Alex Wolff, actor, musician, former Nickelodeon star. It all began with a role alongside his older brother Nat in comedy series The Naked Brothers Band, which encompassed hijinks, jamming out and even a movie. But now Alex is in the process of graduating, both as a songwriter and as an actor. Last year he starred in the Jumanji reboot, this year is set to see the release of a trio of Alex-featuring films: Hereditary, a critically acclaimed Sundance hit, the Netflix-distributed Dude, and then there’s his directorial debut, a long-term personal Wolff project and coming-of-age story that mirrors his own, The Cat and the Moon.
DISORDER: You just recently wrapped The Cat and the Moon, how was that whole experience?
ALEX WOLFF: It was the greatest experience of my life. The acting is by far the hardest part on a set. I don’t think there’s anything even close to it. Being a director is one of the easiest; it’s like being the host of a party. I started working on The Cat and the Moon when I was 15 so by the end it was the most gratifying experience. I had been living with this character and I’ve done so much work trying to figure Nick out. I felt like I got the most unbelievable cast. I’m just really excited.
Was it your original intent to make it a full-length film?
Yeah it was always intended to be a feature. I made a short called Boots to get my blood going as a director. I had already directed five or six shorts before that, but [Boots] was in the vein of this movie. Directing is a much easier thing than directors give it credit for. I spent three months working out every single shot, storyboarding, and getting everything totally planned out.
What was it like filming your new horror film Hereditary?
It’s really a psychological drama; the horror comes from the terror of a family dealing with severe trauma. It never felt like a horror movie, it felt like an extremely dark and twisted two months of my life.
What attracts you to the darker roles you tend to play?
I guess it’s just what I’m interested in right now. I think sometimes it’s a good way of getting out certain parts of yourself because I think in life you try very hard to not go there as a person. I feel a lot of life is spent avoiding darkness. Acting is a nice place for you to release that stuff and go to places you’re not allowed to in real life, maybe that’s why I’m attracted to them. I’m [also] really just interested in movies that I want to see.
Is there a process you go through in order to play characters that are so different to you?
I never feel like I’ve ever played a character that was so far from me that I couldn't see myself in that situation. The cool thing about acting is that you can explore those dark, twisted places without shame. You get to do really bad things and that’s part of your job. [But] it’s almost always more interesting to play opposite of whatever the part is. I think it’s good to bring any sweetness or charm to the character if you can.
Did you read the novel House of Tomorrow before you started filming to help understand your character?
I read the novel before I started filming but I didn't read it before I read the script. I loved it but actually felt like my character was a little more developed in the script. I loved that movie a lot and it was so fun.
Alex Wolff (right) with Asa Butterfield in House of Tomorrow.
Do you have any memorable moments on set?
Me and Asa Butterfield, who starred in House of Tomorrow, had a blast. We were these two punk kids jumping around all of these crazy hotels in Minneapolis. I remember dying my hair green and Asa washing the yellow out of my hair – there was some yellow because the green didn't set in – and teaching him bass. We were just shredding. One of the best memories from that movie was when we were playing this punk song at the end of the movie. Just rocking out. That was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
Is there anything you can tell us about your character in Dude?
Noah is a year younger than [Lucy Hale’s] Lily. He’s sort of this cocky, cool, younger kid who is relentlessly flirting with Lucy’s character, and she kind of hints that she doesn't want anything to do with him. It was a very high school movie.
Do you ever worry about being typecast?
I don’t because I’m pretty ethnically ambiguous. I guess I’ve just done so many different things so far and I haven't been typecast. I don’t know if I believe that’ll be one of my issues. I think people can’t really figure out my face like, “What is he? Is he handsome? Is he not?” I don’t think it’ll ever be an issue. I don’t really know if I believe in typecasting because I think people get cast in what they're good at. You can try to be good at a bunch of different other things and not get typecast.
Does the process differ from writing a script as opposed to writing a song?
They're both similar; it’s just that one takes a lot longer than the other. A script can take five years and a song can take a few hours. But they definitely [exist] in a similar place of mind where you just have to get it out. For me, at least, they're therapy. It’s like an itch you have to scratch.
Do you have a favourite song you’ve written?
Rollin’ Around. People say they really love that one. It’s just sort of a groove. But I love my brother’s song Public Places and another he wrote a long time ago in The Naked Brothers Band days [called] I’ve Got A Question.
What are your musical influences?
My brother and I are obsessed with The Beatles; they're everything to us. We’re obsessed with Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and all of those folky singers. But we also love The Replacements, Nirvana, The Velvet Underground, and the Beach Boys. We’re kind of a clusterfuck of different influences, but generally we like very melodic, sonically pleasing music.
Alex Wolff and Lucy Hale in Dude.
Do you have a favourite TV or film genre?
TV wise I almost strictly watch funny stuff. I’ve seen The Office about a hundred times. When I come home from doing these really dark movies, I like to turn on something fun. [But] with movies I’m all over the place. I just go with whatever I’m feeling at the time. I don’t focus on genre, I focus on if it’s good or not.
Do you have any tips for actors starting out?
Start making your own stuff. Don’t wait on other people. Start making a short or going to an acting class. I feel like a lot of times people get obsessed with headshot, agents, and IMDb. That’s sort of the wrong root, I think. If you’re more focused on the creative part, the results will be better.
Your family has its roots in the entertainment industry; have you ever felt any pressure to follow suit?
Yeah, I wanted to be a doctor but they said acting would be much more reliable...
Hereditary is in cinemas from 15th June 2018.
Portraits by Udo Spreitzenbarth & imaging by Lorraine Baker
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