HEAT VISION

'The Turning' Star Finn Wolfhard on 'Ghostbusters' Humor and 'Stranger Things 4'

The actor teases his upcoming Netflix season and the revitalized sci-fi comedy movie franchise: "Every scene has comedy in it."
Finn Wolfhard   |   Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
The actor teases his upcoming Netflix season and the revitalized sci-fi comedy movie franchise: "Every scene has comedy in it."

Much like his Ghostbusters character, Finn Wolfhard enjoys discovering relics of the past. Whether it’s recording a song for The Turning soundtrack with a bass guitar that belonged to Nirvana or eagerly starting the Ecto-1’s Corvette engine, the recently turned 17-year-old is keen on understanding the nostalgia that drives many of his works. Wolfhard even reveled in a steady diet of classic ‘70s cinema during his recent holiday break in Vancouver.

Wolfhard is already anticipating July’s release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a direct sequel to 1984’s classic supernatural comedy, Ghostbusters, as well as the divisive Ghostbusters II. Despite a modern-day story set in Oklahoma, Wolfhard insists that Afterlife has the DNA of the original films.

“The trailer only showed some of it, but it’s a Ghostbusters movie. So it’s a really funny film,” Wolfhard tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Every scene has comedy in it. I’m excited for people to see more of the humor in the movie.”

Wolfhard is also prepping for Stranger Things 4, which begins shooting in a matter of weeks.

“We start really soon — in a month or two. We just got some of the scripts,” Wolfhard explains. “Up until a few days ago, we really had no idea what was going on this season. I’m really excited for it. It’s a really crazy season.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Wolfhard also discusses shooting The Turning in Ireland, getting behind the wheel of Ecto-1 and recording a song for The Turning soundtrack with a piece of rock 'n' roll history.

Finn, how were your holidays?

They were great. I was back home in Vancouver, and I did nothing. It was amazing. I watched a bunch of movies and just hung out. I saw Being There for the first time, and that blew my mind. For my birthday and Christmas, my dad bought me John Cassavetes: Five Films on The Criterion Collection. So, I watched a bunch of those, and they blew my mind as well. I also saw Parasite and all the Oscar movies I hadn’t seen yet. I like movies. (Laughs.)

You’re gearing up for Stranger Things 4 right now, right?

Yeah! We start really soon — in a month or two. We just got some of the scripts, which I haven’t read yet. Up until a few days ago, we really had no idea what was going on this season. When journalists ask me, “What can you tell me about Stranger Things?” I generally don’t have an answer for people up until a week before we start shooting. The Duffers are so elusive with it. It’s calculated. They calculate the time of when to give us the scripts because they also write the show as we shoot. So it’s all kind of up in the air. But, yeah, we’re gearing up to go, and I’m really excited for it. It’s a really crazy season.

Moving to The Turning, the audience is supposed to actively dislike your character, Miles, because he torments Mackenzie Davis’ character, Kate. Since your characters are usually quite likeable, did you enjoy playing someone that you knew the audience would despise for a change?

That’s one of the reasons why I did it. I thought it would be interesting to do something that wasn’t the same as all the other characters I’ve done before — not that they were the same at all. But, in the way of likability, I feel like I’ve played some likable characters, and I wanted to play a really weird character. Miles is really, really weird. He’s also ultra-sensitive and completely ADHD. In some scenes, he’s a scared kid, but in others, he’s completely sexist. He’s basically had no father figure except for this one guy Quint (Niall Greig Fulton), the family’s riding instructor, and he’s the worst influence on him. The one person that he had to teach him stuff did not teach him the right things. So you don’t really know if he’s affected supernaturally, or if he’s just a really weird kid or if Mackenzie’s character, Kate, is imagining it all.

You shot the film in early 2018 before going to Albuquerque for The Goldfinch. When you see footage from it, does it pull you back into your headspace at the time and remind of what you were thinking and feeling?

