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Netflix’s Stranger Things became a nationwide phenomenon last summer with its 1980s nostalgia-driven throwbacks to Stephen King, The Goonies and all things reminiscent of the neon decade.
Breakout Finn Wolfhard, who plays the plucky Mike Wheeler in the sci-fi adventure series, will be seen in yet another ‘80s-set project with the upcoming big-screen reimagining of King’s horror classic It.
Wolfhard, born in 2002, may not remember anything from the decade firsthand, but his recent forays into the past gives him all the street cred needed to host the upcoming benefit concert “Strange 80s” to benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund on May 14 at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. The fund helps provide “financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems.”
The concert will feature performances by Jack Black’s band Tenacious D, Weird Al Yankovic, Sarah Silverman, OK Go, Taking Back Sunday, Velvet Revolver, Steel Panther and more.
Wolfhard caught up with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about his upcoming hosting gig, his favorite ‘80s films and dish about his new Stranger Things co-star Sean Astin.
How’d you get involved with Sweet Relief?
They reached out to me last year and asked if I would auction off a signed guitar. We raised a few grand, and my dad is a huge Pearl Jam fan, and he told me that the “Crazy Mary” song they do is actually a Victoria Williams song and that she was one of the first recipients of Sweet Relief. I have lots of friends who are musicians and it is such a huge victory to survive in music, period — but if you get sick or injured and don’t have the kind of coverage we get in Canada, you are doomed. So I thought that it would be really cool to do another show and try and raise some more money. My manager Ryan reached out to Matt at Sweet Relief with the idea and they jumped all over it. And now here we are. It’s actually happening!
The ‘80s are particularly back in style right now, but you were born in the new millennium. What’s your connection to the decade? Do your parents help you contextualize things?
My parents were in high school and college in the ‘80s, so let’s just say I’ve heard some stuff, man. We listen to a lot of music and watch lots of great films, but the real context they provide from that era is about politics.
Do you have any favorite ‘80s films or bands?
Raiders [of the Lost Ark], Aliens, Evil Dead and Goonies all stand out for me, but I don’t know about TV at all. As far as bands go: Nirvana. Don’t argue. Bonus fun fact: Sean Astin was in The Goonies, and I get to play with him now in Stranger Things. He is not just a great actor but also a great mentor and really just the highest quality human you could hope for. We also have Paul Reiser from Aliens, and he is also the best. Such a pro.
What’s it like playing a character from a time period for which you have no memory? What kind of research did you do?
I had already seen most of the films that the Duffers referenced in their fake trailer and look book — I just looked at that and a thing they put together covering culture and politics back then. That was pretty much all I did as far as research goes because the stuff that Mike has to deal with — I mean, there’s a really universal thing going on with how he acts and reacts to his situation, and I don’t think the time and setting are as important as who he really is way deep down.
Are you a fan of the bands playing the Strange 80s concert? Are you a fan of Weird Al?
I cannot believe I will be sharing the same stage as the D (Jack Black’s Tenacious D)! In fact, all of the bands are super cool, and there are still more to come. As for Weird Al — DUH! I actually met him in December, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll play on May 14.
Any plans to perform at the benefit like we saw at the Golden Globes?
I have a band called Calpurnia and, like the other bands, we are going to play some ‘80s covers. I play rhythm guitar and sing, or try to — my voice is completely blown from the scenes I have done lately, and it’s suddenly getting so low so fast that I might need to have an exorcism before the show.
Any appearances from the other Stranger Things kids?
The other kids will not be appearing, but I hope you all can come check out the event! I have had so many people ask for comps, but we’re trying to raise money for an important cause so, guys, you want in? You gotta pay!
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