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What Pig's Alex Wolff Really Thought About Working With Nicolas Cage - Exclusive Interview

Alex Wolff has become a familiar face to fans in every corner of the film world, whether as the video game player whose avatar is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the 2017  blockbuster "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" and its 2019 sequel or the teen traumatized by inadvertently causing his younger sister's tragic death in the 2018 horror thriller "Hereditary." TV fans are keenly aware of Wolff's talents, too, as he kicked off his career in 2005 as one of the stars — along with his older brother, Nat — of Nickelodeon's "The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie." The telefilm was such a success that the Wolff brothers reprised their roles as the young musicians for "The Naked Brothers Band" series from 2007 to 2009.

For his latest project, Wolff is back in the indie film realm with "Pig," a story with a premise that's just as original as the film's succinct title. Nicolas Cage stars in "Pig" as Rob, a man who lives a meager existence in the Oregon wild with a pig that has an uncanny knack for truffle hunting. Rob earns his money by selling the truffles to Amir, an enterprising young man who pedals the foraged finds to restaurants. But when Rob's pig is kidnapped, the woodsman seeks Amir's help to find the locate his missing beloved hog, even if it means returning to his old restaurant haunts in the city of Portland and confronting his dark past, as well as the startling truth behind the crime.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Wolff discussed his unique working relationship with Cage, and the reasoning behind his wide variety of roles. In addition, Wolff reveals the lasting effect "Hereditary" had on his psyche, previews his other new film "Old," and gives an update on those pesky rumors of another "Jumanji" film with Johnson.

Alex Wolff calls Nicolas Cage a 'team artist'

I was really taken by this movie. It's interesting because Nicolas Cage definitely has a presence in this film, and from the very start, that presence can be stronger than words. In that first scene you have together when he doesn't respond to you, you get this uncomfortable silence.

He didn't say one word!

Yeah, exactly. And I'm thinking that really must challenge you as an actor and really up your game in a way.

You know, it ups your game, but it's very hard. It's hard. It's hard to keep talking and have someone not talk to you, but I think it ends up serving you. What you feel as an actor, like, "Oh my God, am I doing okay?" really serves a character. Because anybody who keeps talking and someone's not talking, they usually then start to spiral and get a little nervous and insecure out of this. There's no one who gives the other person silence. Imagine if you asked me a question and I just looked at you. I think you'd nervously start to rephrase the question. So, I think that's how it was a little bit, but really fun.

Well, I'm sorry if I smiled there, I was thinking, "How funny would it be if I just didn't say anything for the next 10 minutes?"

It would be so funny! You should have at least done it for 15 seconds. I would have said, "Anyway ..." but I would have kept talking. 

What's really cool about this film is that you get to run the gamut with Nic. You have that uncomfortable silence. You have the subtle moments and then you have the fiery exchange toward the end. I would think that probably changes you in a way as an actor. You learn something new with every film.

I felt like my learning curve was just a perpendicular learning curve, it went straight up with Nic. I'm just owning up to it, it's a little trite when you say that, and it could be maybe perceived as not completely sincere except in this case, it is — and then I really felt like I went from one version of an actor to a completely different version. One that is 1,000 times better because of working with Nic. And I feel like that's maybe why you notice that all his movies, the people around him, I think, do even better with him than they do solo. I think that he brings the best out of everybody. He is a real team artist.

Alex Wolff loves the film's original premise, and his co-star hogging the scenery

I can't recall a premise like this. Do you recall how you reacted to this script? I mean, Michael Sarnoski, the guy has an incredible handle, not only on the story, but on the direction of this film.

I agree. I think that Michael Sarnoski is going to be one of the greats in a while. It's almost like I don't want to tell him because what he has is so precious and so tender, as a person. He's so tender and shy and yet very definitive and very confident, and that balance was angelic to work with. It was just special to work with a guy who's so delicate and so quiet and so sensitive and so empathetic and yet very definitive in what he wanted. It's a bit maybe contradictory to what you'd believe if you talk to him for a while, he'd probably be doubting his own answers to a question in an interview or whatever; but that's not how he is as an artist. I think that's his most honest way of expression. His honest means of expression is through film.

