Interview: Elijah Wood on trying to fake piano playing in ‘Grand Piano’

Elijah Wood plays a concert pianist under threat in "Grand Piano." Credit: Getty Images
Elijah Wood plays a concert pianist under threat in “Grand Piano.”
Credit: Getty Images

Elijah Wood has been having a lot fun in the indie horror and thriller world lately, playing a serial killer in last year’s “Maniac” and building buzz at Sundance this year as a teacher battling bloodthirsty elementary school kids in “Cooties.” In his latest, “Grand Piano,” Wood stars as a reclusive piano virtuoso who finds himself ordered by a hidden assassin (John Cusack) to play a perfect show or else.

It seems like it might be a stretch to say you’re a piano virtuoso, just due to the size of your hands.

Oh, I know, I know. [Laughs] I don’t have the hands, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I can do full octaves, for sure. It is not impossible for me, but it’s not easy. There’s one particular shot where the camera is [pointed] down at the keys, and those aren’t my hands.

But you do “play” the piano for a lot of the film. What was the process for that?

I took lessons for three weeks prior to going to Barcelona, and the learning curve was super-intense. I’d played when I was younger but certainly not to this level, and I hadn’t played in years. So effectively it was like kind of starting over again. It was really difficult, but also really fun. It’s fun to have a challenge that is that specific. I don’t play in life, but I am musical and I play around with instruments so I was endeared to it.

This is a pretty unique thriller.

There’s something absurd about it for sure, but in a great way. It was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It was incredibly audacious and ambitious and a little crazy, but the concept is also very simple. And I loved that 75 to 80 percent of the film is in real time, during this performance. There were puzzle pieces that had to then fit within the context of when the music starts and stops. It’s incredibly complicated. [Laughs]

You’ve been focusing on these very innovative, smaller genre films as of late.

I’m certainly a genre fan, but it hasn’t necessarily been a concerted effort on my part to work more in the genre space. It’s more incidental and more organic than that. There are more interesting ideas present within independent film and smaller films than there are in much larger films. I’m just looking for interesting experiences, and I’m excited by unique and interesting filmmakers, too. In some ways I think I’m often more motivated from a filmmaking perspective than I am specifically as an actor. I really just want to be a part of something that is creatively exciting.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick


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