Elijah Wood is one of the rare Hollywood types to have achieved the perfect level of fame. After 25 successful years in the biz he has the acting chops and credibility to be able to do projects big and small, from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and TV’s Wilfred, to voice acting, running his own record label and developing smaller genre films via his production company Spectrevision.
His latest film is Open Windows, now available on VOD (and hitting theaters on Nov. 7) and co-starring actress/adult film star Sasha Grey, which was essentially born out of a chance meeting with director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes, The ABC’s of Death) at Austin’s famed genre film festival Fantastic Fest — a meeting which may or may not have later led to some not-so-sober karaoke at said Fest.
Playboy recently spoke with Wood while he and Vigalondo were on the ground in Austin to promote Open Windows — a thriller that revolves around a computer geek (Wood) gaining voyeuristic access to his favorite actress (Grey) via increasingly questionable means — and we discovered why the best friendships are made via karaoke, the most disturbing movie Wood has ever seen in a film and which of his Lord of the Rings co-stars smells the best.
Do all good future movie partnerships begin at karaoke?
Elijah Wood: [Laughs] They certainly do at Fantastic Fest. To actually genuinely speak to that, there is no separation between the filmmakers and the attendees. So it’s this communal experience where everyone gets to experience the same things together and share in their love of cinema. Out of that comes this sense of family amongst the community. It’s a really special and beautiful environment and yes, genuine relationships can occur and that’s how Nacho and I first met and then we ended up working together.
Why was Sasha Grey perfect for this project?
Director Nacho Vigalondo: She’s so funny and edgy and unpredictable. They give you this list of actors and from the very beginning I was interested in Sasha. Everyone knows her background and her relationship with the porn industry but she’s also a great actress. She walks on the screen and has this strong personality. She is a girl who changed the porn industry and [later] decided to turn herself into something different. This movie is about a girl who wants to turn herself into something different. The character has a real arc and she fits perfectly. I think the movie is a satire, and Sasha adds a layer of significance to the whole movie.
Is there pressure on you, as a director, to incorporate other people’s knowledge of Sasha into the movie with regard to nudity? People who know her other work expect her to be naked — how do you decide how far to go with that, specifically with regard to that terrifying sequence in front of the computer screen?
Vigalondo: That was probably the most difficult scene in the whole movie, and also the most meaningful sequence. Women raped or forced in a sexual way is a common trope in horror movies, we’ve seen that millions of times. Most of the time this works both as a horror sequence and as a male sexual fantasy, a fetish. I wanted to reach that situation in our movie, but from a different point of view that erases the eroticism of the situation and reconsiders the implication of the viewer. One of my references was Irreversible, by Gaspar Noe. Monica Bellucci gets raped in that movie, but the sequence feels the opposite of aroused.
How do you feel about the unexpected timeliness that came with the very public hacking of various celebrities nude photos?
Wood: Well I think it’s reaching a kind of critical mass now. It’s something that has existed since the Internet has existed and this movie is dealing with something that we can all relate to on a small level: the idea that we’re a step removed from our actions on the Internet. We would potentially do something on the Internet that we wouldn’t necessarily do in real life. No matter what their standards for morality are, people can relate to that. If you download an illegal song you can relate to that. To a certain degree, what’s good about these things reaching critical mass, to where it’s really becoming a major problem, is that I hope that it means we can have some sort of accountability for our actions and recognize that these things we do online have genuine real consequences.
Prior to the privacy of these photos being hacked, which is heinous, there was this whole explosion online with GamerGate as well, where you have these feminist women who have a real genuine perspective and what should’ve just been discourse turned into a mire of hatred and genuine death threats. It moves beyond the Internet space and has real consequences in people’s lives. I think if anything can be gleaned from these recent events, maybe it’s getting to where we can actually have a real fucking dialogue about what it is that we do online and the genuine consequences that those things can have.
If you were genius computer hackers, how would you use/abuse your power?
Wood: I don’t know. I kind of look, for the most part, up to Anonymous. I think what they do is kind of extraordinary. If I had that ability I would probably use it for the destruction of anti-human ideology.
Peanut butter or jelly?
Wood: Oh, both, I love the combo.
Which one of your Lord of the Rings co-stars smells the best?
Wood: Probably Viggo [Mortensen]. I think it’s just because of incense that he might burn. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
What’s the most disturbing thing you’ve seen on film?
Wood: The most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen is A Serbian Film. I have a really high tolerance for all kinds of cinema and for various things that are relatively grotesque — I can kind of take anything — but A Serbian Film goes to places that I certainly never seen before and don’t know that I’d want to see again. I actually have a lot of respect for the film because oftentimes when you talk about a movie that has something really heinous, it’s typically within the framework of a movie that isn’t good, or might not have a lot of merit but sort of rests on the fact that it goes to the extreme. The thing that fucks you up about A Serbian Film, is that it’s extremely well-made and it’s well-written and the characters are well-acted so it fucks with your head because you’re used to seeing those sort of exploitation moments within the context of an exploitation film, rather than something that’s meant to be taken seriously. It hits you on a more profound level because the movie itself is quite good.