Elijah Wood may be most famous for his role as Frodo Baggins, the hobbit protagonist of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but as a child star in Hollywood he appeared in a remake of Flipper and co-starred with Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son.
And, in an extensive interview with the (paywalled) Sunday Times this weekend, he has made the explosive allegation that Hollywood is in the grip of a child sexual abuse epidemic, with rich and powerful industry figures abusing child actors with impunity.
The 35-year-old former child star said in the interview, tabled to promote his latest film, The Trust, about corrupt cops planning to steal drug money, that he had been protected from abuse by his mother, Debra, and “never went to parties where that kind of thing was going on,” but said that other child actors had been regularly “preyed upon” by “vipers” in Hollywood.
“Clearly something major was going on in Hollywood. It was all organized. There are a lot of vipers in this industry, people who only have their own interests in mind,” said Wood. “There is darkness in the underbelly. What bums me about these situations is that the victims can’t speak as loudly as the people in power. That’s the tragedy of attempting to reveal what is happening to innocent people: they can be squashed, but their lives have been irreparably damaged.”
Oliver Thring, the author of the Sunday Times article, which appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times’ News Review section yesterday, delves into the history of pedophilia in Hollywood, quoting Corey Feldman who, in 2011, gave a frank account of the abuse he had witnessed as a young actor.
“The No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is—and always will be—pedophilia,” Feldman said, adding that by the time he was 14 he was “surrounded” by molesters.
The piece also includes an extensive interview with Anne Henry, co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, an organization established to protect child actors, who says: “We estimate that about 75 percent of the child actors who ‘went off the rails’ suffered earlier abuse. Drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide attempts, wandering through life without a purpose—they can all be symptoms.”
Henry adds, “We believe Hollywood is currently sheltering about 100 active abusers.”
Thring also writes about the documentary An Open Secret, made by Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg. Despite the success of movies such as Spotlight it has struggled to find distribution.
Wood, who has seen An Open Secret, tells the Sunday Times that he believes the film “only scratches the surface. I feel there was much more to this story than it articulates.”
“From my reading and research,” he tells Thring, “I’ve been led down dark paths to realise that these things probably still are happening. If you’re innocent—you have very little knowledge of the world and you want to succeed—people with parasitic interests will see you as their prey.”
UPDATE: 5/23/16, 9:56 PM ET: In a series of tweets Monday evening, Wood clarified his remarks: “The Sunday Times interviewed me about my latest film but the story became about something else entirely. It prompted a number of false and misleading headlines. I had just seen a powerful documentary and I briefly spoke with the reporter about the subject which had consequences I did not intend or expect. Lesson learned. Let me be clear: This subject of child abuse is an important one that should be discussed and properly investigated. But as I made absolutely clear to the writer, I have no first-hand experience or observation of the topic, so I cannot speak with any authority beyond articles I have read and films I have seen.”