Absolutely. Because we were mostly in one location in Ireland for so long, it felt weird to watch that all. “Oh, this was the day we were in the forest riding horses for the whole entire day...” It definitely brings memories back of being there — a lot of isolating memories — but a lot of amazing memories, too. I learned so much from Mackenzie about acting, life in general and just being a better scene partner. From Brooklynn (Prince), who plays my little sister, I learned about being a free spirit. I also remember getting snowed in at our hotel for four days, and we couldn’t leave. I’m not complaining, but it was definitely a weird time. We were staying at this big hotel that was an hour and fifteen minutes south of Dublin, and it’s at the top of this hill. It hadn’t snowed like that in forty years. There was a huge blizzard, and cars couldn’t get up and down the street. So, we basically stayed in the hotel for four days, and that really helped the movie since it’s about isolation and going stir crazy. It was really fun.

Compared to more common shooting locations like Atlanta, what else did you enjoy about shooting in Ireland?

Another thing that I really loved about shooting in Ireland was the crew. The crew is so incredible, and they were all local crew who were so good at what they did. They really cared for each person on set, and they understood that it was a collaborative experience. They refused to let one domino fall... All the PAs and ADs were just incredible. 

Is that countryside estate one of the nicest locations you’ve ever filmed at?

It’s definitely the nicest. That was the thing that struck us when we first got there for the tour at the very beginning. It was almost out of a storybook. It’s huge. The maze in the movie is actually there. We only had to travel once to film the pool scene, which wasn’t actually at the house, but everything else was. It’s definitely the most beautiful location I’ve shot in.

Were the interior shots filmed on a soundstage, or was that the actual interior of the house?

That’s the inside of the house. We never shot on a soundstage. It’s pretty amazing.

Is it true that Steven Spielberg was on set for a bit since the film is a passion project for him and his company?

Not when I was there. Other people have said this, too, so I don’t know if it’s true or not. But, I never saw him. Maybe, he flew in for a day when I wasn’t shooting, but he was involved. He gave notes on the script, and I know he really likes the movie. So, he was involved, but I didn’t get to see him. If he was around, that’s really cool. [Writer’s Note: Director Floria Sigismondi clarified to THR directly that Spielberg, while supportive, never visited the Ireland set despite a local report.]

Have you met him yet?

Technically, I saw him in Los Angeles when I was like 6 or 7 years old. He was walking with his daughters, and my dad said, “Oh, that’s Steven Spielberg.” So, I kind of ran up behind him, and this was right after Munich when a lot of weird things were going on, politically. I think Spielberg was getting a lot of criticism at the time. So, I sprinted up behind him, probably scaring him a bit. So he turned around, saw me and then I ran away. So, technically I’ve seen him before, but we haven’t officially met.

The Turning is creepy in a way that’s completely unique from It or Stranger Things. Since we’ve previously talked about how you can feel a difference when filming the scary moments of It and Stranger Things, could you also feel the difference on this film?

Oh, yeah. The scary parts in The Turning aren’t the jump scares. They’re the creepy scenes between me and Mackenzie where I’m being gross and touchy towards her. So I loved doing all that because it was all about the timing of it. We would rehearse, and then we’d go and do it. It’s a creepy slow burn and not an in-your-face horror movie. It’s a really weird and unique movie.

Miles’ ball-bouncing was pretty aggravating.

(Laughs.) I would bounce the tennis ball against the wall, and sometimes it would hit the camera dead-on so we’d have to do it again.

Were you handling real spiders in those close-ups?

There are real spiders in the movie, but I didn’t have to handle them — thank God. The huge one in the terrarium that eats the smaller spider is the real spider. Floria encouraged me to put one in my hand in between takes, and I did it even though I was super scared.

Did they use your hand for the close-ups with the small spiders?

The small spiders were CG, but it was my hand.

Did you have time to learn any horseback riding for the film, or did you have a double?

That was mostly me, actually. Mackenzie and I did a few days of riding lessons. So we did do some real horse-riding in the movie.

You have a song called “Getting Better” on the soundtrack for this movie, but it’s by a new band of yours named The Aubreys. How did this come to be?

I broke up with my old band, Calpurnia, because it was impossible to tour with the job that I have. We had a lot of different obligations that I couldn’t really do. So, I just called it quits on that and started this new thing where we can make music and not have people breathe down our necks about it — not that the old label did. But this way we can have full control over it. So we started doing that for fun, and I would just record and mix on my own. Floria, the director, found out and said, “My partner, Lawrence Rothman, is an amazing producer and musician who’s doing this companion piece soundtrack for the movie. Why don’t you come up to our house and record for it?” So we went up and recorded the single in one day. It was really, really awesome.

