The Wolff of Hollywood
Alex Wolff is taking on Hollywood’s biggest roles as Tinseltown’s next leading man.
Alex Wolff is taking on Hollywood’s biggest roles as Tinseltown’s next leading man.
Hollywood’s next generation of cinema stars celebrate Moncler, as the Italian luxury house gears up for their latest landing in Los Angeles at 340 N. Rodeo Drive.
“I think that I have imposter syndrome at all times. But I also think anybody who says they don't is lying,” laughs Alex Wolff in an unexpected statement for a star of his caliber. At 23, Wolff has spent almost his entire life in the spotlight. His progression from pre-tween to leading man on the big screen has been documented by carefully selected film roles. Wolff’s small screen introduction was in the early aughts, when he portrayed the hyper younger brother on Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band. The pipeline from child star to adult roles can often come with pitfalls, but Wolff’s natural acting chops sealed the deal as he seamlessly transitioned with critically acclaimed performances in action-filled thriller, Patriots Day and the horror hit Hereditary, in addition to the recently released, Pig.
This summer, the New York-native actor, musician, director and screenwriter (seriously, what doesn’t he do?) takes on his younger self, playing a rapidly aging child in M. Night Shyamalan’s summer blockbuster, Old, out July 23. Wolff describes the undertaking as “intense,” leading to his reconnection with a childhood tendency to favor the extremes. “I would feel extreme happiness, extreme sadness. It was like watching old videos of myself as a kid or in my body, feeling like I was a little kid again and running around full of life.” Next on the cards for the multi-hyphenate talent is acting (alongside John Malkovich), directing (a “fantastic, amazing actress”), and releasing a brand new album with his brother, Nat. For this next gen Hollywood star, the sky's the limit.
V Magazine: Hey Alex! You’ve had quite a busy year among the craziness of this past year, but let’s start off easy; how are you?
Alex Wolff: Well, that is not an easy answer. You know, it's a tricky one. I think now I'm doing a little better because I'm double vaccinated and getting out in the world, but I don't know. It's a complicated time. I'm still confused as to what the right decorum is in a restaurant, like when I’m sitting there and I'm like, “do I put my mask on?!” In New York, do we wear masks on the street? Do we have to? I don't know!
V: It's a complicated time. It's confusing! How did your year of lockdown go otherwise? Did you pick up any new hobbies?
AW: I got into the habit of watching like two movies a day at a minimum. It kind of happened naturally for me, it wasn't like I was too scheduled about it. But now I feel like I'm almost jonesing for a movie if I don't watch a movie a day. I'd say that was mostly what my quarantine was—just watching as many movies as I could fit in one day.
V: Were you watching the films for inspiration for writing purposes or just out of pure enjoyment?
AW: Kind of out of pure enjoyment. I think it’s probably inadvertently or unintentionally I could be watching something for my own inspiration, but no, I just love movies.
V: Gotcha, you’re just a movie buff! You’ve mentioned before that as an actor, when you have a slow period where you aren’t working on anything, you kind of feel aimless and experience a bit of imposter syndrome. How did you deal this past year as your industry essentially shut down and many film projects were put on pause?
AW: I think that I have imposter syndrome at all times. But I also think anybody who says they don't is lying. In quarantine I just deep dove into movies and watched every Fellini, every Eric Rohmer, every Bergman. When I watch a lot of movies, I just see how human everybody is. My friends always make fun of them because they're like, “I'll walk in a room and Alex is watching some weird esoteric Japanese movie from the thirties” or something, but I think that it makes me feel connected to people that are all around the world. In a time when you're very locked in your house and feel completely not connected to everybody, movies have really connected me to everybody in all parts of the world. [This year] connected me more to my love of the actual art of it. Then working with [M. Night Shyamalan]—he just makes you feel so good about what you're doing. I felt so lucky to get that movie that it made me feel better about what I'm doing. I always carry a little imposter syndrome and I think it's necessary. If you feel like, “yep, I'm where I'm meant to be,” it's a mistake and you usually suffer for that.
V: I definitely agree. As you mentioned, you filmed your new film, Old, all during the pandemic. What was that like to film during all of the COVID protocols?
AW: Amazing. I mean, probably not as amazing as it would have been had there not been protocols, but I was coming from being in a house where I was too afraid to even leave the house to go anywhere except maybe the grocery store. Then getting to fly to the Dominican Republic and be outside for a few months and know that everybody was getting tested on our set. I mean, it was kind of amazing.
V: How did this role land on your plate during a lull of production in the industry?
AW: I was sent an audition opportunity and a lot of time, you feel like you're sending a tape out into the void because who knows if they're going to see it or whatever, you know? But even more so during the pandemic, it felt like, “Is anybody going to watch this?”, but I just put myself on tape. It felt like a massive movie, a massive undertaking. It was a really special thing when I was asked to read with Night and he was going to give me notes. We had an amazing session together, bonded about movies. Coincidentally, [Old] lined up with my tastes at the moment. The other day we were talking, he was like, “Yeah, man, I made a Birdman blockbuster”. I was like, “That is a great tagline”.
V: As an actor working on set for such a short time frame, how do you build a camaraderie with your cast mates before you begin to shoot?
AW: Well, maybe it's just me, but I feel like I can have an Uber driver who I can build a super camaraderie with within just a hour-long drive. I think I'm really searching for friendship and camaraderie everywhere I go, you know? As for this cast, I’d been talking to Eliza Scanlan and Thomasin McKenzie before we started. We got close texting and FaceTiming and sent these questionnaires back and forth with each other and got to know each other and had a really fun time. Thomasin and I are brother and sister in the movie so by the time we got there, we already were friends. But yeah, it is a weird process. Everybody was a little shy to even give each other hugs or something.
