Alex Wolff’s latest film, M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old,” marks the 23-year-old actor’s return to the genre that solidified him as one to watch: horror. However, Wolff recently revealed the same film that garnered him such acclaim in the first place, “Hereditary,” left an indelible mark long after the cameras stopped rolling.
Wolff was promoting “Pig,” the Nicolas Cage-starring drama (and Wolff’s second major film of the summer, along with “Old”) in an interview with Collider when he brought up the lasting effects of his role in Ari Aster’s horrifying feature debut, “Hereditary.”
“I’ll tell you that movie did about as much damage to me as a movie can do,” Wolff told the outlet, admitting the damage included psychological effects and loss of sleep. He suffered “all of it,” he said, adding, “It really affected me.”
“It’s very hard because as an actor, you really don’t want to sound pretentious or self-serious or like anything is too serious,” Wolff continued. “Because we have a cushy job in a lot of ways, but this, emotionally, it was one of those tough ones. It was one of those ones that really did some gymnastics on my emotional wellbeing.”
These are some Simone Biles-level emotional gymnastics he’s referring to. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Hereditary” and wish to preserve the balls-to-the-walls terror for yourself.
Written and directed by Aster (“Midsommar”), “Hereditary” centers on Annie (Toni Collette), a grieving mother trying to reconcile with the fact that the actions of her son Peter (Wolff) ultimately led to the grisly, accidental death of her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Not only is Wolff tasked with portraying his own battle with the trauma and guilt from the accident, but also his dead sister (and a satanic cult) haunting him to the point of madness.
Back in 2018, Wolff shared with The Wrap how one particularly gnarly scene literally drew blood. The scene called for Peter to slam his face into a school desk, a stunt Wolff insisted on doing himself, albeit slightly less comfortably than he’d originally imagined.
“It had a foam top but it was hard on the bottom and there were only two of them, and I had to nail it perfectly,” he explained. “I had to have the blood shoot out perfectly out of my nose and jump back and do that whole thing. I remember after, I was just panting, my voice is gone, blood is dripping down everywhere and blood is gushing down my knee — real blood gushing down my knee because I slammed it against a chair. I couldn’t move my arm, my complete ankle was swollen — it looked like a balloon.”
Wolff’s physical and psychological torment on the film was not for nothing. Beginning with its premiere at Sundance, “Hereditary” earned some of the best reviews of the year, including the moniker of “scariest film in decades.”