In the beginning there was only isolation and loneliness and an aching in the hollows of his chest that left him feeling empty, like a shell, like a husk of a person whose skin was pulled too tight over sharp bones and stuffed haphazardly with dry hay.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Before that final phone call there was boredom and tension and then afterward nothing but excitement and fear. They were going to a whole new world; New Zealand was a million miles away in his mind. But they weren’t going to New Zealand, not really. And that was the reason it felt so tremendously far away, nowhere near his comfortable world of cigarettes and cans of soda and dishwashing soap that smelled like synthetic lemons. Because they were going to Middle-earth, not New Zealand, and Middle-earth only existed in people’s imaginations.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Suddenly he wasn’t so alone anymore, because he was with other people who were alone as well, only half-full of themselves with room to spare for other people’s personalities. People who weren’t real. They were actors. He was an actor too. And he decided that was why actors always looked so tired, so haggard, in such desperate need of a hug and a cup of coffee. Because when you let the character leave you, you were only half a person and you weren’t quite whole unless you were pretending to be someone else.
Middle-earth was created slowly, carefully, nurtured by the people who cared about it and desperately wanted to see it succeed. Like a newborn, like a child, something to hold and coddle and school. Elijah liked this idea because it made him feel older, more grown-up. As an eighteen year old on set with dozens of actors older than him, he was treated as the child actor, the child star, the tiny prodigy who might have had more experience in the “business”, but not in the real world. He growled whenever Orlando or Dominic grabbed him around the neck and gave him affectionate noogies, struggling to breathe and swear and claw at his attacker and occasionally mutter threats of “You fucking wait until I’m taller, Bloom! I’m going to get a pair of stilts and then I’ll kick your scrawny ass.”
But Middle-earth was still a baby, a vision, an idea taking shape and in that sense, Elijah was far older. He was an old idea, as far as he was concerned, and now he was being sent off into the world and tested to see whether he was good or bad or somewhere in between. So he read Dostoyevsky and listened to Radiohead and Mozart and tried to be good.
And he was happy.
Then Stuart had left and the fact hit their tiny world with the force of an earthquake. They’d lost one of their own, not to suicide, drug overdose, or car accident, but something far worse: creative differences. The reality stung and for days the cast and crew had surreptitiously tried to ignore the gap while at the same time poking and prodding it and trying to force it to be smaller. Elijah could feel it acutely because he did the same with the space between his front teeth.
And so, every time someone whispered about the missing Aragorn, he would run his tongue over his top teeth and sigh.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Then Viggo had come, Viggo who was an actor but at the same time more. Viggo, whose eyes were never dull when he talked to you, never dull like some actors who were missing their other half, their more interesting made up person that lit the fires within them. And Elijah found himself feeling dense and slow and ignorant when he talked with Viggo. So he didn’t talk to Viggo much. And when he stood beside him he felt small and young and effeminate, and he thought that any amount of stilts could not help him to feel otherwise. So he didn’t stand beside Viggo much.
The parts of him he thought were intelligent and important withered when Viggo would unobtrusively bring out his camera and photograph the landscape. His best features were brushed aside when he was flashed a rare smile. The things about himself that he thought had been kept cleverly hidden beneath the Saran Wrap of his skin surfaced when Viggo absently picked up a stick and doodled other cast members in the mud. His cigarettes became a selfish vice; the sound of his voice with its manufactured British accent began to sound smarmy and pretentious to his own ears.
He began to think that he was the only one who still felt vacated by his own person while in Middle-earth. It was fine to be Frodo because he could be Frodo whereas he couldn’t turn around and just be Elijah. Because there were so many things wrong with Elijah that shouldn’t be wrong. But Frodo’s faults were written in, they belonged, he quite clearly knew where he stood with Frodo and he enjoyed it. But Elijah’s loneliness was always skulking in his consciousness; it was a feeling he feared and so playing Elijah had become more and more a game of Russian roulette.
Some bitter, jealous part of him remarked that Viggo probably never felt that way at all.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
When the cameras were rolling, when people’s eyes were on him, he poured himself, forcibly molded himself, into the role that was expected of him because he wasn’t sure what else he could do to keep up appearances; sometimes he believed so wholeheartedly in Frodo that a part of him lost touch with the reality of the movie set. And sometimes it was too much, and Peter had to ask him to pull back and restrain emotions or gestures. “Please keep control over your character, Elijah,” he’d say with good humor in his voice. And Elijah would blink and a part of him would step away so that he could realize ‘yes, my name is Elijah Wood and I am an actor and I am filled with another person.’ He would look over at Viggo then, if he was there, craving his reaction and half-hoping it would be one of disgust or exasperation. But the corners of the other man’s mouth would always turn up just slightly—not quite a smile—and green-grey eyes would meet blue gently, as if he had been anticipating Elijah’s anxiousness and insecurity during the entire scene.
When Elijah was trying to be Elijah, he was so incredibly Elijah that he was annoying, irritating, too chatty, and far too needy and clingy. Sometimes at night, when they were in town at a pub or a nice restaurant or even someone’s house, Dominic would be forced to lay a hand on his shoulder and say, “Elijah, mate… calm yourself.” And Dom’s voice would be low and sticky in his ear; he’d hear it echoing for several minutes after the hand had lifted and the voice had ceased speaking. And Elijah would realize that, yes, a part of him was still Frodo and Frodo would never act the way Elijah would. Then his eyes would seek Viggo’s again, but there would be no reward of a gentle, comforting look. There would be indifference or confusion or blank affability. Because maybe Viggo could understand becoming lost within the role of one of Tolkien’s fictional characters, but he could not understand becoming lost within the tangles and subtleties of one’s own personality.
The first moment of physical contact Elijah could remember having with Viggo was when he’d been standing next to him in a small group about to cross the street. He’d stepped off the curb and Viggo’s hand had shot out to grab his upper arm, holding him firmly in place until he’d looked both ways and made sure no cars were coming. Then Elijah had shrugged off his touch, the tips of his ears burning red with embarrassment. No matter how reflexive the movement had been for Viggo, it had made Elijah feel all of five years old and it was a feeling he absolutely hated.
Because he wasn’t Viggo’s child. And he didn’t want to be.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
His humiliation was painful and he desperately wanted to shout at Viggo in that moment, to tell him and make him understand what he was feeling. The confusion with the two people who had met and melded within him, the resentment he felt at being treated as small and incompetent, the way he craved Viggo’s approval and the awful tightness, as if someone was crushing his lungs, when he didn’t get it. He wished he could speak: in poetry, in artwork, in photography, any medium that could articulately communicate his feelings the way a conversation could not. But his voice felt uneducated, too stupid to possibly express the cravings within him that weren’t fraternal, or sexual, or romantic.
He’d turned toward the ostentatious Catholic Church that day, after Viggo’s protective touch had been burned into his upper arm. While the rest of the group had gone happily into one of the nearby pubs, Elijah had slipped away, lit a cigarette to give himself the comfort of being adult enough to do that, at the very least, and had climbed the three small steps leading up to the church doors. He’d clenched the filter of his cigarette between his teeth and had tugged open one of the heavy oak doors with great difficulty. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” he’d whispered with a little smile, exhaling smoke irreverently. With a last glance across the street to be sure he was not being followed, he slipped into the blessed coolness, humming “The Hallelujah Chorus” cheerfully.