Elijah Wood may be basking in the critical and inevitable box-office success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but he's not about to forget the sacrifices he had to make playing Frodo the Hobbit. For starters, the young actor spent a huge chunk of his life holed up in New Zealand shooting all three big-screen versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic novels. Marvels Wood: "I was an 18-year-old kid when I arrived and a 20-year-old grown-up when I left!"

Of course, Wood made good use of his 16-month tour of duty overseas. "I loved New Zealand," he says. "The people brought us into their culture. I spent a lot of time buying CDs for my collection when we weren't filming. I think I bought 300 or 400. One of the local papers did a story saying I had spent so much money at record stores that I was contributing to the New Zealand economy."

Truth be told, The Faculty star didn't spend all of his time in New Zealand. He and fellow Hobbits Sean Astin and Dominic Monaghan jetted off to Australia to visit the set of Star Wars: Episode II &#150 Attack of the Clones. "And we took in some rock bands in Sydney [as well]," he recalls, adding that they spent the rest of their downtime "in a local pub having a bit of a drink and something to eat because Hobbits love to eat and drink. I think we became more hobbity the longer we were together."

When shooting wrapped, Wood had to drastically switch gears for his grown-up role in Edward Burns's '80s crime drama Ash Wednesday. "It's sort of an Irish Mafia story," he explains. "I play Ed's brother who's been hiding out because he killed three people who were out to get him. I'm married and I come back to New York to get my wife and my life back."

Now, Woods is happy to be back home in Los Angeles living in the guest house behind his parents' home. However, he admits that his heart is still in the mystical land of Middle Earth. "It's taken awhile to reassimilate," he sighs. "Lord of the Rings was the most intense experience of my life. I sort of went into hibernation for a while. I didn't go out much and I didn't even call my friends. I guess you could say I was just being lazy."