Since erupting onto the scene in Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard’s life has been turned, well, upside down. Along with Millie Bobby Brown, his co-star and love interest on Netflix’s inescapable hit series, the high school student is arguably Hollywood’s busiest teenager, racking up screen time in one marquee project after another. He polished his horror bonafides as one of the lovable Losers in the surprise blockbuster It (2017) and reprised the role in this year’s sequel, It Chapter Two. He breezed through an Eastern European accent as the mysterious Boris in the adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Goldfinch (2019). And this winter, the Vancouver native will once again embrace the darkness as an orphan with a secret in Floria Sigismondi’s haunted house creep-fest The Turning. And yet, despite casting directors’ best efforts to convince us otherwise, Wolfhard, who will next appear in Jason Reitman’s secretive Ghostbusters reboot, is as well adjusted as any 16-year-old kid with 18 million Instagram followers can be. After leaving class at an undisclosed location, Wolfhard connected with his hometown hero Ryan Reynolds for the first time to discuss the ups and downs of the industry, the advantages of being a Canadian in Hollywood, and the subtle art of not taking art too seriously.
RYAN REYNOLDS: How’s it going, Finn?
FINN WOLFHARD: Good, man. I just got out of school.
REYNOLDS: Wait, are you in school in Vancouver or Los Angeles?
REYNOLDS: What school?
WOLFHARD: I’ll tell you, but they’ll need to leave it out.
REYNOLDS: No, don’t say, don’t say. I already know—you’re in juvenile detention. I’m so happy to talk to you. If I cut out for a second, it’s because I’m neutralizing children as they run into the room. I have no fewer than 4,000 kids. I am singlehandedly doing my part to wipe men off the face of the earth by having daughters. Okay, I’m going to dive in with my first question, which is about The Turning. How was your experience shooting this movie in rural Ireland?
WOLFHARD: It was a funny movie to shoot because I was really the only boy on set. The director, Floria Sigismondi, is an amazing woman. Mackenzie Davis, who plays our governess, couldn’t relate to me because I was a 15-year-old boy, and I couldn’t relate to her because she’s a grown woman. We also couldn’t relate to Brooklynn Prince, who plays my little sister, because she’s seven. We all got along well, but it was weirdly isolating.
REYNOLDS: When I was 15 I would have given every last cent of my paper route money to be on set in the middle of rural Ireland with nothing but women and time. Did you use a Ouija board to make this happen or was it through good old-fashioned talent?
WOLFHARD: I paid a witch doctor.
REYNOLDS: Very wise. This movie is not your first time doing horror. Does horror agree with your sensibilities?
WOLFHARD: This movie is horror-ish. It’s spooky. It’s a really big coincidence that I do horror movies. I love them, but it’s not my favorite genre.
REYNOLDS: What is?
REYNOLDS: I feel like you get the best of both worlds on Stranger Things. What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?
WOLFHARD: That I can watch or that fucked me up?
REYNOLDS: I would say one that fucked you up or blew you away, either one.
WOLFHARD: There’s a lot. There are movies that messed me up that aren’t horror movies, but that are really disturbing. I watched this movie a while ago called Luna, by Bernardo Bertolucci, who did Last Tango in Paris, which is already a horror movie in itself.
REYNOLDS: Bertolucci is actually a horror movie covered in skin, but go on.
WOLFHARD: It’s about this teenaged kid who goes and lives with his mom back in Italy, and he becomes a heroin addict. It’s the grossest, ugliest movie, but it’s also really beautiful at the same time.
REYNOLDS: I started in show business when I was 13 years old, which is younger than you are now. But my career was an aggregate. It was very slow as I entered into the public forum, but in retrospect, I look at that as one of the greatest gifts ever, because it allowed me to integrate some of this stuff slowly, as opposed to being overwhelmed by it. We have a lot of friends in common, and every time someone speaks about you, they have nothing but the highest praise. They talk about you as someone who is disciplined and smart and charming and down to earth. How do you handle it all? Because it’s wild.
