The 40-year-old actor on living with Frodo, coping with fans and why he loves fatherhood
Sat 2 Oct 2021 14.00 BST
I grew up in a blue-collar, working-class family in Cedar Rapids in Iowa. My dad worked at the box factory, and my mum worked at the Quaker Oats factory. Eventually they pooled resources and built a deli called Souper, which sold soups, sandwiches and salads. There’s normally a moment of inspiration that inspires an actor’s origins. For me it was minestrone soup… Of course it wasn’t! I never had that moment.
When I was six a talent manager spotted me and asked me if wanted to become an actor. I was like, “Yeah, why not?” My mother took me and my brother, Zack, who is seven years older than me, to LA for six weeks to a talent-spotting event and I ended up getting a job on a Paula Abdul video. Things moved relatively fast in the grand scheme of things.
I was very open as a kid. I somehow understood what it was that was being asked of me and how to do it. I never had any training, never went to acting classes. Maybe there was a precociousness in me that people saw. If I had to psychoanalyse myself, I’d say I’m emotional, very sensitive, sometimes a little anxious.
Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of what the Lord of the Rings films became, and the world stage that it propelled all of us on to virtually overnight. I’d been acting for 10 years by then, and we collectively helped each other deal with the attention, which was intense. I remember the day that I saw us all plastered over the side of plane. At that point I compartmentalised it. I put it in its own universe.
I’ve had encounters with people who are a little unsettling. There was a woman who flew to Wellington airport in New Zealand to declare her love for me. It was clear her sense of reality may not have been intact. I’ve also had people show up at my door who weren’t entirely stable.
I try to be kind and listen, then move on.
I still have a pair of Hobbit feet in my house, but I don’t wear them any more. They’re made of latex. They were given to me by the makeup department. I did wear them at one stage. Now they’re in a box, tucked away. And, no, I don’t recreate Frodo at fancy dress parties.
The silver lining of the pandemic has been that it’s enabled me to enjoy fatherhood in a way I might not have done. My son was born seven or eight months before lockdown, so we’ve had this kind of unbelievable, uninterrupted family time that we’re probably never going to have again. I love being a father. It’s all-consuming and it’s everything.
I would like to be remembered more for who I am as a person and specifically the things that I’ve done. And I would also like to be remembered for never being that easy to peg. When I reflect on my career, I can recognise a pattern, but I don’t strategise. I just follow my heart and that leads me to interesting and sometimes unexpected places. If I’m remembered for that, that’s kind of rad.