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Elijah Wood's keen to break the Hobbit of a lifetime with Set Fire To The Stars

By Jeananne Craig

As his latest film hits cinemas, the Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood reveals why he's happier now to keep those epic fantasy roles at a distance.

Spending your birthday in a rowing boat in the middle of a freezing cold lake, waiting for the rain to stop so you can film a scene, isn't most people's idea of a good time.

But The Lord Of The Rings actor Elijah Wood, who turned 33 on his first day shooting new Dylan Thomas biopic Set Fire To The Stars, isn't one to complain.

"I wouldn't have had it any other way," insists the blue-eyed star, who plays US poet and critic John Malcolm Brinnin in the movie.

"You often think you'd like to start with something easy, because you'll get comfortable and get to know everyone, but there's also the logic of, 'Let's start with something meaty and intense'. It proved to be a great way to break into the material."

Set Fire To The Stars follows Brinnin's struggle to look after his hellraising Welsh hero (played by Anglesey-born Celyn Jones) as he toured the US in the 1950s - an experience that later led Brinnin to pen a warts-and-all book, Dylan Thomas In America.

Director Andy Goddard, who also co-wrote the script with Jones, shot the film in black and white and recreated wintry New York in Swansea, where Thomas was born a century ago this year.

We see Brinnin try - and often fail - to get the charismatic but heavy-drinking poet to curb his hedonistic ways, at one point taking him to an East Coast boathouse to detox before a big appearance. Thomas made his fourth and final trip to New York in 1953, however, where he became gravely ill and died at the age of just 39 (a post-mortem gave the primary cause of death as pneumonia).

The film is described as a 'cautionary tale about meeting your heroes'.

Having played hobbit Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy from 2001 to 2003, and reprised the role in the first Hobbit film in 2012, Wood has been on the receiving end of some hero-worship himself.

"It's lovely, but I hold it in perspective," he says of the attention. "Lord Of The Rings took on a life of its own, and is pop culture in a way that's so beyond even the movie that we made. It's the sum of the parts of everyone who contributed."

Presumably another way Wood keeps work and life separate is by living away from Tinseltown, in Austin, Texas.

"I've been going there for years and fell in love with the city - it's everything you could want out of a big city but it feels like a small town and I love that," he says.

He has recently been filming supernatural action film The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel, but in his downtime he enjoys "music, good food and barbecue", he says, and being part of Austin's film community "from the perspective of a fan of cinema, rather than running cinema".

He's looking forward to watching the third and final Hobbit film, which is due to be released next month. "I'm not in it but I'm very excited. I've just heard that the final battle is 45 minutes long - way to go Peter (Jackson)!" he says.

"What's so nice about these films is I get to see them as a fan," Wood adds. "I had a small part to play in the first one and I didn't get that same distance from the original trilogy, so to be able to objectively go to the movies now is really lovely."

  • Set Fire To The Stars is in cinemas now

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