WOLFHARD: I paid a bunch of people off to say that. Number one, I have great parents, a great family, and people who support me, but who also keep me in line. I have been weirdly disciplined since I was seven or eight years old. I remember watching a bunch of movies and realizing I wanted to be a filmmaker. I found out about NYU Tisch School of the Arts and the film school there, and I was like, “Okay, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go there after high school.” And then I started acting, doing small indie stuff, and those are so fun to do.
REYNOLDS: Is it true that you got your first job on Craigslist?
WOLFHARD: Yeah. There’s a young band from Vancouver and I did one of their first music videos. It was my first job. After that, I just loved being on set so much. It comes from me wanting to make friends all over the world. There’s no point in being a dick and trying to make enemies. That’s just so much harder to do.
REYNOLDS: It takes a lot more work. Lazy people are nice, because it’s way harder to be a douche. Do you find that there are pitfalls? I certainly have my own personal list of pitfalls, but I try to combat those moments with gratitude and think, “Well, I do a job that 99.9 percent of my peers would trade their right arm for.” But there are moments that can be frustrating. I think it’s important to allow yourself those moments of frustration. What are some of those for you? Show me a chink in the armor.
WOLFHARD: I have a Reddit post called “Top Five Ryan Reynolds Pitfalls” so I’m going to read them out. I don’t know, I think me being under the age of 18 and starting as a “child actor,” that is such a buzzword now. When you think of child actors, you think, “He goes to crazy parties and hangs out with all the hottest stars at the club.”
REYNOLDS: I think like that. When parents say, “I want to put my child in show business,” I always say, “Skip show business. Just put them into cocaine.” It’s a very dangerous thing. There’s a tremendous amount of expectation on young people who are even just in fucking school, let alone show business, where suddenly you have an industry that’s revolving around whether or not you hit your mark, or whether or not you are perceived as entertaining or funny or charming. That’s a tremendous burden to carry around every single day. How do you handle that?
WOLFHARD: I think about my end goal, and what I want to do with it. I don’t care about all the things that come with it, like the weird Instagram followers. I appreciate it, but I’m not in it for that. Most kids and teenagers are constantly messing up and doing crazy things, but they’re not in the spotlight and they’re just kind of testing the boundaries. When you’re in the spotlight as a kid, you can’t do that. You can’t make a mistake, or else it’s public and your career will be over. It’s one of those things where you have to be ultra-vigilant about what you say and what you do.
REYNOLDS: You’re in an interview right now that’s going to be on newsstands all over the world, and there’s a certain pressure there, too. You don’t want to say the wrong thing that becomes that cutesy little sound bite that travels all over the world for a week or two and wreaks havoc, so I imagine there’s some stress there. I thought it was interesting what you said about being a younger person in this industry and having the natural growing pains and ability to express yourself and push boundaries and screw up from time to time, which is important to do. God knows I screwed up. You could fill a gymnasium with how many times I’d screwed up before I even turned 18. And I didn’t have a gigantic spotlight or social media or camera phones around that might have created a vortex of hell for me. I’m curious if you find those same rewards—pushing boundaries and getting the opportunity to screw up—in your art?
WOLFHARD: Totally. I’ve been writing a lot of screenplays recently, and that’s really helped me test the boundaries. All my favorite directors and comedians are provocateurs, and they all test the boundaries. Hopefully as a filmmaker, I can portray what I want to portray in my movies and dance around the line and be able to say what I want with my art.
REYNOLDS: Has anybody ever given you a piece of advice that stuck with you or lifts you up when you’re down?
WOLFHARD: There’s an actor named Aneurin Barnard who plays the older version of my character in The Goldfinch. He told me, “This is acting. The minute you start taking it fully seriously and taking yourself seriously, it’s over. That’s when it starts to go down. The minute it stops being fun, you have to stop.”
