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Nat Wolff is ready for his close-up.
The 18-year-old actor first broke onto the scene in Nickelodeon’s popular musical mockumentary The Naked Brothers Band. The New York City-based project — first a movie, then a full-fledged TV series — was an intimate affair. It was created by his mother, actress Polly Draper and featured Wolff and his friends. His experience on the show introduced him to the world of acting.
“I never really felt like I was in a Hollywood world,” Wolff tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I did [Naked Brothers Band] during the summer, and then I went to school. It was almost like going to a theater or music camp.”
After starring in a slew of films, including New Year’s Eve and Tina Fey‘s Admission, Wolff dives into the character-driven indie centered on a writing family, Stuck in Love. Written and directed by Josh Boone, the drama follows the complex relationships between novelist Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), his ex-wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly) and their children, a college-aged daughter Sam (Lily Collins) and a teenage son Rusty (Wolff) experiencing love for the first time. (Wolff’s mother happened to play Connelly’s on-screen mom in 1985’s Seven Minutes in Heaven.)
Wolff’s casting in Stuck in Love came with the help of a good friend, actress Liana Liberato, who was already attached to the project as Rusty’s first love, Kate. ” ‘There’s this really good part you’d be great for,’ ” Wolff recalls Liberato telling him. “Then she didn’t send it to me for another month.” After finally getting the script, Wolff immediately related “to the family being so consumed by writing … the way that my family is with music.”
It was the father-son relationship between Rusty and Bill that reminded Wolff of his real-life dynamic with his jazz pianist father, Michael. “I saw a lot of parallels to my real life,” he says. It prompted him to push for a meeting with Boone. When the two met, “we ended up really connecting,” Wolff says. “Josh and I love the same music and all the same movies. We got along well as friends immediately.”
Boone had a similar take on his first impressions of Wolff, whom he agreed to meet after Liberato’s insistence. After their initial meeting, “he was always my guy,” the filmmaker tells THR — though he was hesitant at first. “The day I met him, I thought he was a young Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate.” For Boone, getting the character of Rusty — a fictionalized version of his own adolescent experiences — right was priority No. 1. “He was very much playing me when I was a teenager,” he says, adding that he’s a much “cooler version.”
For research, Boone gave Wolff a mix CD filled with “music he wanted in the movie,” the actor recalls. “Immediately I got excited because I love to work with music.” About 90 percent of the music made it on to the screen. Another item Boone offered to help Wolff prepare: Stephen King‘s It. (King is incorporated into the film’s storyline and makes a voice cameo.)
Boone, who will direct the anticipated film adaptation of John Green‘s The Fault in Our Stars, praised Wolff’s ability to ad-lib. “There’s a part where he’s talking to Stephen King in the film and he says, ‘Bye Stephen!,’ ” he says. “That’s one of our biggest laughs.”
With the film intimately tied to Boone’s life, there were scenes in the film that hit too close to home. “When we did the scene where Kate’s taking Rusty to the closet to have sex for the first time, Josh couldn’t even watch it. He was so embarrassed. It was as if we were reading his diary,” Wolff says.
“The relationship in the movie with the girl was based on a relationship I had with a girl — very similar,” says Boone, who admits that “75 percent of the script was fiction,” though the emotion of many moments in Stuck in Love “came from my life.”
Wolff has a busy slate ahead. Following Stuck in Love, the actor has several films on the docket: dark comedy Behaving Badly with Selena Gomez and Palo Alto with James Franco.
As the recent high school graduate looks to his next project, Wolff is taking his time on deciding what to do next. “I don’t have any clear trajectories,” he says. “I’m going by what I feel is the best thing to do, what I want to be investing myself in.”
One of those projects is making music with his brother, Alex. (He has a song on the Stuck in Love soundtrack.) “We’re going into the studio sometime this summer for two weeks,” Wolff says. “[We’ll] try to record six or seven solid tracks.”
Stuck in Love opens in select theaters on July 5.
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