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CELEBRITY

Is Elijah Wood in Sundsvall and what is he doing there?

It is not that Sundsvall is not a nice town. It is just that it is not normally the place where Hollywood stars go for a night out. So rumours that Elijah Wood was visiting the town quickly went viral on Thursday.

Is Elijah Wood in Sundsvall and what is he doing there?
The main shopping street in Sundsvall. And Elijah Wood. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

The 35-year-old actor of Lord of the Rings fame was reportedly spotted visiting restaurant 'Tuppen' in the central Swedish town, which posted picture evidence on Facebook and Instagram late on Wednesday.

News of the unexpected celebrity visit quickly dominated local news headlines in Sweden, and was picked up by some of the national newspapers too, with growing excitement on social media. Several newspapers even asked readers to call them if they had any more information about the visit.

“Starstruck at Tuppen. Celebrity visit in the shape of Elijah Wood himself from the Lord of the Rings. Thanks for the visit!” wrote the restaurant.

Not everyone was convinced that it actually was the star, however, and some speculated that it could just be a lookalike or a clever PR trick by the restaurant itself to attract more visitors.

“I think it's fake. They had a customer who looked like him and wanted to joke,” wrote one person on their Facebook page. “Is it fake or is he looking for the ring in Sundsvall now?” wrote another.

Wood, who's currently starring in BBC America series Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, visited Stockholm last month to perform at the Södra Teatern venue with his friend Zach Cowie as DJ duo Wooden Wisdom. His film production company SpectreVision, of which he is a co-founder, helped produce Swedish 2013 science fiction movie LFO.

With a population of some 50,000 people, historic sawmill town Sundsvall is the third biggest town in Sweden's northern region Norrland and Sweden's 21st biggest town overall. It is home to one of the campuses of Mid-Sweden University as well as Sweden's first-ever international casino.

Sundsvall's nearby island Alnön was recently voted one of the most beautiful places in Sweden. Restaurant Tuppen is one of a number of restaurants in the town. It opened in May this year and aims to serve locally produced meat and fish.

The reason behind Wood's supposed visit to the town was not immediately known, but it would not be the first time an international celebrity has fallen in love with unexpected places in Sweden.

Last year US-Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean revealed that he wanted to move to Sandviken outside Gävle. British actor Hugh Grant recently bought a house in Torekov, southern Sweden. And rapper Kanye West paid a visit to the rural town of Älmhult to convince its Ikea headquarters to let him design furniture.

FOOTBALL

Swedish crowds fall for footballer turned ‘Idol’

Football fans and music lovers alike have found a common idol of late in Kevin Walker, a half-Irish half-Swedish footballer turned singer who survived a near-fatal poisoning and now has women swooning and the television heads grinning.

Swedish crowds fall for footballer turned 'Idol'

Kevin Walker, the Swedish footballer turned wannabe pop idol, has been making headlines all week for his exploits on the Swedish Idol talent show.

International media has gobbled up the story that TV4 , the makers of Idol who coincidentally also broadcast Swedish second division football, switched a match involving Walker’s GIF Sundsvall team so it didn’t clash with the hit programme.

In fact, the Aftonbladet tabloid announced on Friday that Walker can’t possibly win the contest because an away game clashes with a show in four weeks.

“He has a contract,” coach Roger Franzén told the paper.

Of course, there are no guarantee he’ll even advance that far.

But behind the headlines is an even more remarkable story. That Walker is combining football and singing at all is a miracle considering he almost died five years ago when he contracted blood poisoning.

“He was close to death and it was a very shocking period for him and the whole family,” Walker’s father Pat told The Local.

The illness temporarily ground his promising football career to a halt. Walker was on heavy medication for six months and said in a recent interview with The Emerald Exiles that his condition was “very critical” before he finally recovered.

Since his comeback Walker, 24, has established himself as a key member of the GIF Sundsvall team which is chasing promotion to the Allsvenskan. He normally plays in front of crowds of around 3,000 but his participation in Idol has seen his popularity explode nationally.

He was encouraged by his team-mates to enter Idol after jamming with colleague Stefan Ålander at a club function last winter.

“His mother is the musician in the family. She performed in an ensemble which was broadcast on Swedish radio and he’s always been spending his money on guitars,” said his father Pat, himself a former professional footballer and manager who moved to Sweden from Ireland 30 years ago.

The publicity surrounding Walker is certainly the shot in the arm Idol needed. It was taken off the air following the 2011 series to be replaced with The Voice and X Factor, neither of which struck a chord with the Swedish public.

Idol’s return has been a hit with viewers, in no small part due to the interest in the half-Irish footballer turned singer, with over a million people tuning in to the Friday night shows. Bookmakers have installed Walker as second favourite to win the show outright which climaxes on December 6th.

Combining a promotion battle with his football club and singing live in front of thousands weekly isn’t a problem for Walker, says his father. After all, he’s been through a lot worse.

“He has a hell of a lot of discipline and if anybody is able to combine the two then it is him. The club know that too and of course it is brilliant publicity for them,” he told The Local.

“He’s been playing really well. A few weeks back he captained Sundsvall on the Tuesday and was then on Idol the following day. Kevin is enjoying himself and we’re all very pleased for him considering what he’s been through.”

The popularity of his son, who is attracting a sizeable female fanbase, does have its drawbacks for his father though.

“I’m getting approached by old women out on the street saying they are going to stop watching the show if Kevin gets voted off. Hopefully this adventure will last for a while yet.”

Patrick Reilly

Follow Patrick on Twitter

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