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Elijah Wood: Having Fun Acting as a Kid

FAST TRACK: Up and comers in arts and entertainment

April 06, 1993|ROBIN RAUZI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He's acted in eight major motion pictures in the last four years. He starts filming his next feature in a month. Elijah Wood's career is rolling along better than that of most actors.

By the way, he's 12 years old.

Wood's literally boyish good looks and charm have landed him leading parts in "Forever Young," "Radio Flyer" and the title role in the just-opened Disney film, "The Adventures of Huck Finn." He still has a kid's sensibility ("This would be a good elevator to get stuck in . . ." he observes), but is laying professional ground rules for his career.

"If I don't want to do something, I don't have to do it, because my mom wants me to be happy," he says.

Debbie Wood, a.k.a. "Mom," has the concerns that any parent does, such as finding good schools for her three children. And then there's also finding good scripts.

She rules out horror movies, or roles that exhibit degrading language or behavior. It is, she notes, "important to be a good example when you're in the movie industry."

Debbie and Warren Wood and their children were transplanted to Los Angeles from Iowa when Elijah's career took off. He'd been modeling in Cedar Rapids and came to Los Angeles for a convention four years ago. When a talent manager spotted him ("I have a lot of energy," he explains) and asked if he'd be interested in acting the family took one week to pack up and move.

He's been busy ever since.

And the movie business doesn't end when the production wraps shooting. There are spots on "Good Morning America," satellite feeds from Disneyland to TV stations nationwide, and in about a half-hour he's got to get ready for an appearance on "Arsenio." Fortunately, he's gotten comfortable with the interviews, though that was not always the case.

Debbie Wood puts forth her theory: "I taught him to always be honest, and I think I made him crazy with it," she says. For instance, he couldn't say hamburgers were his favorite food because he knew that might change tomorrow.

"Close but no cigar," counters Elijah, whose own theory is that he just used to get nervous and he doesn't any more.

While most 12-year-olds may be thinking about becoming firemen or police officers, this one is pretty happy with what he's doing. Sure, maybe sometime in the future he'd like to direct, but that will probably be sometime after he gets his driver's license. Meanwhile, he's paying attention.

"You learn a lot of things (on the set) . . . about sound and film and the camera and stuff," he says.

Wood is working with another actor-turned-director for his next project, "North," a story about a young genius and his search for new parents. Of course Rob Reiner's days on "All in the Family" were before his time.

His favorite role so far, though, is that of Huck Finn, "because I had so much fun doing it, so much adventure," he says. "He's so much fun to play."

Wood also just finished shooting "The Good Son," a sort of thriller where he plays a boy whose mother has just died and who has to go stay with relatives, including his "psychologically messed up in the head" cousin, played by Macaulay Culkin.

Filming schedules have kept him so busy that recently his schooling was handled by a private tutor at home. Right now he's ahead in terms of his education, so he's getting a break between shoots, though there is still that copy of "Where the Red Fern Grows" that Mom wants him to read.

When he isn't learning lines or giving interviews, Wood plays with the family's bearded collies, including his new 9-month-old puppy, Rascal. He reads, collects action figures, plays sports and Nintendo video games.

You know, he says matter-of-factly, kid stuff.

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