The actor talks about working with Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage in Pig and trusting his instincts
“I just really feel unbelievably lucky, “expresses Alex Wolff as we wrapped up our conversation about his mannered, moving performance in Pig. The former child star has come a long way from his days on the Nickelodeon musical comedy series The Naked Brothers Band, in which he starred alongside his brother Nat Wolff. The Wolff brothers even turned their musical roots from the show into a successful pop-rock duo. But on screen, this humble 24-year-old actor has turned from being a young child star into a noticeable talent, co-starring in studio comedies The Sitter and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, to even being part of the two Jumanji reboot films. But his calling card of late is being the indie darling casting choice over the last couple of years. Turning in incredibly layered, emotionally charged portrayals of relatable yet flawed characters like in My Friend Dahmer and Thoroughbreds. He most notably broke through with the 2018’s horror family drama, Hereditary, where Wolff showcased why he is one of the best up-and-coming actors we have working today going toe to toe with the fierce performance by co-star Toni Collette. The following year, Wolff showcased the ability to be a triple threat as he wrote, directed, and starred in the indie The Cat and the Moon, a coming of age story that received positive responses from critics and audiences.
In 2021, besides giving a gripping performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, Wolff gave the best work of his career so far as Amir, a young man who runs a truffle resale business in Portland. His main supplier is Rob (Nicolas Cage), a reclusive man who lives in the woods with his truffle hunting pig, whom Amir brings groceries and cash to every week in exchange for the most gorgeous truffles one could find. But when Rob’s pig is taken, and he needs assistance in tracking down his companion, Amir joins Rob on his quest, and as secrets are revealed throughout their time together, a friendship between the two men forms.
There is a lingering quality to Wolff’s work. Upon rewatch of Pig, Amir’s arch grows to become the most important aspect of the film, as he is further proof of the lessons we learn as Rob is teaching us throughout the film, therefore, he finds his maturity. Wolff explained why this might be the case. “I think that all of us are really similar to Amir, I just think that a lot of us are too afraid to let parts of ourselves to come out. I think there’s something refreshing and exhilarating about reading a character with someone with so little awareness and such a materialistic kind of shallow intentions, and yet what was underneath was so profound and the things he really needed and the things he really wanted were much deeper than what appeared on the surface.” And by Pig doing this, in his words, becomes “almost a buddy movie,” an idea which he “fell in love with.”
“The lessons that I got from Nick are so fucking immeasurable. I would not be the same person without him that you can’t even begin to talk about this one time he told me this or gave me a piece of advice. He is my spiritual guide, as a person.”Alex Wolff
Wolff isn’t wrong because while Rob is the main character, and someone we cling to because of his heartbreaking struggles, we also do the same for Amir. This is a young man who is lost in his life. His relationship with his father is nonexistent due to his mother’s illness and the pain and resentment his father has for losing the woman he loves, the mother of his child. Wolff beautifully displays the character’s layered, tender evolution of someone who grows before our very eyes and becomes a confident individual by the end due to Rob’s lessons and coming to terms with who he is and his future. It’s special work that he states, “came from a truly sincere, beautiful place in both me and Nic and Michael.”
Wolff confessed that having the opportunity to work along Cage (whom he considers his favorite actor of all time) was a dream come true and any lessons he learned in working with the Academy Award winner were “immeasurable.” He goes on to say, “He [Cage] is my spiritual guide, as a person. I think the main thing that happened when we made this movie was, we were both going through some personal stuff that was very similar, and without it being too sad or anything, we really needed each other. And so, I think the film was this great forum place for us to work through some of these emotions we had been going through personally. It’s important to talk about the script and to talk about the work, but I think it’s even more important to sit with each other and really find out who we are underneath. And then when you get to the work, there could be a nice moment where Nic can see that I’m getting a little emotional and he knows that that’s about this one personal thing I told him about and that’s really profound. So, I think us forming this unbreakable bond, this friendship for life was imperative for this type of film.” It shows in the film as these two form a love and care for one another as Rob is opening up to another person for the first time in years, and Amir gets the father figure he’s always wanted. There is a scene in a diner, where these two actors are sitting across from one another, and we can feel their connection deeply in our bones. This dynamic is as real as anything on screen this year, and while Cage has gotten a lot of praise for his role, Wolff puts in equally astonishing work.
By doing this work behind the scenes, you can tell how much commitment Wolff puts in for his role in this or any other project. Whether that is talking with Cage off-screen to build their friendship, learning how to cook (which he describes his cooking as “bad, bad, bad, bad” though he doesn’t want to be), or learning everything there is about truffle hunting, even recounting a story about two rival truffle hunters and how their rivalry grew to “unbelievably horrific” circumstances, Alex Wolff is a detailed professional who gathers everything he can and presents it to audiences in the most grounded, sophisticated way. This dedication to his craft shines in Pig, thus leading to one of the most underrated performances of the year for his captivating work as Amir.
For Alex Wolff, the future is extremely bright. He is currently working on his next two projects where he is the male lead, The Line, which co-stars Scoot McNairy and John Malkovich, and Susie Searches, with Keirsey Clemons. When asked about how he will pick roles going forward, he said, “That’s a really good question that I continue to ask myself.” He’s not certain what he will pick, just as long as it speaks to him. “I think it’s important to just be honest and be like, okay, well, is this going to serve me? Does this feel like something great that I could do? Is this fun? Do I need this right now? And even more than that, you’ve got to follow your instincts.”
If he continues to do so, as he did with Pig, Alex Wolff’s star will continue to shine.
Pig, from NEON, is available to rent or purchase wherever you rent, stream or buy movies and also now on Hulu.