REYNOLDS: But it’s going to have ebbs and flows. I wish I could look back and say that I was in an absolute state of euphoria every single moment I’ve ever been on set. I wasn’t. There were times when all I thought about was getting the fuck out of there. And there were other times when I thought, “Please make this moment last for the rest of my life. I’ll die happy.”
WOLFHARD: I’d be a liar to say that every single moment on set is amazing, because tensions get heated and sometimes you’re on a production for so long that you’re like, “Cool, it’s time to go home now. Can I go home?” And they’re like, “No, you still have three more months.” And you’re like, “Oh, okay. Well, I guess I’m just here now.” Sometimes you have to deal with people who don’t have the same values or morals as you. But that’s the beauty of filmmaking—you get to meet so many different people.
REYNOLDS: I moved from Vancouver to L.A. when I was 18, and I found that my Vancouverness, my Canadianness, became an asset in this industry. Canada equipped me with an ability to laugh at myself and be self-effacing and not take myself too seriously, and really look for the joke in myself before I look for the joke in other people. I’m curious if that resonates with you.
WOLFHARD: There’s no way I’d be the same person if I wasn’t raised here in Vancouver. You grew up on the West Side?
REYNOLDS: Yeah, I grew up in Kitsilano when it was more of a blue collar part of town. I loved it. Every time I go back, I still drive through Kits, past the pit that used to be my family home and has now been turned into some sort of weird, boxy McMansion. Kitsilano is in my blood, and so is Vancouver, and so is Canada.
WOLFHARD: I’m the same way.
REYNOLDS: You just wrapped Ghostbusters, which is the altar to which I’ve prayed at my entire life. Do you remember when you saw the first Ghostbusters?
WOLFHARD: I saw it when I was really, really young. I was a giant fan immediately, and it was one of the weirdest auditioning experiences that I’ve had so far because, in season two of Stranger Things, there’s a point where we’re all dressed up in Halloween costumes, and we’re all Ghostbusters.
REYNOLDS: For Halloween I’m going as Joe Keery’s character, Steve Harrington, from Stranger Things, in his little ice cream outfit. I’m in love with Joe. [Reynolds recently wrapped production on Free Guy, opposite Keery.]
WOLFHARD: He’s one of my favorite people on the planet.
REYNOLDS: I’ve never met anyone who can deliver exposition with the level of expertise that Joe Keery can.
WOLFHARD: He was freaking out about it, because I remember he came back to L.A. in between you guys filming in Boston, and he was like, “I don’t know how you do it, man.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He was like, “My character has to deliver a lot of exposition, and that’s all your character does in Stranger Things and you make it sound so real.”
REYNOLDS: Maybe you’re his secret guru, because his exposition was one of the most riveting things I’ve ever seen.
WOLFHARD: I don’t know if he told you, but I’m also his acting teacher, so every time he messes up, I spit on him, and by the end of the day he’s covered in saliva.
REYNOLDS: Remind me never to screw up on your set. I noticed that there was this picture that Millie Bobby Brown posted on her Instagram, when you were fixing her dress at the Stranger Things season three premiere. She wrote, “The Ryan to my Blake [Lively, Reynolds’s wife].”
WOLFHARD: Oh, man, I had no idea.
REYNOLDS: I know actors don’t usually like to speak about their love lives, but I have to ask it because everyone who watches Stranger Things is dying to know: Is there anything going on between me and Joe Keery?
WOLFHARD: The first thing I’ll say is that I got the invite. The second thing I’ll say is that I got a little something for the baby, and it’s a little baby blue little leotard, and I wanted to let you know if he doesn’t like blue, if he hates it, if he swats at it, then you can just return it, okay?
REYNOLDS: I want you to leave this interview not necessarily weeping, but—I love getting to chat with a fellow Vancouverite. It calmed me down. It felt like going home again.
WOLFHARD: Me too, man.
This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of Interview magazine. Subscribe here.
Groomer: Anna Bernabe using Oribe at The Wall Group
Photography Assistants: Lindsay Collins and Jack x Proctor
Fashion Assistant: Bin X. Nguyen
Production Coordinator: Brian Baldocchi