These days, Hollywood seems to crank out a new star every hour. And with competition more intense than a Project Runway episode, it takes someone truly special to stand out from the crowd. Enter Nat Wolff, the 18-year-old Nickelodeon-actor-turned mega-Tinseltown-star. His first A-list break came opposite Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in this spring's Admission, and he's since starred alongside the likes of Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, and James Franco.
Since we're all about character studies, we met up with Wolff here in his native New York to get inside his head — and his wardrobe. While he modeled his favorite downtown duds, we quizzed him on everything from what it's like to grow up in the Big Apple to how he really felt about working with Selena Gomez (sorry, no J.Biebs gossip here!) Click through to ogle some seriously awesome fashion, and find out why this teen's got us seeing star.
Photographed by Bek Andersen
Tell us how you got into acting in the first place.
"My dad is a jazz musician and my mom is an actress and a writer. I sort of grew up thinking those were the things that everybody did. Then I became a big Beatles fan and I started my own band, and my mom wrote this kind of mock documentary about us, and we shot it really cheaply, and then Nickelodeon picked it up. Kids saw the movie and really liked the music that I was writing, so people got really into my music, and that's sort of how the band became popular even before the show came on — just because these people and these kids were really loving the music.
Through the show, I started going to acting classes and working with my mom and other acting teachers, and watching Woody Allen movies, and then I got really into acting as well."
Your first huge movie is Admission — what was it like working with Paul and Tina?
"It was so fun. They're both obviously wonderful comedians — everybody knows that — but I think they're great all-around actors. Paul is exactly how you'd picture him, just as friendly as you see in the movies, and Tina does so many things at once. When we were working on the movie, she was working on her show. She has kids, and she does everything to the fullest extent. She puts her concentration into everything, so that was inspiring to watch."
What's it like balancing your movie career with finishing high school?
"For me, it's easier than it was when I was younger because I go to a school now that's very flexible and supportive of the things I'm doing outside of school."
What are your plans for college, or are you putting that on hold?
"No, I was actually applying to college while doing Admission."
We're guessing you didn't have any crazy stories like your character?
"Not quite as crazy as that — I didn't meet my mother through college applications, but I applied to a couple of schools and got into a couple. I actually decided on one, but I think I might defer and keep working for a year, and figure it out. But, I'm going to another place that's supportive of acting and music."
What would you say is the moment when you realized that you'd made it?
"I've never had that feeling really. I think I'm still thinking that I have so much more I want to do. I've always felt like sort of like an outsider in the business, just because I live in New York and I go to a real school. For me, there was a period when I was younger when I was super famous, and then I wasn't, and things kind of seemed to go in and out. I think that's what my parents taught me — it's really about the work. It's about the art, the music, and the acting. It's not about the other stuff. The other stuff is fine and nice, but it's really transient."
Your next movie is Behaving Badly costarring Selena Gomez. Do you have any crazy stories from the set?
"I've never worked with somebody at that level. I mean, Paul and Tina are super famous, but I think that when you're famous like Selena, for young people, it can get kind of wild. But she's so good. I got to see the movie finally, and she's really great in it. It was one of these movies that was lower budget, so we'd work these really late nights. The entire cast really bonded, at least the young people in the cast, because we'd be up until five in the morning, delirious, you know?"
What other upcoming projects do you have that you can share right now?
"I have a movie that I'm extremely excited about called Stuck In Love with Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, and Logan Lerman. It's a movie about a family and a divorce. It's kind of a romantic movie, but I have a really great part. I think it's one of the best things I've gotten to be a part of, so I'm excited for that. And then I did this movie called Palo Alto about a really psycho guy with James Franco and Emma Roberts. And then I'm still working on music with my brother — we're working on a new album."
How do you fit in your music projects with all of your movie work?
"Yeah, it's really hard. The good thing is that Alex and I both write separately, so while we're working, we're always writing songs on set, and we'll send it to each other via e-mail or text message. Or sometimes through voicemail, we'll send each other songs and check them out. But, we do try to find a good amount of time to record. Sometimes, it gets hard to balance, but what's great is that I have a song in Stuck in Love and a song in Behaving Badly. It's cool when the two worlds collide."
What is your fashion philosophy?
"I wear whatever feels right. I think I have a pretty relaxed style, and I honestly like things that feel good on my skin. I like clothes that are soft, and I hope that they look good, too. But sometimes, the first concern is the way that they feel."
Do you have any stores that you gravitate to?
"My shopping philosophy is to do it as little as possible, because I get really anxious when I shop."
You're a native New Yorker — what are your favorite places in the city?
"I live near Washington Square Park, so I love WSP. I love springtime and fall in New York, so those are my favorite seasons. I love taking the subway. I don't have a driver's license so I've sort of become a kid again when I'm in LA. I've been able to be independent since I was 11 or 12 in New York, but when I'm in LA, I'm dependent on rides. I lose friends because they get so annoyed that they have to pick me up places."
Where do you stand on the great New York versus Los Angeles debate?
"I like both places, but I'm more naturally inclined to New York. I grew up here so I feel a responsibility to pick New York. L.A. is so nice — it's nice weather — but since I don't drive I feel more at home in New York. But I don't think the people are better in either place. I love the people in New York and I love the people in L.A. There are some stereotypes about the people in both places, and I don't agree with any of them."
Who are your biggest idols?
"I'm the biggest Beatles fan on the face of the Earth. Paul McCartney is kind of like a god to me. Dustin Hoffman is my favorite actor. I was actually able to have an acting lesson with him in eighth grade. I was able to work with him and he gave me some advice. He said, 'You can't worry about the movie or the scene, you just have to worry about the moment.' And I was too nervous, so I don't think I really comprehended it when I was there, but now I think about it a lot."
What great advice have you been given?
"My parents taught me about just focusing on the art and not on the other stuff. That's sort of been my guiding principle. I always follow my creative ambitions first, and I think that's been good for me."