Alex Wolff took the dare for ‘Hered­i­tary’

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - PEOPLE & ARTS - By Hugh Hart Los An­ge­les Times

LOS AN­GE­LES — Alex Wolff slides into a booth at his fa­vorite Stu­dio City deli, sets down his black­framed glasses and within min­utes ca­su­ally quotes Ir­ish poet Wil­liam But­ler Yeats, whose “Cat and the Moon” pro­vides the ti­tle for the 20-year-old ac­tor’s re­cently wrapped di­rec­to­rial de­but. He’s not your typ­i­cal Val­ley dude.

Wolff grew up in New York City. At age 6, he starred with his brother Nat in the Nick­elodeon se­ries “The Naked Brothers Band,” cre­ated by their ac­tress mom Polly Draper and fea­tur­ing songs writ­ten by the two boys. More re­cently, he por­trayed Bos­ton bomber Dzhokhar Tsar­naev in the Mark Wahlberg film “Pa­triot’s Day” and a se­rial killer’s high school mate in “My Friend Dah­mer.”

Tak­ing a break in LA be­fore re­turn­ing east to fin­ish “Bad Ed­u­ca­tion” op­po­site Hugh Jack­man, the bi­coastal Wolff cheer­fully re­vis­ited the mak­ing of writer-di­rec­tor Ari Aster’s angst-rid­den hor­ror film “Hered­i­tary.” In the sum­mer re­lease, Wolff played tor­mented teenager Peter, mired in a su­per­nat­u­rally charged fam­ily tragedy in­volv­ing his fe­ro­ciously un­for­giv­ing mother (Toni Col­lette), griev­ing fa­ther (Gabriel Byrne) and pe­cu­liar sis­ter (Milly Shapiro). The fol­low­ing is an edited tran­script.

Q: What was it like read­ing the “Hered­i­tary” script for the first time?

A: The first 10 to 15 pages I’m think­ing, “This script is well-writ­ten, I love the way the char­ac­ters are — Oh, my God, what the … is go­ing on!” Be­cause you don’t see it com­ing, at all. I re­mem­ber at the end, when all that crazy is go­ing down, my mom walked into my room and I shrieked out loud be­cause I was so over­taken by the in­ten­sity of the script.

Q: Toni Col­lette plays your mother An­nie with such fright­en­ing in­ten­sity, es­pe­cially when she’s scream­ing at you. How did that feel?

A: It was a blast. The whole movie is a game of chicken where she’s dar­ing me to ex­plode, both of us are dar­ing each other, like in the din­ner scene where I go, “Is there some­thing you want to say, Mom?” And through­out, Ari’s ba­si­cally go­ing “OK, ex­plode. OK, ex­plode. Tear your­self open and I’ll fig­ure it out later.” That can be scary un­less you’re ready to throw out your san­ity. But it’s also re­ally fun.

Q: So how did you re­search the oc­cult as­pects of the story?

A: I saw a doc­u­men­tary about this girl who’d been kid­napped by a satanic cult and watched this woman talk­ing about how Pai­mon (a king of the un­der­world) was like a mis­chievous, ner­vous teenager. It fit in per­fectly with what fam­ily means, what anx­i­ety means, what tragedy means.

Q: What was your per­sonal en­try point for telling the “Hered­i­tary” story?

A: I think what makes “Hered­i­tary” sing is sad­ness, even more than the scary (stuff ). To me, it’s about a boy who wants his mom to love him af­ter he messes up, but there’s a faulty screw in the re­la­tion­ship. That’s what makes it so heart­break­ing.

“I think what makes ‘Hered­i­tary’ sing is sad­ness.” — Ac­tor Alex Wolff

KATIE FALKENBERG/LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

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