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Finn Wolfhard, fresh-faced monster fighter Mike Wheeler from Netflix’s Stranger Things, is officially all grown up.The Canadian actor recently graduated from High School, posting pictures earlier this month of his socially-distanced, coronavirus-appropriate ceremony with family and friends.
Wolfhard is also ready for the next move in his career. His Stranger Things stardom led to roles in horror features It: Chapter Two and The Turning as well as the lead in his first studio tentpole: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which Sony is expected to release early next year.
But the 17-year-old actor is also going indie. He’s attached to star in Rules for Werewolves, a horror-thriller based on the acclaimed novel by Kirk Lynn. In an unusual move, director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, who has worked with Wolfhard on numerous music videos over the years — including for his new band, The Aubreys — directed a short based on the story, which follows a group of teens running wild in a post-recession suburb.
Producers Peter Harvey, Jonathan Duffy, and Kelly Williams will be pitching the feature version to financiers and potential buyers as part of the Frontières Co-Production Market for genre titles at the Virtual Cannes Market.
Wolfhard spoke via video with The Hollywood Reporter about the appeal of playing dark characters, why werewolves get short shrift from Hollywood and his feelings about having to eventually say goodbye to Mike Wheeler and Stranger Things.
How are you handling lockdown and how have you been keeping busy?
I’ve been good. I just graduated high school, so now there’s a change in my life. No more school, which is great. I’ve been writing two feature movies and working on music and songs, so just writing at home, taking walks and reading. That kind of stuff. It’s been really good.
Did you have to do a virtual graduation?
No, it was interesting. They had an alphabetical order, we went and we graduated at church but there was only a few people at a time and the church was in there so we just walked in, got our diploma, got a picture and walked out. It was really interesting. And then a little photo shoot in the parking lot. It was odd. But it’s incredible that I got to go in real life. I feel very lucky.
Let’s talk about Rules for Werewolves. We don’t have many great movies compared to all the vampire movies. Is there an inherent bias against werewolves in our industry?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. There aren’t many. There’s like Teen Wolf. My dad was just telling me about this movie called Dog Soldiers?
Yes, a fantastic werewolf movie.
Yeah and there is also The Howling, which is great. I don’t know if Rules for Werewolves is a full-on werewolf movie or it’s not. It’s very on the border. I think the movie is more about youth and revolt than a sci-fi or horror movie about werewolves. It’s more about youth standing up and being anarchists.
It’s based on a novel, by Kirk Lynn, who also wrote the screenplay. Who are these “werewolves” because, as you say, they aren’t your typical movie monsters.
They are essentially a pack of young adults and teenagers that band together and fight against regular government. They are everything the government isn’t. They are rebellious, they are anarchists and, in a way, they are also a cult. But in another way, they are just a bunch of teenagers who have found their family. Some of them come from bad homes, some of them don’t really have a purpose in life until they join this group, they join the werewolves and they figure out they have a calling. And they feel they are on the other side. They feel like outsiders, so they bind together.
Tell me about your character, Bobert.
Bobert is this kid who comes from a pretty bad home, broken home. He’s a shy kid and is just looking for a place in the world for him. I think a lot of kids relate to that. He’s trying to find his place and when he’s down the werewolves come and pick him up and save him.
What drew you to the role? It looks a lot darker than, say, Stranger Things. What that part of the appeal?
Totally. I’m always interested in playing different kinds of characters. In the short we did, Bobert tells a story in this one long take and I thought that was interesting and great. He’s kind of nihilistic and a realistic but a very free person. It was super different so I was game from the beginning.
How challenging was it to go to that very dark place?
To be honest with you, it was really fun. I don’t get to do that a lot and Jeremy [Schaulin-Rioux], the director, It’s funny, the other stuff we have worked on, I’ve played darker characters, in some music videos. So he and I kinda know how to get that sort of thing out of me. I’m not an inherently dark person so we find it funny that I can switch on something more dark and weird.
You met Jeremy, the director, though your work on his music videos?
I’m 17 now. I met Jeremy when I was 11. I met him through an open casting for a video for this incredible punk band from Toronto called Pup. I played a younger version of the lead singer. But also a dark character. We have been collaborating ever since. He’s my first collaborator. When he said he was working on this [movie] and working on it with Kirk [Lynn], I was totally swept away by it. Kirk is an absolute genius. From Texas. He’s, I think, one of the best writers of our time. I’m really happy to be a part of this.
For people don’t know the book: It’s written entirely in dialogue. What impressed you so much about it that made you want to tell that story in a bigger way?
That’s the reason I loved it so much, because it’s all dialogue. That’s what I loved the most. To me, the Rules for Werewolves book gives a perfect impression of what [the film] will look like. It just tells you what these characters are saying, what they are thinking, one hundred percent of the time. There are no breaks where the readers say “I wonder what this character is thinking?” because they’re always talking. I think that’s how youth are. Youth are always talking. Kids will always tell you how they feel.
What sort of movie will this be when you get it made?
It’s going to be set in kind of a burnout set environment. The way I think of it, I don’t know if you saw the movie Suburbia? Kind of that weird, burned out town, and these kids are like the kings of the town. They rule over it, whether the other citizens like it or not. And it’s also a hunt movie too. Officer Yale, who is the guy who people have been complaining too because of these crazy kids, is cracking down and figuring out how to find these werewolves. As the werewolves are wreaking havoc in the town, breaking into houses and drinking and partying, Officer Yale is trying to find them. So it’s a putting-the-pieces together movie at the same time as a total anarchist teenager coming-of-age movie. And because it’s 100 percent real kids, it has a lot of humor in it and a lot of romance. Because these kids are experiencing everything for the first time together. It’s a really great and especially great characters. When the movie gets sold, the cast has to be amazing. It’s going to be great.
In the book, one of the great things Lynn does, is keep everything very ambiguous, about whether the kids are “real” werewolves. No spoilers, but will the film come firmly down on one side or another?
Ambiguity plays a lot into Kirk as a guy, too, I think. Kirk is an ambiguous guy. I’ve only spent one day with him, but he’s fantastic. I wouldn’t spoil anything but I don’t think anything will be too on the nose. That’s not the film we’re making.
Do you have any idea when you’ll be able to start making this movie?
Well Canada is starting to open up. B.C. is starting to open up this summer. I know a few movies are beginning to go back to shooting at the beginning of August, some indies are even going mid-July. It really depends on where we shoot it. If we were to shoot it in B.C., potentially we could do it in the fall. It totally depends where they want to shoot it. If we make it in Canada, we can go sooner.
You’ve got several new projects coming up, including the new Ghostbusters movie [Ghostbusters: Afterlife]. But when it comes to the character that so many of us know you from, how do you feel about eventually saying goodbye to Mike Wheeler?
That’s really interesting. What I think is so great about Stranger Things is it has the Harry Potter effect — where you can see how the characters and the actors grow up over time. The character is a part of me. Definitely when Stranger Things ends, it is not going to feel like it didn’t happen or that Mike isn’t a part of me still. I think I will be ready to say goodbye but it will be bitter sweet. But we still have a lot of work to do with Stranger Things.
Maybe it will end up being like graduation.
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