By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Nat Wolff is only 20, but he is already a show business veteran. Millennials may remember him as one of the stars of Nickelodeon’s “The Naked Brothers Band,” which ran from 2007-2009. The son of a jazz pianist father (Michael Wolff) and actress mother (Polly Draper), Nat and his older brother Alex inherited their parents’ entertainment genes.
The native Angeleno now stars in the teen romantic dramedy “Paper Towns,” opposite supermodel Cara Delevingne. Set in the Sunshine State, the young stars play lifelong friends who have lived next door to each other for as long as they can remember. When daring Margo (Delevingne) recruits him in a scheme to exact revenge against someone, Quentin, a.k.a. Q (Wolff) enthusiastically joins her. Later, when she turns up missing, it’s up to Q to follow the clues to uncover the mystery of what happened.
The boyish-looking actor/musician recently spoke about tackling this movie project—his second in which he plays a character from a John Green book. He previously had a supporting role in the big screen adaptation of Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.” The mystery is directed by Jake Schreier (“Robot & Frank”) and adapted for the screen by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber ( who also adapted “Fault in Our Stars”).
Q: This is your first leading role, right?
Wolff: Yeah. It’s definitely the movie that from the beginning I was involved in, even before there was a script and a director and everybody treated me like a creative partner. Sometimes, as an actor, you feel like a hired gun and, on this, I really felt like part of the team.
Q: So John Green and you found each other on “The Fault in Our Stars”?
Wolff: Yeah. John has a joke that when his wife’s around she feels like she is the third wheel with John and me. I think that John should just come on all the sets that I’m working on and just sit there and be the producer and every time he’s got an adaptation I’d be honored to come and do craft service.
Q: How was working with Cara?
Wolff: Cara was great. She came in for the chemistry read because I’d been involved with the movie before she was involved, and I was the only person in the world who hadn’t heard of her. She walked in and I did a double take and said, “I think you were outside my apartment on a billboard.” Right outside my apartment across the street was this big billboard of Cara and Kate Moss that I used to walk my dog past. I was like, “I think I walked my dog past you a thousand times.” She walked in and she was basically Margo. She’s such a natural actor.
Q: John (Green, the novelist and executive producer) was saying that she likes to touch his ears. Did she do anything like that to you?
Wolff: She liked to check if I had any boogers in my nose every single day. She would look up into my nose right before a take. One time when we were sitting across from each other, she was on camera and I see her eyes go like this (looking over his shoulder) and she said, “Is that a water slide?” She points. We were outside and she saw a water slide to the right. At lunch, she ended up going and buying eight tickets for the water slide. The whole cast and director went to the water slide on our day off.
Q: Did Cara pull any pranks on set? What was she like to be around? Fun?
Wolff: Yeah. We honestly had so much fun. At the end of the movie me, Austin (Abrams) Cara, Halston (Sage) and Justice (Smith) all started crying. It was really a magical experience and one of those things where doing this movie was a little bit like going in a time machine and going back in time for me playing this character. I didn’t want it to end.
Q: Do you see any similarities between Cara and Shailene Woodley, who you worked with in “Fault in Our Stars?”
Wolff: That’s interesting. I guess they are both strong and interesting women and they’re both in John Green adaptations. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head except I really do love them both and they’re both good friends of mine and both talented.
Q: In the movie you say, “Everyone gets his miracle”. What’s your miracle?
Wolff: I’ve had so many. I’m so lucky. I guess, right now, my miracle is “Paper Towns,” that I was included in this great world and John Green for writing this good book.
Q: Why did you want to be an actor when you were a kid?
Wolff: My parents’ friends were cool artists and musicians and painters and I thought that’s what people did. I was really obsessed with the Beatles and my parents had a bunch of Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman movies. I used to go watch them when everybody was asleep because I was too young to watch these R-rated movies. Then I got to be in a couple of plays. In my second play, I got to see my first live naked woman. That was the best. Then I just kept doing plays and I’ve been obsessive about acting ever since.
Q: Some people have likened you to a young Dustin Hoffman.
Wolff: He’s one of my favorites. I was 11 or 12 when I first started liking him. I won an acting contest and got to go have an acting lesson with him when I was in eighth grade. It was so cool. I spent like an hour with him and did a scene from “Ordinary People,” and, at the end of it, he was like, “You’re a real actor, kid.” About four years later, I went to a film festival and he was coming out of an elevator and I said, “I don’t know if you remember me but I had an acting lesson with you and you said I was a real actor. Now I’m here with a real movie.” He said, “Well, I’m going to charge you more next time.”
Q: You’re also an accomplished musician. You’ve done a lot at such a young age.
Wolff: Thanks. I hate to be bored. I have a lot of crazy energy and I like to put it into music or acting. Cara also has a crazy appetite for life as well.
Q: Do you have anything in common with your character?
Wolff: I had more in common with Quentin when I was in seventh or eighth grade than I did at the end of high school. Because I grew up in New York and was an actor/musician, I grew up a little faster than (my character) did. But, when I was in eighth grade, I kind of was that kid. I used to play it safer. I had to learn to be more courageous and I think that’s the journey of Quentin.
Q: In this movie as well as in “The Fault in Our Stars,” nobody is on their phone or texting as kids do in real life. Does that seem normal to you?
Wolff: Yeah, I think a lot of people who’ve seen “Paper Towns” feel nostalgic for their high school years. I think the best movies about young people are not too specific to the time where it’s not relatable but also doesn’t feel dated. (You wouldn’t say) “Kids don’t talk like that anymore.” It was like all of us did get in a time machine and stayed back there a couple of months. Then, when I came home, it was like I was coming out of a fog. I felt like an alien when I got home.
Q: Do you think of yourself as a romantic guy? Would you go all over the world trying to find a woman?
Wolff: I feel that one of things I can connect to is my passion to be the best kind of artist that I can be. That is almost like my Margo (Cara’s character). It’s always something this is just this much ahead of me and I can’t really touch but it’s always leading me.
Q: What’s next?
Wolff: I’m in this movie called “In Dubious Battle,” where I got to play this guy leading a strike with James Franco, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris and Vincent D’Onofrio. I got to jump on a table and be like (yelling) “Strike! Strike!” So, that was super fun. But I got home one day from work and I’d been beating this guy up all day and there was a girl in the movie and we were getting out of a van and these drunk crack guys were harassing the girl and I was like, “You guys! Back off!” in the accent that I had for the movie. Sometimes I get a little too lost in it.
Q: Are you going to do more music?
Wolff: Yeah, I’ve been doing music all summer with my brother. We have an EP coming out and we’re going to play some shows on the “Paper Towns” tour.