The bass that I used on the song was Krist Novoselic’s real bass from Nirvana. I was like, “This looks like Krist Novoselic’s bass from Nirvana,” and Floria said, “That is Krist Novoselic’s bass from Nirvana.” My mind was completely blown. It’s the bass from the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards when Krist hit himself in the head with the bass after tossing it up in the air and losing it in the lights. That was the bass that I played, and it was mind-blowing.

What a story. That performance was my “Beatles on Ed Sullivan” moment.

It’s amazing.

You told me that Mackenzie was already preparing for Terminator: Dark Fate while shooting this movie. Did you guys talk a lot of Terminator on set?

Yeah, totally. During shooting, she had to work out and drink these protein shakes. She was already so strong, too. I felt bad for her because she had to beef up to be a Terminator while her character in this movie was supposed to look unraveled. But we did talk about the original Terminator films and how they’re timeless. She was easily the best part of Dark Fate.

The Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer recently dropped. Was that title in place from day one?

No, Jason Reitman was figuring it out the entire time. We called it by the code name, Rust City, while him and Sony were coming up with ideas during the shoot. I believe Jason came up with Afterlife in the last month of shooting.

The trailer reminded me a lot of The Force Awakens and how a new generation discovers the relics of the past. You, Mckenna (Grace) and Logan (Kim) even got to drive the Ecto-1 just like the young characters in The Force Awakens got to fly the Falcon. Did you ever get used to the idea that you were driving the Ecto-1?

I really didn’t. Part of the reason was because I wasn’t allowed to drive it. (Laughs.) [Writer’s Note: Wolfhard has failed his written driving test twice.] 

But, I was in the driver’s seat, “driving,” and there’s a sequence in the trailer where I’m ripping through this wheat field. There were a few sequences where I got to press the brake pedal, but it was mind-blowing just to be in it. They put a Corvette engine inside it so it could be more powerful. I’d ask our first AD and executive producer, Jason Blumenfeld, if I could just start it, and he’d say, “Yeah, sure.” So, I’d start it up, and it would go, “Vroom!” It would just shoot on, and I’d turn it right back off afterwards. (Laughs.)

You had that great line in the trailer about dying under a dining table. Does your character, Trevor, have a lot of dry humor in the movie?

Yeah, he’s a pretty dumb character. (Laughs.) It’s not that he’s written dumb, he’s just a dumb teenager and totally naive. Everything is way over his head. He’s obsessed with cars and girls. So it’s really fun to play him. The trailer only showed some of it, but it’s a Ghostbusters movie so it’s a really funny film. Every scene has comedy in it. I’m excited for people to see more of the humor in the movie.

Of all your projects and people that you’ve worked with, I’m betting that Paul Rudd was someone you were already a huge fan of going into it. Did you make your fandom known from the start?

You are absolutely correct. I was a giant fan of Paul and still am. Wet Hot American Summer was huge for me. I had to ask — and pester — him about it. He was so nice about it and would talk to me all the time about comedy. We’d tell each other different stories. We definitely buddied-up on set.

You’re filming Stranger Things 4 until late summer. You’ve also got a Ghostbusters press tour in midsummer. Do you have plans for the fall yet?

Not as of now. I’m keeping it open. I’m graduating high school in a few months. So, we’ll see what happens after the summer, but I’m excited to do some more films.

Lastly, can you tell me about Night Shifts?

My dream has been to direct ever since I was really little, and I started acting because of it. I wanted to get on a set. I just love sets, and I love collaborating with people in general. I’ve also been writing for a long time and trying to figure out the best thing. So, I wrote this two-character short story that’s five pages. It’s just about how high school friends come in and out of your life in really weird ways — and places. I’ll be making that very soon in Vancouver, and we’re going to try and enter it into festivals. Hopefully, it’ll see the light of day. I’m really excited to make it.

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The Turning is now in theaters.

  • Brian Davids
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