We have to mention the title character of this movie, and I'm not sure if you actually had a scene with the pig or not. It gives the appearance that you do because you're calling her names. But the pig, was she indeed there during the filming of that scene?

Yeah, she was. Don't you see? She starts walking on my nice shoes and I started yelling at her, it was all improvised because it was just funny. She was a diva, but we loved her.

It was probably a first for you as far as acting with a pig. I mean, how many people have done that apart from those "Babe" movies?

Not many people get to say they have acted with a pig!

Size doesn't matter when it comes to movies and great roles, Alex Wolff says

You seem to go back between larger films, commercial films maybe, the "Jumanji" films. Those two films are terrific, but you also have the independent films like "Hereditary" and of course, now "Pig." Is that by happenstance or design?



Yeah. I mean, it's funny because to me, "Pig" and "Hereditary" are bigger. I do real independent movies, I do small movies, but I just go for the most interesting character and maybe if I'd had my ass handed to me early on in my career in a big way, I maybe would feel like "Oh boy, maybe I can't do these." But I've been really lucky in that if I really, really like a script, no matter the size, if it's really good, it seems that people seem to gravitate towards it. No matter how many people see it, the people who see it seem to really respond to it. I mean, and that's kind of the whole reason we're doing it. It doesn't really matter. You don't have a lot of control over it. "Pig" seems to be really popping, but it was a tiny movie when we made it.

So, you have to follow your instincts because sometimes you do a big movie and it's a massive flop disaster. And sometimes you get a small movie, "Hereditary" seemed pretty small, and it really exploded as a movie. And you've just got to kind of not think about it.

The lingering effects of Hereditary and unpredictability of Old

"Hereditary" was one of the most unnerving and frightening films I'd seen in a long, long time. Did that film give you nightmares in a way? I mean, sure you're behind the scenes, and you're privy to everything that goes on, but my God, what an unsettling movie that was.

I'll tell you that movie did about as much damage to me as a movie can do. So, it definitely had an effect on me.

Mentally? Problems with sleeping, what kind of effect did it have?

All of it ... 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. 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 well-being.

You have another frightening film coming up — it certainly looks frightening — with "Old." I was wondering if you could share with me what it was like working on that film and working in particular with M. Night Shyamalan.

He is amazing. He's such an unbelievable visionary and I think what makes this movie so special is that it's actually not a horror movie really, by any stretch of the imagination. It maybe has echoes of scary films in the past, but it's really more along the lines of "Images" by Robert Altman or a weird "Through a Glass Darkly," or "Persona" or some [Ingmar] Bergman late Swedish movie. It's just very out there and experimental, and if people can just go in with zero expectations in terms of it being like anything else and going in for a "This is the first time I've ever seen this," once in a lifetime experience, then they're going to have a great time.

I think if they try and put it in any category or locker or try and place it in something they've seen before ... I just think that it's going to do a disservice to what the movie's special factor is in that it's completely unexpected and completely unpredictable, and spirals out in an unpredictable, hilarious and wild, and allegorical and metaphorical way.

About that next Jumanji movie ...

About that next Jumanji movie ... Quickly, you must tell me about any updates on another "Jumanji." We'd love to see you in another one of those.

I'm so sorry. I've left the chat. I'm just kidding. I leaned out.

Everybody asks you — I know!

No, I'm just dodging out. No, I don't know. I certainly haven't gotten the call yet. So maybe they're recasting me, who knows, but I hope to be in the next one because I loved doing those movies. [Motions off camera] Dwayne Johnson is right here in the hotel with me. "Hey Dwayne. Hey, what's up? They're asking about the next 'Jumanji.'" Oh, he can't say anything about it. Sorry. Don't worry, go back to listening ...

Hey, to be in the same company as the Rock, man, it can't get any better than that.

It cannot get better than that!

Also starring Adam Arkin and Darius Pierce, "Pig" opens in select theaters July 16.