DEBUNKED

A video has been circulating online which allegedly shows "Lord of the Rings" actor Elijah Wood giving the Ukrainian president advice on how to tackle his alleged drug and alcohol addictions. He can be seen recording himself and talking to a so-called "Vladimir". However, the video has been heavily edited and his agent has confirmed it was not published by the actor.

Issued on: 25/07/2023 - 16:52Modified: 25/07/2023 - 17:32

5 min

In a supposed Instagram story, American actor Elijah Wood addresses a certain "Vladimir" to talk about his alleged alcohol and drug addiction. Many users claim that he is addressing the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, but this is not true. In a supposed Instagram story, American actor Elijah Wood addresses a certain "Vladimir" to talk about his alleged alcohol and drug addiction. Many users claim that he is addressing the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, but this is not true. © Observers

Text by: Alexandre Capron

If you only have a minute:

  • A video has been shared online that allegedly shows "Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to seek treatment for drug and alcohol use.

  • However, the video was edited using a voice recording from an unknown source in which Elijah Wood can be heard speaking to a man named "Vladimir".

  • Elijah Wood's agent has confirmed that the actor does not have a public Instagram account and that he did not post the video.

  • The video has a QR code on it that sends users to a fake Netflix series criticising the International Olympic Committee.

The fact-check in detail:

At the beginning of the video, the actor can be heard saying "Vladimir, hi, it's Elijah! I hope you're well and in good health." He then goes on to say: "you have serious problems with drugs and alcohol. I hope you're taking care of yourself. We know people who can help you." The video has the graphics of an Instagram story. It has been seen more than 2 million times on Twitter in English and more than 10,000 times in French

Several users who shared the video claim that the actor is addressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with an offer to cure his alleged drug and alcohol addictions. Others added that the Instagram account in question has been closed by Meta, the company that owns the social network. This post was also shared on various Russian-speaking Telegram accounts, such as this one, where it has racked up more than 760,000 views.

A number of Russian-language media outlets, such as Tsargrad.tv and 5tv.ru, referred to the video, but they did not identify the source.

Pro-Russian accounts regularly accuse Volodymyr Zelensky of being a drug and alcohol addict, and often manipulate videos to illustrate these claims. 

An edited video from a fake Instagram account

Several visual clues suggest that the video was not posted to Instagram and that it was edited.

First, the actor makes no explicit mention of Volodymyr Zelensky or the situation in Ukraine. He addresses the video to "Vladimir", as opposed to "Volodymyr". The video is also heavily edited to cut out several sentences and obscure the exact context.

The video features three other elements that enabled us to debunk it: the logo of American media outlet TMZ, the tag "@zelenskiy_official" and a link to the website www.hazeldenbettyford.org, which helps people who suffer from substance abuse.

However, the video does not appear on any of TMZ's social networks and their logo looks different on their other videos. Our editorial team contacted TMZ, which responded that "This is clearly something that someone posted on social networks and that has nothing to do with TMZ. We have nothing to do with this video."

Elijah Wood does not have an official, public Instagram account and in March 2023 said that he used a private account. However, the account that the video was published from looks like a verified account with over 1.5 million followers. We took a freeze-frame of the video, which shows the full name of the account (despite being hidden by the TMZ logo): elijah.wood.kingring.

The account name "elijah.wood.kingring" can be seen when freezing the fake Instagram story. The account name "elijah.wood.kingring" can be seen when freezing the fake Instagram story. © Observers

The elijah.wood.kingring account does exist on Instagram, but it has no followers and only follows three accounts, including that of Volodymyr Zelensky.

Account status of "elijah.wood.kingring" on 25 July 2023. Account status of "elijah.wood.kingring" on 25 July 2023. © Instagram/elijah.wood.kingring

The FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted JoAnne Colonna, Elijah Wood's agent, who explained that "Elijah does not have an Instagram account. He is going to make a comment on his Twitter account about this video." The tweet in question had not been published at the time of writing, but we will include it once it becomes available. 

The origin of the video has not been disclosed by Elijah Wood or his team. Some Twitter users claim that it was made using Cameo, a site where you can buy a video message recorded by Elijah Wood for $340. We have not been able to verify this suggestion. 

Furthermore, in February 2022, just after Russia invaded Ukraine, the actor publicly expressed his support for Kyiv, and he has never publicly criticised the Ukrainian president.

A disguised operation for a fake series?

Another clue which proves that the video is fake is the QR code on "Elijah Wood's" fake Instagram account which sends users from the photos and story there to a so-called "Olympics has fallen" series.

The poster for this alleged series also features American actor Tom Cruise, president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, sports director of the same committee Kit McConnell, and former president of the International Amateur Boxing Association Wu Ching-Kuo.

Screenshot of the Telegram account "Olympics has fallen" on July 25, 2023. Screenshot of the Telegram account "Olympics has fallen" on July 25, 2023. © Telegram

The QR code sends users to a Telegram account that was created at the beginning of July and shows four episodes of the series. The first episode even includes the Netflix logo. In it, Tom Cruise appears onscreen, greets viewers, and then explains, off camera, what the aim of the series is: to reveal to the world the behind-the-scenes workings of the International Olympic Committee, described as a "venal committee that has been destroying the Olympic spirit of sport for years".

However, the series does not exist; Tom Cruise never directed it. There has been no reference to the film anywhere in the news in recent weeks. The actor has not promoted it on his verified networks, and the only references to the series can be found on Telegram accounts that voice support for Russia.

The Telegram account "Olympics has fallen" has also posted fake messages supposedly written by several American celebrities, including Jared Leto, Miley Cyrus and Mike Tyson, who are said to have congratulated Tom Cruise on his series. 

Three fake stories from American stars were shared to make it look like they were congratulating Tom Cruise on this fake series. Three fake stories from American stars were shared to make it look like they were congratulating Tom Cruise on this fake series. © Observers

The Telegram channel, which is followed by around 2,500 people, hasn't had a huge impact, with the most viewed episode garnering a maximum of 90,000 views.

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