Twenty-one year old Nat Wolff has been in his fair share of coming-of-age movies. In “The Fault In Our Stars,” he grapples with being a recently dumped, blind teen. In “Paper Towns,” growing up means letting go of the illusive girl-next-door. In Wolff’s latest movie, “Ashby,” it means taking a punch from Mickey Rourke.
“I panicked,” Wolff tells us. “I [thought], if he hits me, I’m going to die. He has boxer hands.” The reason for said punch: Rourke's character is teaching Wolff how to fight. In the film, Wolff plays Ed, an unpopular high schooler who gets bullied after he joins the football team. Enter, Rourke's Ashby, a retired CIA assasin who lives next door.
“They’re both figuring out what it means to be a man, what that means for the different generations,” Wolff says. “It’s a growing up for both of us.”
Related: Mickey Rourke can we hang out?
Art imitating life
Wolff says he grew up watching Rourke’s movies and the opportunity to learn from the Oscar nominated actor was part of the reason why he signed on to the film. On-screen, his tender-hearted character plays well off Rourke’s rough around the edges one, and Wolff says their relationship off-screen is similar to what’s portrayed in the film. At times, their in-real-life relationship bled into their fictional one:
“On the last day of shooting we did a scene in the car where I was like, ‘Do you really even care about me at all?’ and we had this [heartfelt] conversation for 10 minutes. It went from us as characters to us just talking and was just a beautiful last day,” he says.
Emma Roberts plays Wolff’s crush in the movie (“I’m a lot nicer to her in this film than I was in ‘Palo Alto,’ Wolff says) and Sarah Silverman plays his mom, a role Wolff says she took up even when the cameras weren’t rolling, entertaining and taking care of the cast and crew on set. “It’s hard to stay close with people you work with, but Sarah and I have really stayed close,” Wolff says.
Endings and new beginnings
One of the big themes in “Ashby” is the idea that a brief friendship can still profoundly effect one’s life, something Wolff learned years ago since that pretty much sums up the whole movie-making experience. “I always find it heartbreaking to end [filming],” he says. “I feel empty and weird at the end because you give 100 percent to these other people that you didn’t even know before.”
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence