At just 20 years old, actor Alex Wolff has achieved more than many people in the movie industry twice his age.
After beginning his career in 2005 alongside his brother, Nat, in Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band, Wolff has since starred in more than a dozen motion pictures, including 2016’s Patriot’s Day, 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and this year’s horrifying family drama, Hereditary.
Wolff’s latest effort, Stella’s Last Weekend (which has its West Coast premiere on Oct. 12 at the San Diego International Film Festival, opens in limited release the same day and arrives on streaming services Oct. 23), has him reuniting with his brother on-screen in a movie also starring and directed by their mother, actress and filmmaker, Polly Draper. The film is one of the many reasons Wolff will be honored with the coveted Auteur Award during the festival’s Oct. 11 Night of the Stars Tribute.
In addition to his SDIFF accolades, the young Wolff will unveil in 2019 The Cat and the Moon, a movie he not only stars in but which he also wrote and directed.
Ahead of his arrival in San Diego to accept this award, Wolff found time to speak with PACIFIC about his recent efforts and which artists inspire him.
PACIFIC: Congrats on being honored with the SDIFF’s Auteur Award. What does that kind of recognition mean to you?
ALEX WOLFF: It’s really exciting. I shouldn’t be getting any awards for my accomplishments yet; I feel like I’m still at the beginning stages. So it’s exciting and encouraging to get a stamp of “keep going.” That’s just the coolest thing in the world; to feel like I actually have a body of work already is just surreal and exhilarating.
In Stella’s Last Weekend you star alongside your brother and your mother, who also directed the movie. What was it like to all work together again after all these years?
It was completely different because I was like 6 when I first started, and now I’m 20. So in 14 years, I think we’ve all built different methods of working separate from each other. The only thing that’s similar is we’re all listening to each other and all respecting each other. It still doesn’t feel totally like a job, but it also doesn’t feel like goofing around or just family time. I think it was a great thing for our family to all be working toward a certain goal. It really brings our family together. I think all families should bond together to do creative projects because it can be really amazing for the family dynamic. I think as kids we didn’t quite understand the value of that quite as much.
How would you describe your directorial debut, The Cat & The Moon?
It’s about a young, troubled teenager who’s coming in from Detroit. His father has passed away, and his mom is checking into a rehab facility. … It’s a character study about this young man grappling with his life at the time, which was a little turbulent and unstable.
What was the most challenging aspect of starring in a film that you’re also directing?
I think the most challenging aspect of every film is acting. Acting is almost an impossible feat. You have to be so vulnerable and so bare, and I think that’s always difficult. Much more difficult than directing. There’s obviously the directing struggles — the locations, and all that stuff, but I found post (editing) to be very difficult. I’m still wrapping it up, but I found it to be much more difficult than anything else, except for maybe raising the money.
How did you prepare for your rollercoaster of a role as Peter in Hereditary?
I just kind of f***ing winged it. No, I’m just kidding. I found it to be really exhilarating, the whole process. It was really liberating for me as an actor — to be able to be in situations where the stakes are so high; it forces you to go into places in yourself that maybe you wouldn’t have other opportunities to go into. I found that the preparation process was really just listening to all the music that this kid would be listening to, or, more than that, listening to the music that was going to end up being in the movie. The Colin Stetson music really gave me the vibe of the movie, and I felt that the whole thing was just one big adrenaline rush, almost like one gasp.
Do you have any dream roles you’d love to play one day?
I think everyone’s dream role is Holden Caulfield. I’d also love to play Biff in Death of a Salesman or play Edmund in King Lear.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations as a director?
The Dardenne brothers are a huge influence for me. Without sounding pretentious, they are my main inspirations. Milos Forman is one of my favorites, and obviously Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet, and Paul Thomas Anderson. Those are probably like the base guys. And there’s a million other modern directors that I love like Lynne Ramsay and Derek Cianfrance.
You Were Never Really Here is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. That movie is absolutely f***ing astounding.
Stella’s Last Weekend arrives in select theaters on Oct. 12 and on major VOD services starting Oct. 23. Wolff’s directorial debut, The Cat & the Moon is scheduled for release in 2019.
The WolffPack (Alex and brother Nat share social media accounts @natandalex.)
San Diego International Film Festival
When: Oct. 10-14
Where: Various locations around San Diego/La Jolla