To say Nat Wolff is having a breakout year would be an understatement. The 20-year-old actor is Hollywood's perpetual everyboy.
In the last year, Wolff starred in the coming-of-age film "Paper Towns," a big screen adaptation of John Green's best-selling novel. He played Q, an awkward teen who just wanted to be noticed by the school's enigmatic It Girl Margo Roth Spiegelman, played by the alluring Cara Delevingne. In his latest feature "Ashby," Wolff plays an awkward teen coming of age with the help of his terminally ill neighbor, played by one of Wolff's idols, Mickey Rourke. Notice a pattern here?
"I did say to my brother recently, 'you know, I've done a couple of movies where I'm coming of age. I think it's time I got to do some where I'm just of age,'" Wolff told MTV News while promoting "Ashby" in New York City.
With his effortless cool demeanor and goofy grin, it's easy to see why Wolff is the poster boy for coming of age to the resonant score of your fave indie rock bands. We chatted with the actor about his own high school experience, why he's terrified of driving, and the role he's dying to play in Green's next film, "Looking For Alaska."
MTV News: You've played a lot of teen characters coming of age in suburbia. In "Ashby," you even join the football team. Are you trying to make up for your New York City upbringing?
Nat Wolff: [Laughs] Some of the things, like riding a bike to school and playing football -- I never played football growing up. I showed up three weeks early because I didn't want to look like an idiot in the movie. It's not one of those movies where we could fake it, such a low budget movie, and in the beginning the reaction from the actual team and the coaches was sort of the like the reaction in the movie. They just laughed at me. And then after three weeks [of training], the coach said to me, "You know, if you tried out I'd put you on the team."
MTV: That's pretty vindicating!
Wolff: Yeah. But I still haven't done a movie where I'm in like -- have I done a movie where I'm in college? I don't think so. In "The Intern," I'm a young adult. I skipped college, I guess. I'm either 16 or 26.
MTV: You've played a lot of teens this past year. Do you want to take on older roles? And are those young 20-something roles available in Hollywood?
Wolff: That's an interesting question. I feel like I haven't really spent much time thinking about the ages of my characters, or what that means for me. I know different actors who are and they're like, "I don’t want to play high schoolers anymore." I guess I don't feel that way. I just want to play characters who are really good. I don't want to play the same character, you know what I mean? I did say to my brother recently, "you know, I've done a couple of movies where I'm coming of age. I think it's time I got to do some where I'm just of age."
MTV: You're very good at playing the outsider. Ed in "Ashby," Q in "Paper Towns," and my personal favorite, Fred in "Palo Alto."
Wolff: That was fun! That was a character that I was not in high school. When I showed up to the meeting with Gia Coppola, I said, "I don’t think I can play this role, and I don’t think this is me." And she goes, "That’s why I want you to do it." And that was the most fun I've ever had doing a movie because that was exploring a whole part of myself that was in there but had to be cracked open a little bit. I think I try and suppress that absolute insane person.
MTV: What was your own high school experience like?
Wolff: In comparison to the movies I've been in? My experience in high school was really great. My experience in middle school was absolutely miserable. I just self-alienated myself, and I was really self-conscious and depressed. That is, a lot of times, what I will draw on to play these characters because my high school experience was pretty great.
MTV: You were on Nickelodeon's "The Naked Brothers Band" around that time. Why did you feel so alienated in middle school?
Wolff: It was a weird time because people knew me, and I was uncomfortable with that. In high school, it was nice because I grew really tall, and I looked totally different and no one knew who I was anymore -- and I got to, for all of high school, be anonymous. I got to just have a regular high school experience and just focus on stuff I liked. That's when I spent a lot of time in acting class and getting better as a musician. Now when people know me, I'm much more comfortable with it, and I like it.
MTV: In "Ashby," you spend pretty much every scene acting opposite Mickey Rourke. He's one of your heroes. When you got the script and saw that he was attached to it, was it an automatic yes?
Wolff: When I read the script, I could totally see him as that character. There's just something otherworldly about him and something decent about him. In all of his performances there's always something... you never really know what he's gonna do -- if he's gonna kiss you or kill you. In this movie, he's probably gonna kill you.
MTV: Or punch you. You don't have a great track record in on-screen fights. I'm thinking of "Stuck in Love."
Wolff: That was another movie where in my one fight scene, I actually got punched in the face by Patrick Schwarzenegger in the first take. We were just too into it, and he swung and I got hit in the face and snot came out of my nose. I fell on the ground, and he was like, "Are you okay?" I was like, "Just keep going." Meanwhile, I'm concussed.
