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And so it has come to pass… Just as Frodo Baggins completed an epic journey, Elijah Wood concluded a monumental marathon of another sort.

They have become inseparable in many ways, the Ring Bearer and the Actor. Both experienced arduous travels and taxing tasks during their sojourn into Middle-earth, and both the character and the man have come out forever changed.

Here Wood reflects on the achievements of Peter Jackson's trilogy, his personal and professional growth, and the many lessons learned.

There seems to be universal agreement that The Return of the King is the best film of the trilogy. What do you think makes it so good?
It's the end of the journey, where the characters are faced with the ultimate sacrifices, the ultimate opposition. And time is running out for Frodo and for everyone else, so there's a real sense of urgency with this film.

The film also exacts a heavy toll on the characters, emotionally as well as physically.
It's pretty extreme what the characters have to go through, and ultimately what they lose. Frodo is essentially giving away his soul to save Middle-earth. As much as the world is saved and so much is gained, so much is lost as well. You have to give of yourself to succeed, and that's what the movie is about.

Can you talk about Frodo's internal battles? And what do you see as his defining moment in The Return of the King?
The Ring sort of strips him of who he is. He doesn't remember the Shire, he doesn't remember where he's come from, he doesn't remember really who he is. He's physically robbed of any soul, of any heart, of any ability to go on. The defining moment would probably be on the side of Mount Doom, when he completely fails. He falls to the ground. And it's not as if he's giving up. He really doesn't have a choice, The Ring completely takes over.

How did you work with Peter Jackson to prepare for Frodo's emotional moments?
We talked a lot about Frodo's sort of addiction to The Ring, how that would affect him, and very specific moments about that deterioration, and how the darkness ends up coming out in him as well. We would sit down and have a good chat before we would start filming those particular scenes.

Can you talk about Frodo and Sam's friendship? It seems to be a linchpin of the third film.
Yeah, it's critical because The Ring is starting to have much more of an affect on Frodo, and Sam ends up becoming Frodo's strength when Frodo has no strength. Sam really becomes quite a hero in this film. It's his courage and his strength that pulls Frodo through and saves the day.

What can be learned about friendship from Sam and Frodo?
That no person can complete a task on their own. They cannot do it without the help of their friends. And that's not only true for Frodo and Sam. As they head up the mountaintop to destroy this ring, Aragorn and Gimli and Legolas and Gandalf are charging The Black Gate to draw Sauron's eye away and give them an opportunity. That's real friendship, real teamwork. There's something so beautiful about risking your life for the good of everyone.

Why are these films so meaningful, and why will they continue to live on?
I think there are themes in these stories that are timeless, that everyone can relate to. It's a classic good versus evil tale, and anything that embodies those particular extremes you can relate that to any world event or any personal event. Obviously there's quite a lot of strife in our world today, and certainly you can make comparisons.

Frodo has changed at the end of this journey, has Elijah changed as well?
Absolutely. I started this when I was 18, when normally I would be going to college. Instead, I went to Middle-earth and lived out Frodo's journey for four years. It's been the most incredible life experience, and I'm so grateful for that.

What will you take with you from this experience?
I think the most important thing I'll take away is the friendships I've made. Being in New Zealand for that length of time with these people was such a joy. It was difficult -- six- day weeks and 15-hour days -- and completely exhausting, but the friendships got us through. I will be friends with these people forever. The Fellowship will always exist. So in some ways the journey will never end for us, which is beautiful.

What did you do once the movie was finally finished?
I went into hibernation. I don't think I actually woke up for, like, five months.