Elijah Wood has come a long way since he appeared in 1989's Back to the Future Part II  as "video game boy." He went on to star in box office misfires like Radio Flyer and North, but now Wood has taken on the greatest role of his young career. Forget brass; he's grabbed the small gold ring.

Yet through it all, Wood seems relaxed, and maybe just a little too into his new role — even if he doesn't seem to really understand his new powers.

McCuddy: Could you take Harry Potter in a bar fight?

Wood: Oh, I don't know. See, he's a wizard and I'm just a simple little hobbit, so I don't know. I don't know any magic. I'd have to have Gandalf on my side, and I don't think that he'd be into the whole fighting thing. So Potter might win.

McCuddy: You have a posse.

Wood: (Laughs) I do. I've got the gang of hobbits, but I think that's kind of unfair, you know? And they don't know magic. I don't think it would work.

McCuddy: Have you seen Harry Potter?

Wood: I have, yeah, yeah.

McCuddy: What did you think?

Wood: Um, it's great. I mean...

McCuddy: You gonna stomp it?

Wood: Well, we have a different sort of thing to offer. It's a much more dramatic and mature sort of journey, and it's a little scarier. A little bit more 'massively dynamic.'

McCuddy: So this skews — with it's massive dynamics — a little older?

Wood: I think so, I mean, you know, Harry Potter has a kind of Roald Dahl children's book feel to it, which is fantastic, and beautiful and lyrical and fun. Lord of The Rings is like history, you know? It's a very mature, dealing with very weighty and mature themes.

McCuddy: And we're just beginning.

Wood: Oh, man the beginning. We start the journey now. It's funny, because we spent 16 months filming the things, and then we had to wait a year for the first one to come out. Filming them was one part, and now it's another chapter in the journey.

McCuddy: And do we get more Liv (Tyler) next time? She's like a cameo in this one.

Wood: You get more Liv. Don't you worry. (Laughs) All the boys will be happy.

McCuddy: Tell me where you're going to be on Christmas.

Wood: I'm going to be home with my family. Basically, I get home on like the 22nd of December after all this press 'shebackle,' and I'm going to want to relax and chill out. I only have a couple days to Christmas shop. I've had no time to do it so far, so home, home, home, home.

McCuddy: I'm part of a 'shebackle?'

Wood: Yeah, I don't ... is that even a word?

McCuddy: A Tolkien term, I'm assuming.

Wood: (Laughs) It wasn't 'Tolkien.'

McCuddy: Do you find yourself getting caught up in this Tolkien world?

Wood: (Mock serious tone) Man, it's my life.

McCuddy: (Laughs) It's some heavy background you had to do.

Wood: It is.

McCuddy: Admit it, how old were you when you read these?

Wood: (Pause) Well...

McCuddy: A month ago?

Wood: I was on the film when I read them, so... I read The Hobbit when I was a kid, but I never did get around to reading Lord of The Rings. I mean I owned them on the shelf.

McCuddy: Right, everybody had that little boxed set.

Wood: Of course. Yes. I was lazy.

McCuddy: But you get like eight pages into that thing and you're drowning and it's like...

Wood: It's overwhelming.

McCuddy: ...this is interesting but what's on TV?

Wood: Right. But it really takes you away to another world, and I think that we've succeeded in doing that with the film as well.

McCuddy: How different was it seeing it when it was all done?

Wood: (Eyes wide) Oh, it was overwhelming. You work on something for so long and you pour your heart into it.

McCuddy: And it has a lot of computer generated images.

Wood: That as well, which was new for us to see. So it was kind of like a mix of the emotions that are tied into the experience, and experiencing new visuals that you hadn't imagined. Oh, man, it was unbelievable. I couldn't even speak after the film. I've seen it twice. I couldn't speak after the second time.

McCuddy: You're doing fine now.

Wood: (Laughs) I'm all right now. But if you showed the film to me again...

McCuddy: That's the real Sir Ian, right?

Wood: Sir Ian McKellen?

McCuddy: Yeah. That's really him? That's not computer generated?

Wood: (Laughs) That is Sir Ian.

McCuddy: And he's a powerhouse.

Wood: Oh yeah!

McCuddy: Did he give you any acting tips or pointers?

Wood: He was just a wonderful part of the fellowship, and a good friend.

McCuddy: Wonderful part of the 'fellowship?' You gotta snap out of this man, you're going home for Christmas, you've got to let it go.

Wood: (That mock serious tone again) Dude, no, (laughing) it's a part of my life for the rest of my life.

McCuddy: (Laughing) It's like a cult. They've pulled you in. We've got to deprogram you.

Wood: No, no, no. I would be sad if I was deprogrammed.

McCuddy: And they're all done? All three of them are done?

Wood: Yes, but we'll have to go back next year to do pick ups and re-shoots for film two. We still have to go back to New Zealand, which is great. I mean it gives us a chance to go home.

McCuddy: Okay. Don't grow. Don't look any different.

Wood: Oh believe me dude, I'm 20 years old, there's no growing left. That's it. Unfortunately it's a sad fact.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring opens Wednesday, Dec. 19.