But I was panicked in "Ashby." I was going to get punched in the face by Mickey accidentally and Mickey is a boxer, he knows exactly what he's doing. He was like, "You should be way more worried about you hitting me because you have no idea what you're doing."
MTV: You spend a lot of time in a car with Rourke in this film. You've also played a lot of getaway men this year.
Wolff: For someone who doesn’t have a f--king license, yeah. Now I have a license because of "Paper Towns," but I didn’t in "Ashby." I drove the entire film without a license. It was very illegal and unsafe. I lied to the production.
MTV: Do you ever feel like you know how to drive because you watch other people, especially in movies, do it? I don't have a license [Wolff leans over the table to give me a high-five], but when I watch the "Fast & Furious" movies, I feel like I could do that.
Wolff: You mean you could just jump out of a moving car and catch a girl mid-air? Well, I kinda thought the same thing from those race car games at the movie theater. I was always killing it in those, but it was because I would knock people over. I only realized this because on the real road, within three days of having a car, I got pulled over twice and got two tickets. I was nervous. I'm not a speed demon. I try too hard to be a good driver, and I'm just awful. It's also just the ADD space cadet in me.
MTV: Have you driven in New York City? That seems scary.
Wolff: Yeah, it's terrifying. That might actually be more terrifying. I only drove there one day and I was like, I don’t think I can do this. I had heart palpitations.
MTV: You and Emma Roberts have great chemistry in this movie. It's such a different role for her. We're used to seeing her in "American Horror Story" and "Scream Queens," as these really Queen Bee, bitchy characters.
Wolff: I'm a huge fan of her work. She's going to kill me for saying this, but I haven’t seen "American Horror Story." I can't wait to watch "Scream Queens." I see the posters everywhere. She looks so pretty. It's funny because she's such a sweetheart. I knew her when I was 11, when we were both on Nickelodeon shows, and we would do these promos together. I didn't see her for a bunch of years, and then on "Palo Alto," we became good friends again, but I was so mean to her in that movie. Now, I finally get to do a movie where we get to be nice to each other.
MTV: I know you and John Green are really close friends. He can't stop talking about how much he misses you. Is the feeling mutual?
Wolff: He called me the other day. I got this long voicemail from him, and I looked at it, and I saw it was three minutes long and I was like, did someone die? A three minute voicemail means someone probably died. He's like an old man, so I assumed the worst. But he called me to say, "I'll always have a spot for you in my solar plexus from laughing so hard on the 'Paper Towns' tour. I just don't like people, and I really like you man." It was so sweet. We did something in Indianapolis, and we got to go to his house and hang out with his family. I just love that guy. He's just a really good solid guy.
MTV: Now that he's taking a social media hiatus...
Wolff: Wait, he's taking a social media hiatus? I think that is a great idea because that guy is on social media more than anybody I've ever met in my entire life. I can't, like, I'm on a plane, and I wake up and he's filming me.
MTV: He's taking some time off to work on his new book. Because you're in the John Green squad, does this mean you get a first look at the manuscript?
Wolff: There better be a part for me! Better be writing me a part, better be a frat guy in his 20s. Ryan Murphy's gonna produce it.
MTV: Finally! You get to play a 20-year-old! Well, there might another 20-something role for you in "Looking For Alaska." Seeing Ansel Elgort pop up in "Paper Towns" was such a cool surprise. Would you be hoping to do something similar in "Alaska?"
Wolff: I could, or I could just play Alaska. They haven’t found the girl. I could break the hearts of a lot of actresses out there and take it. They were freaking out enough when I was not blonde and I was playing Isaac, so I think they're gonna freak pretty hard when I'm playing Alaska. But you can report that, I will be playing Alaska.
MTV: Finally, we need to talk about Twitter. Your brother Alex is really killing it, lately. You need to up your social media game, man.
Wolff: When it's not signed Alex, it's me, but it's very rare. There has been a lot of comments about that. He originally started signing his name, and then we came up with this a long time ago, where I don't do it. There's a lot of reasons my brother has to resent me, and I think that's number one. But he takes all my clothes, steals all my clothes. Like, I go away to do a movie, and I come back and my closet is empty. Where did all my clothes go? And my dad's like, "He built a tunnel from his closet to your closet." So that's why I don't have to sign my name on Twitter.