. They ended up signing to Yep Roc and now Yep Roc and my label will put it out as a co-release to effectively get my label started with a band I’ve loved for years.” It has since been reported that Simian has added Brooklyn’s Heloise and the Savoir Faire to its roster. “I just want to put out music that I believe in,” he concludes.

Written by Ben Hopkins

November 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

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