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Wood delights Jackson with NZ visit

Published: 4:26PM Tuesday November 22, 2005 Source: AAP

Elijah Wood has revealed how he made a secret visit to New Zealand to surprise Peter Jackson on the set of King Kong.

Wood planned the trip for a bit of fun, but the actor who played hobbit Frodo Baggins in Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was surprised just how emotional he was when he arrived at the Kiwi director's film studio in Wellington.

The studio was the same facility where Lord of the Rings was shot and Jackson had recruited most of the Rings crew for King Kong, many who were close to Wood after his 18 months in New Zealand.

"I was actually so surprised about how overwhelmed I was because I was walking on the same stage that we used with the same crew," Wood, while promoting his new film, Everything is Illuminated, told reporters in Los Angeles.

"It was amazing and great to go back.

"It will always be such a huge part of my life, that country and the people."

The surprise visit was a spur of the moment trip for Wood as he was in Sydney for two days to do some voice work for his new animated film, Happy Feet.

"I was like, 'Well, I'm going to be down there for two days. I may as well get a flight over to Wellington and spend a week in Wellington'.

"The timing of it was hilarious because I got an email from Philippa Boyens, one of the writers on Rings and Kong.

"She was like 'I haven't heard from you for so long. God it would be great if you could come out and visit'.

"And, of course, at that very moment I was planning on taking this trip and I said 'Funny you should email me because I'm coming out'.

"She freaked out and said 'I'm not going to tell anyone'."Boyens did end up on telling Jackson and his Rings producer wife, Fran Walsh, but the rest of the Kong crew were left in the dark.

"Philippa went on to the stage and asked Carolynne Cunningham, who was the first assistant director (AD) and first AD on Kong, if she could bring a visitor on set and she was like 'Yeah, yeah'," Wood said.

"She was busy and couldn't care less.

"Then I walked on the stage and the reaction from Carolynne was utter confusion and emotion. It was so amazing."

Wood had planned, with two other Hobbits - Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan - to make cameos in Jackson's big budget adventure film about the giant ape, but the actors' schedules ended up ruling it out.

"I think early on we had conceived of maybe getting the Hobbits out there - Billy, Dom and myself - to try and do some kind of cameo," Wood said.

"Get stomped on or something or maybe even have us dressed as Hobbits way in the background, but we never got to do it because Dom was super busy on Lost and Billy has been working, so we couldn't co-ordinate schedules to do it."

Everything is Illuminated is a big change from Lord of the Rings in almost every aspect, from the small budget, film location in the Czech Republic to the Coke bottle glasses Wood's character, Jonathon Safran-Foer, wears.

Safran-Foer is a young Jewish American who travels to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II.

Wood, 24, said the journey Safran-Foer takes reminds him of his life-changing decision to travel to New Zealand to make the Lord of the Rings films.

"I left home at 18 and lived in New Zealand for 18 months on my own and it was an incredible learning experience and growing experience," Wood said.

"It was the first time I had really lived as an adult in my life on my own outside of my comfort zone. It told me a lot about who I am and my life."