Serkis and Wood Charm Dragon Con

Elijah Wood began as the sole guest at the beginning of the panel “A Spot with Dot: A Conversation with Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood” on Sunday at 1PM in the packed Marriott Atrium Ballroom, moderated by Dot Steverson. Taking his co-panelist’s temporary absence in stride, Wood said, “This is my first Dragon Con,” and added, “I love it… You can really feel the community here…it’s so awesome!” Fielding his first question, which was when he decided he wanted to be an actor, he spoke about how his mother thought acting in commercials might be “a good outlet” for all his energy. He went to a modeling school, did some modeling in a local mall, and met an agent who asked if he’d like to be an actor. His first part was in a Paula Abdul music video of “Forever Your Girl,” which began his stint as a child actor and eventually led to his iconic performance as Frodo.

When Steverson asked how Wood kept his creative energy, he replied that it was “different every time,” and that there were always new challenges. He admitted to being nervous at the beginning of every project, worrying that he’d get fired and likening it to the beginning of the school year, but he added that he always tries to step out of his comfort zone.

At this point, Andy Serkis arrived. Wood jumped up, and the two gave each other an enthusiastic bear hug. After a quick apology for being late, Serkis answered the decide-to-be-an-actor question. While studying art in college, he designed sets for the theater students, ended up with a few bit parts, then got a bigger part as a kid with no idea what to do after graduating and who held his teachers at ransom. That was when he declared his desire to become an actor to his parents, who were unsurprisingly worried. But look how it turned out. Serkis said he keeps his creativity by working with amazing people. He hopes to touch people on an emotional basis. Wood was surprised that Serkis also had the same fear when beginning a new project, and the two actors shared a you-too? moment.

What do they look for when offered a role? “Gut response,” Wood said. Sometimes it’s the filmmaker, sometimes the script. “You know in your heart of hearts” that this is something he shouldn’t pass up.

Steverson asked what they’d choose as their theme song to be played when they entered a room. After pausing, Wood said a piece of jazz music. Serkis promptly sang out, “What is love…” He thought Wood should use Bill Evans. “And then,” Serkis said, “you walk in…” He proceeded to mimic the part of a bass instrument, a slow dum-dum-dum-da-dum. To the crowd’s delight, Wood hurried offstage then swaggered back to the table with Serkis’s jazz accompaniment.

As for hobbies or what they do for fun, Serkis thinks he might return to his art someday, although he joked that his wife would never hang anything of his on the wall. Wood likes to collect records, but couldn’t name a favorite. “Bill Evans?” Serkis wondered with a laugh.

They’re both proud dads and are eager to support their children’s dreams, although Wood noted that his are still “too young to have dreams.” He thinks one of the most enjoyable things about being a parent is “learning who [his children] are.” His son is almost four and is already in a band. Serkis noted with a grin that his wife is an actress, too, so what chance do his kids have?

If they could give their younger selves advice, they agreed that they should have been better about answering emails and getting back to people. Wood said he tends to live in the present and has thousands of unread emails. He’d also tell himself to keep learning to play the piano and to learn a foreign language (his wife speaks seven). He wishes now that he could play a musical instrument well.

Asked what day they would choose to relive, Serkis immediately said the birth of his first child, Ruby. She was born at home in a water pool. “Dad’s are pretty useless,” he said, “but…pretty good at assembling water pools.” Wood thought about it for a moment, agreed that birth was a special time, but he said he’d love to spend a “pre-kids day” with his wife.

Serkis mentioned several British film directors who inspired him, but his “single, most life-changing mentor has been Peter Jackson.” He said that Jackson showed how to “make something personal and exciting on a huge canvas.” Woods noted that many actors have been like helpful to him. “They elevate you,” he said.  The entire creative team supports and inspires you.

Wood recalled a time where he and Serkis played golf off set. Really bad golf. And in the rain. Yes, Serkis agreed, “we played really bad golf in the rain.” They lamented the closing of that hotel out in the middle of nowhere and its surrounding golf course.

Both had ideas for a dream project they would do if they had enough money and people. Wood loves A Topiary, the script by Shane Carruth. “It’s visionary,” Wood said. “I would love to bring it to life.” There are more films he’d choose to make, too, far too numerous to mention. Serkis said he’d love to make a film from the book The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Justin. Wood added that he’d love to film The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

And with that, the hour had flown by and the panel ended. The audience thanked Wood and Serkis with a heartfelt standing applause for spending time with them at Dragon Con.


Author of the article

Debbie Yutko lives near Atlanta with her husband and two cats. When she isn’t gardening, rescuing homeless kittens, or cramming math formulas into teenagers’ brains, she can be found stringing words together at her computer and dreaming of adventures in far-off lands. She is a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a veteran of Dragon Con, where she enjoys attending panels and working with the talented staff of the Daily Dragon.

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