I grew up in a working-class family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My father worked at the box factory and my mother worked at the Quaker Oats factory. Eventually, they pooled their resources and built a delicatessen called Souper, which sold soups, sandwiches and salads. There is normally a moment of inspiration that inspires the origins of an actor. For me, it was minestrone soup… Of course not! I never had this moment.
When I was six years old a talent manager spotted me and asked me if I wanted to become an actor. I was like, “Yeah, why not?” My mom took me and my brother, Zack, who is seven years older than me, to Los Angeles for six weeks for a talent scouting event and I ended up getting a job on a Paula Abdul video. Things have moved relatively quickly in the grand scheme of things.
I was very open like a kid. I kind of understood what I was being asked and how to do it. I never had any training, I never took acting lessons. Maybe there was a precocity in me that people saw. If I had to psychoanalyze myself, I would say that I am emotional, very sensitive, sometimes a little anxious.
Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of what the Lord of the Rings movies became and the world stage it propelled us all onto practically overnight. I had been playing for 10 years then and we were helping each other collectively to manage the attention, which was intense. I remember the day I saw us all tackled to the side of the plane. At that point, I compartmentalized it. I put him in his own universe.
I met with somewhat unsettling people. There was a woman who flew to Wellington Airport in New Zealand to declare her love to me. It was clear that his sense of reality might not have been intact. I also had people come to my door who weren’t quite stable.
I try to be nice and listen, then move on.
I still have a pair Hobbit feet in my house, but I don’t wear them anymore. They are made of latex. They were given to me by the makeup department. I wore them at one point. Now they are in a box, put away. And no, I don’t recreate Frodo at fancy dress parties.
The silver lining of the pandemic was that it allowed me to enjoy fatherhood in ways that I might not have done. My son was born seven or eight months before lockdown, so we’ve had this kind of amazing, uninterrupted family time that we’ll probably never have again. I like being a father. It’s all-consuming and that’s it.
I want to be remembered more of who I am as a person and especially of the things that I have done. And I would also like to be remembered for never having been so easy to anchor. When I think about my career, I can recognize a role model, but I don’t strategize. I just follow my heart and it takes me to interesting and sometimes unexpected places. If I remember that, it’s pretty awesome.
No Man of God is in digital release starting September 13 and on DVD and Blu-ray from October 25