On screen, Elijah Wood has journeyed to Mordor, grappled with soccer hooligans and played at least two serial killers, but he’s never made anything quite like “Grand Piano.”
The film, a thriller that’s crafted in the vein of Brian De Palma or Alfred Hitchcock, finds the 33-year-old starring as renowned pianist Tom Selznick, who must grapple with a sniper (John Cusack) threatening to shoot him and his wife if he plays one wrong note during a difficult live performance at a cavernous concert hall. It’s currently available on VOD and hits theaters Friday.
“I hadn’t really read a classical thriller,” Wood says of the project. “What made it even more intriguing is that a great deal of the film takes place in real time. The idea that 75% of the film is actually during a concert performance, that seemed to be really interesting and really intriguing.”
It’s a challenging part that requires serious dexterity; Wood must convincingly embody a world-class performer while grappling with the instructions spoken into his earpiece by Cusack and trying to solve the mystery of why he’s being targeted.
“I’ve really never had an experience quite like this, and certainly not anything quite as technical. But I really enjoyed all of that,” Wood says.
Preparing involved growing familiar with director Eugenio Mira’s animatic, an edit of storyboard images showing the way scenes would be filmed and edited in order to lock down the timing between music and action, and putting in work with a piano instructor.
“It was a mixture of genuinely learning technique and in some ways, the specific notes,” Wood says of his piano prep. “? and then going to Barcelona and working with an instructor there, who was also my double on the film, and continuing the training with a mind for less specific note accuracy and more approximations based on rhythm, timing, hand placement and also finger technique. It was an amalgamation of a lot of those things.
“The most important thing really was spatial rhythm and timing, more than anything.”
In addition to opting for offbeat parts — few other actors could establish a repartee with a man in a dog suit as convincingly as Wood does in FXX’s “Wilfred” — the Hollywood veteran has embraced a different sort of challenge these days.
He’s started to make his name as a producer specializing in horror films, including two that played at Sundance this year (“Cooties” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”) relishing the chance to “be a part of something I believe in and help foster that thing into the world for other people to enjoy.”