Alex Wolff and I are in a battle of badinage. He wastes no time teasing me for mistaking his brother, Nat Wolff, for his twin (who is, in fact, three years older than him, for the record), and reprimanding me for my lack of knowledge in the world of Looney Tunes. As my cartoon expertise puts me at a disadvantage, I wonder if Wolff himself has ever starred in one. “I was in one but my part actually got cut out — but we won't get into that,” he responds. The playing field has levelled. You could say we are sparring like siblings, connecting over Zoom from different timezones on a Sunday afternoon. “Or twins,” Wolff quips, having the last laugh.
“I think my sense of humour is a lot more biting and satirical than the average individual,” he claims — though our previous exchange proves as much. It’s the very sentiment that prompted Wolff to pen “If I’m Gonna Die” – the latest track released from his upcoming studio album, Table For Two – while he was “in and out of hospital dealing with a health thing.” It’s also why, in his words, the majority of acting projects he has taken on thus far have been “pretty dark.”
One of those projects that teetered to the dark side was Hereditary, a title that scored Wolff a CinEuphoria Award for Best Supporting Actor. “I was really lucky to be in that,” he reflects upon learning it’s also my favourite film of all time. “A lot of people say that it’s really affected them and either ruined their lives or helped them to come to some kind of conclusion about their own family. It represented some really bleak, sometimes un-mined, trauma that was within a lot of families, especially in America. Ari Aster [the director] really knows people in that way, he knows how to get that kind of end — it almost feels misanthropic but in a charming, thrilling way.” Wolff adopted a similar mindset with his own directorial debut, The Cat and the Moon. Balancing the pockets of life that are both delicate and daunting, the feature allowed reflections of society to emerge incidentally — in turn creating a body of work that “means a lot” to Wolff.
As we (figuratively) walk further down memory lane, Wolff ponders for a moment. “I’m in a weird position where I feel like some of the world already know who I was and what I was, at least on camera.” Plastering screens at eight years old was considered the norm for him, who remained “pretty un-self-conscious at the time.” He continues, “I didn’t think about it very much, so people probably got more of me than I was prepared for at the time.” Now, all grown up, there’s one thing in particular that people want to know about him. “I spoke over Zoom with a class in Savannah, Georgia. One thing that came up was, ‘How do you not be nervous?’” So, what’s the magic answer? “Only in the past few years have I been able to ease that first feeling of, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.’ It used to take over my whole being before. Now I just arm myself with an obscene amount of research. I think in terms of your own confidence, it’s good to do a lot of research.”
Wolff found himself putting this into practice in the latter half of last year, slipping on the “Be Kind” etched beanie of Jesse, the lead beside Kiersey Clemons of Sophie Kargman’s upcoming thriller, Susie Searches — coming to the UK on June 30th. Finding himself kidnapped by a masked assailant, Wolff’s character is propelled into the public eye – even more than usual – as he digests the trauma of the ordeal. Afraid to give away too many spoilers, the actor imparts, “I loved that movie. People will always be split with how they feel about it because it is so bold and takes a lot of risks, but we signed onto it knowing that.”
“Jesse is honestly one of the few people who totally owns who he is. He’s not very bright, but he’s just so open and warm. It made me rethink this feeling where I used to be a little dismissive of influencers or social media figures,” he continues. Arming himself with an abundance of research, Wolff analysed the character of Austyn Tester of Prime Video’s Jawline to transform into Jesse, who the actor claims, “He made me a better person by playing him for like a month… Then I went straight back to the gallows.”
The gallows might be a bit of a stretch, given the magnitude of his next project — Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated Oppenheimer. “I can tell you I was an actor and I acted in it,” Wolff enlightens me, press game strong as ever. “Seriously though, that’s one of my top projects. I love Susie Searches, but Oppenheimer’s one of the best experiences I’ve had, it was so surreal. Working with Christopher Nolan is inane. He makes you feel like you can do anything. He’ll tell you if he doesn’t like something but he also gives you so much freedom — he just really likes his actors.” Though Wolff keeps his involvement in the project embargoed (for now), he reveals, “I haven’t seen the film yet, but I know no matter how many seconds I’m in it, [Cillian Murphy] is going to blow everyone away and I think it’s going to be one of Nolan’s best movies.”
Wolff has no issue talking about his current project, however, which he has been filming for the past two months in Hydra, Greece. “I’m here filming So Long, Marianne and it’s probably been the best working experience I’ve had. Øystein Karlsen, the director and Thea Sofie Loch Næss, the actress, are just the greatest. It's been unbelievable but hardcore, it’s been long, long days with a lot of stuff going on,” he offers, pulling up the sleeves of his hoodie. The long days are somewhat remedied by playing Leonard Cohen, who Wolff claims is "closer to him than most people that [he has] met in real life.” Perks of the job, you could say.
“I think if you commit your life to one thing, you have to love that thing a lot because you do it so much of the time. If you’re acting, at least in my opinion, it certainly costs something… You feel at the very least exhausted after you put yourself out there. At the very worst, you feel in complete shambles.” Contemplating the troughs of his chosen profession, he pauses. “But then you have those moments where you think, ‘What other job could offer you these kinds of experiences?’” True, the pendulum of life as an actor never swings still, but it bears no match for Wolff: actor, filmmaker and – here comes the trifecta – musician.
“Then if you devote your life to two things, music and acting, then you have even less downtime. But just like those moments you get on a job that makes acting worth it, I feel the same way with music — me and my brother get to bond and get closer on a deeper level than most people will ever get to know each other.” First incepted in 2009, Nat & Alex Wolff have since become a Billboard-charting name accumulating over 10 million streams on Spotify alone. Now, seven years since their ELP, “Public Places”, made its debut, the Alternative/Indie outfit are gearing up for the release of their first studio album in 12 years, Table For Two, due mid-June. “Nat and I have continuously made music since we were young,” Wolff begins. “But with this album, we really felt like we had a lot to say. It made us totally spontaneous. We were in LA at the same time and just went for it and had a blast. It was so fulfilling.” So… What did Wolff and his brother have to say?
“My dad and I were talking about it and he said, ‘You lifted the cover off of the two of you and it's it's really raw.’ And I think I didn't realise how raw it was until I hear through other people, when they almost feel like they're peeking inside of us and looking at parts of us that they haven't seen. So I think, if anything, it's just really vulnerable. It’s more vulnerable than anything we've made before.” Exposing himself to the public has become second nature to Wolff and his brother, which he explains “was always done on [their] terms since [they] were kids.” Trusting their instinct to curate the 15 tracks of Table For Two, the duo spent 11 days “breaking” the stories of their brainstems — creating their most spontaneous body of work to date. “I think it’s harder when you start to be an adult to address the raw stuff,” he digresses. “I’ve always felt like our music was really raw, but I think as we’re now older, the things we’re tackling are a little more weighty — so there are more risks to take with how raw you want to be.”
With his roster of tracks and on-screen projects so far, to call Wolff a risk-taker would be an understatement. Looking ahead of what’s to come – his quick tongue and satirical demeanour in tow – he promises to continue as he has always done: “It's a year of getting to go deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper. I’m excited,” he signs off, smiling.
*This feature was finalised prior to the commencement of the SAG strike.*
Photography by Ben Rayner
Fashion by Jamie Ortega
Words by Ella West
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton
Editor Ella West
Art Director Harry Fitzgerald
Production Director Ben Crank
Producer Isabella Coleman
Production Intern Lola Randall
Grooming by Jessica Ortizat Kalpana
Fashion Assistant Serena Orlando
Special thanks to Penny Williamsburg