V: Yeah, I can imagine it was a different set than any other film you've worked on.
AW: Way different! But in some ways it was better because we couldn't go anywhere. We were in a resort and it was just us so we were kind of forced to get close. Also, there was a beautiful lake slash ocean—I don't even know what body of water it was, but it was right next to the hotel. We could go swimming, snorkel and hang out. I remember Abbey [Lee], who is in the movie—I didn't really know her but we both coincidentally jumped into the lake at the same time and she got stung by a jellyfish right in front of me. We hadn't said a word to each other yet because we'd just gotten there. That was our first meeting experience. We were kind of forced to be like, “Oh shit, are you okay?” So yeah, we'd all go swimming at the end of the day.
V: That sounds amazing. The filming process was obviously something new and difficult but with this role in particular, how were you challenged as an actor?
AW: I was forced to go back to being a child and kind of relive my childhood because I play an overgrown child—spoiler alert!—in the movie. Everyone's aging quickly. I was a very emotional kid and I think that I was always in the moment and always having fun but when I was not having fun, I was still always full of life. I think I was always either really, really, really upset or really, really, really having a good time. Going back to those extremes and that extreme openness because I was just really an open kid—that was intense. Occasionally, it was tricky in that way but also also really, really fun. I've done so many really heavy movies where it can just be taxing and draining. This was one of those movies that was a mix. I would feel extreme happiness, extreme sadness. It was like watching old videos of myself as a kid or in my body, feeling like I was a little kid again and running around full of life.
V: As you’ve mentioned, the film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a legendary director of the supernatural genre. What was it like working with him on set?
AW: He is really one of the true living geniuses and he swings for the fences with every single shot. He is a tremendously sensitive, warm guy who is very passionate and I just love him. It was so special for me, just a profoundly exhilarating experience being paired with him—it felt like I just was the luckiest guy in the world every day. Also, I just felt this feeling like “whoa”, like he’s this celebrity in my mind and an important part of my childhood. Yet he doesn't make you feel intimidated. He feels really collaborative, really kind, really just great.
V: That's amazing. And obviously the film deals with aging and the existential dread of getting older. Are you afraid of getting older?
AW: I think that I am going to hit my peak at 40 or like, 42. I think I'm going to be so good in my forties. I've always thought that I would be really good in my late teens, I'd have a good time in my twenties, I think I probably will have a crisis in my thirties. I'll probably be like, “what am I doing?!”. And then in my forties, I'm going to be like, “I'm back, baby!” Maybe a little gray in the hair. I'm ready for my forties. I think it's going to be a great time. I'm really not scared of it. I think we’re always clinging to maybe feeling younger, but I don't think I'm that. I'm not that scared of aging. But I also really am enjoying my twenties. I'm going to grow into myself. I just want to be a really happy forty year old—that's my goal.
V: Amen. Shifting gears again to your other film out this month, Pig, in which you star alongside Nicolas Cage. You’ve called him one of your biggest artistic inspirations before and now I understand you’ve become quite close friends.
AW: Nick is just magical. He is just as unpredictable and hilarious and genius and heartfelt as you feel from his work, you feel that as a friend. He's been such a dear friend of mine and someone who has always been there if I fall. I loved him as an acting scene partner and I love him as a friend.
V: And as a younger actor of the next generation of Hollywood, did he help you with your craft?
AW: Yeah, that’s it—he takes me under his wing. He's a guy that I talk to constantly and he really helps me to the point where I feel bad because I'll call him when I have a lot of questions. He is the best guy to talk to about that stuff. He’s the dream of what you'd want as a young actor. Really, the only people I could say that about are Nick [Cage] and Night. They're two similarly huge personalities and they loom large in people's minds because of the work they've done but they also live up to their potential as people.
V: Obviously, you’re a multi-hyphenate talent: you act, write, direct, make music. Do you find that one form of artistic expression influences the other?
AW: Yeah, I would say they all really enhance each other. It’s like there are two parts of my brain—the “music” part, then the “movies” part. When I'm doing music, I really try to do the music. I started as a musician and I take it very seriously, but I do feel that it informs my writing a lot. Writing helps my acting because when writing, I play a lot of characters in my mind. Writing comes from pure imagination. I start creating these images in my mind that don't exist and that’s really good for acting because sometimes I’m doing a whole scene where I have to talk to a piece of tape that ends up being an alien or whatever is in the movie. If I have that imagination bug going, I automatically am a little better at other times of using my imagination.
V: This has been a very busy year for you, you have so much on the horizon.
AW: I have two films releasing in July and I have a few other movies that I'm starting—it's going to be a chaotic fall and winter because it’s going to be one after the other. Then I'm directing a movie with a fantastic, amazing actress and that is all I can say. And then I made an album with my brother so that's going to be coming out soon, too.
V: You are definitely keeping busy.
AW: Yes, funny because it doesn't totally feel like that. It feels like I have so many days of just boredom where I’m like “I probably shouldn’t watch my fourth Eric Rohmer movie today.” But then the next day, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. So I don’t feel too bad about it. Usually, I end up doing more when I don't put pressure on myself to do more.
Moncler's latest Los Angeles flagship at 340 N. Rodeo Drive opens on July 24th.
MAKE UP: CEDRIC JOLIVET (THE WALL GROUP)
HAIR: PETER GREY (HOME AGENCY)
PRODUCTION: JOERI ROUFFA (DOMEN & VAN DE VELDE)
ON-SET PRODUCER: PAUL TURNER
STYLIST ASSISTANTS: MARTA DEL RIO, HUNTER CLEM
MAKEUP ASSISTANT: JESSICA AHN
LOCATION: DUST STUDIOS