Born January 28, 1981, Elijah Wood has grown up to be one of the most well-respected and steadily employed actors of his generation. Born in Cedar Rapids, IA, Wood modeled and did local commercials before moving with his family to Los Angeles in 1988. It was there that Wood got his first break, a small role in a Paula Abdul video. Film work almost instantly followed, with a bit part in the 1989 Back to the Future II. It was Wood's role as Aidan Quinn's son in Barry Levinson's 1990 Avalon (the third film in the Baltimore trilogy containing Diner  and Tin Men ) that first gave Wood attention, as the film received widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for four Academy Awards. After a small part in the Richard Gere potboiler Internal Affairs (1990), Wood secured his first starring role in Paradise (1991), in which he played a young boy who brings estranged couple Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson back together. He received good reviews for his performance -- some said it was one of the best things about the film -- and from there went on to co-star with Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis in Forever Young and in Radio Flyer (both 1992).
In 1993, Wood co-starred with Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son, which was a failure both at the box office and with filmgoers who couldn't stomach the idea of the little blond boy from Home Alone as a pre-teen psychopath. In casting Wood as the good to Culkin's evil, the film helped further establish the kind of characters Wood was to become known for: thoughtful, well meaning, and perhaps a bit confused. Wood's next film, the same year's The Adventures of Huck Finn, provided a departure from this type of character, but The War (1994) with Kevin Costner marked something of a return. Also in 1994, Wood had the title role in North, a film remarkable for the volume of bad reviews and bad box office it received, but also for the fact that practically every bad review contained a positive assessment of Wood's performance. Wood's follow-up, the 1996 Flipper, was hardly an improvement, but the subsequent critical and financial success of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997) provided a positive development in the young actor's career. As the soulfully dazed and confused Mikey Carver, Wood gave a portrayal remarkable for its rendering of the thoughtfulness and exquisite hopelessness inherent in the character. 1998's Deep Impact and The Faculty did not allow Wood the same degree of character development, but were great financial successes and further stepping stones in Wood's evolution from winsome child star to impressive young actor.