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‘Hereditary’ Star Alex Wolff Decided Method Acting for a Horror Film Was a Good Idea

Some of our best and craziest actors are method actors, which means they go to great lengths to get into character for their film and stay in character for the entire duration of the shoot, which usually lasts two or three months. Whereas a normal actor will deliver lines in character based on empathy and intuition, a method actor will go the extra mile to find the character.

For example, to get into character as a racist slave owner who believed in phrenology for Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio watched Fox News every day for an entire week. When preparing to play Barnabus Collins in the remake of Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp spent every night with his friend and co-star Helena Bonham Carter really learning about how the bloodthirsty undead spend their time. And who can forget how Jared Leto prepped for his role as The Joker in Suicide Squad by reading a Batman comic and spending more time mailing dead animals to his co-stars than he did actually filming.

Alex Wolff’s method acting means he was the first person traumatized by the horror film Hereditary, before all those kids in Australia. Alex plays a teenager who has PTSD after he accidentally decapitates his younger sister, so he thought the best way to play this would be trying to give himself PTSD, described in a profile by the LA Times.

“He was Peter for two months, so when I was talking to him, I was talking to Peter,” says Aster [director Ari Aster], who coaxed “warts and all” performances from his cast for the emotionally demanding tale. “There’s nothing worse than playing at grief or playing at PTSD. Which is also why I think Alex Wolff’s performance is amazing, because he went there.”

The full-on immersion method took its toll. “Oh, it’s great,” Wolff says sarcastically, adding that he’d have nightmares when he went home to his hotel from set, staying in relative social isolation. “No, it’s probably not the healthiest thing to do. But for this movie, it was necessary for me.”

Co-star Toni Collette added that it was a real joy to have him on set acting like a crazy, depressed little shit.

Collette searches for words to describe what it was like to work with an on-screen son so deeply committed to remaining in character that he walked around set listening to music by composer Colin Stetson. “Alex … just turned himself inside out. He wasn’t particularly … collaborative,” she says, “or enjoyable, I would say, for anybody else except for perhaps him in some weird fashion. But he’s young. He’ll figure it out. And you know what, he did a great job. So who cares?”

Yes, I’m sure he’ll figure it out, Toni. I mean, who ever heard of a method actor ending up disturbed and unhinged and killing Natalie Wood? Not anyone here, that’s for sure, we’d never say something like that at The Blemish.

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