So my cousin Josh is working behind the bar of The Elusive Camel, when in walks Frodo.
Josh was over here for a few years, working and touring and doing the Young Australian thing. The Elusive Camel, Waterloo is a large and lively pub on London’s South Bank, just a short stroll from Tower Bridge (they did some of their best business when David Blaine performed his glass box stunt just a – ahem – stone’s throw away). One of Josh’s oldest friends was managing the place, and most of the staff were people from back home. Josh was living in a room over the pub, and the bar work was paying for his keep.
And, as I say, one quiet afternoon he turned to the next customer, and there stood Elijah Wood.
By all accounts it was quite a session; all the staff clustered around and Wood stayed for several hours, chatting, buying drinks, cooperating with requests for pictures. By Josh’s report he was a really nice guy, unassuming, interested in everyone.
By morning everyone’s snaps had been uploaded and sent around to the other side of the globe; later in the day, a bunch of them made the return trip and showed up in my mailbox.
It was Elijah Wood, all right, no doubt about that, beaming happily from the midst of a bunch of roaring Aussies. But I didn’t get it.
I couldn’t parse it as star behaviour. By then he’d done all three Lord of the Rings movies and would be recognised anywhere. For someone in such a position to walk alone into a strange pub and then to spend most of the day there… well, I could believe it of Oliver Reed, but this was hardly the same thing. Up to a certain point, actors love to be recognised. Beyond that point, it can become a problem.
Some time later, Wood had a new movie out. It was called Green Street (retitled Green Street Hooligans and then just Hooligans for the US) and he played a young American, kicked out of Harvard, who travels to London and becomes involved with organised football violence.
Here’s my guess; someone must have told Wood that if he wanted to understand the mindset of the London football hooligan, he should go South of the river and spend some time in one of the boozers there. So he set out alone, crossed Tower Bridge, and went into the first pub he saw.
And that was his research for the role; a happy afternoon spent amongst the young expatriates of Oz.
Well, it’s a theory.
Josh went on to work as a PE teacher, ran the London Marathon, got engaged to a distant relative of Grace Kelly, and earlier this year took her back to Safety Bay.