Whether you’re officially in quarantine or just self-isolating, you probably have more time on your hands than ever before. And if you’re searching for a film to lose yourself in, look no further than Marc Meyer’s newly released film, “Human Capital.”
Based on both Stephen Amidon’s 2005 novel and Paolo Virzi’s 2013 Italian film, “Human Capital” follows two families, one wealthy and one middle class, whose lives entangle when their children begin a relationship that leads to a tragic hit-and-run car accident. The film is broken into three chapters with several intersecting stories. Alex Wolff portrays Ian, the troubled, enigmatic boyfriend of Maya Hawke’s character, Shannon. Rather than portray the classic “troubled kid,” Wolff’s standout performance as Ian reveals a complex vulnerability beneath a hard exterior. With social distancing in effect, I spoke with Wolff over the phone about what drew him to the role, his chemistry with Maya, and a regrettable eyebrow piercing. Read on below.
The Knockturnal: Hey Alex, so good to speak to you!
Alex Wolff: So good to talk to you in quarantine…
The Knockturnal: I know, how are you doing?
Alex Wolff: I think I’m running out of puzzles and books so this is definitely a welcome distraction.
The Knockturnal: I’m such a big fan of yours, and I loved “Human Capital.” I want to ask first, what drew you to this role? And did you read the book beforehand?
Alex Wolff: I did read the book, although I didn’t read it before I read the script. I hadn’t really heard of the story or movie before, but I know Marc Meyers and he directed the film, “My Friend Dahmer” that I was in. We had become pretty close friends since doing the movie and we talked about working together. He helped me in a lot of ways, and in my own directorial debut, and we became really close, and then he sent me the script for “Human Capital” just basically saying, “yeah, I’m gonna direct this movie.” I read it and I immediately went, “yeah, just sign me up.” And he was like “really?” And I was like “yeah, I don’t need a formal offer, even if no one else has signed on, just sign me up.” So I was the first one signed onto the movie, and I got really excited about it. There’s these Kieślowski movies called “Blue, White, Red” and it’s this trilogy— I don’t want to give anything away—but it’s basically this trilogy surrounding these different events and these intertwining stories. “Human Capital” reminded me of a Kieślowski movie because it was divided into these three different parts, and I found it really exciting to see how everything came together in the final act. So I just kind of fell in love with that, and then I fell in love with the character I was playing. I just found him to be so fascinating and layered.
The Knockturnal: Which leads me into my next question, can you tell me a little bit about your character?
Alex Wolff: Yeah, well I think I’m someone who wears a lot of my emotions on my sleeve and is very open so it was cool to play someone who is so contained and tightened and held-back intentionally, you know very consciously closed-off. And then I liked that scene, when you know, shit really hits the fan, you see that that’s all kind of a cover for Ian. You know, that’s just his way of coping with his own vulnerabilities and when something really goes wrong, that’s when he explodes and you can see what’s underneath all of that opaqueness.
The Knockturnal: So did you and Maya Hawke know each other before filming?
Alex Wolff: So here’s the crazy thing- Maya and I went to pre-school together. It was such a coincidence. And we both had huge crushes on each other in pre-school. And then we kind of went to different schools in New York and we were always running in similar circles but we were never in each other’s lives in a huge way. And then this movie brought us back to being really close friends.
The Knockturnal: That’s amazing. And had you worked with anyone else in the movie before? Or everyone else was new for you?
Alex Wolff: Well yeah, I knew Fred Hechinger, who plays Jamie, for years socially. He’d just been one of my good friends. But no, I’d never worked with Liev Schreiber, I’d never worked with Marisa Tomei or Peter Sarsgaard. I mean it’s such an All-Star cast, but I’d never worked with anyone else.
The Knockturnal: So in the scene where you’re smashing your forehead, how did you guys film that? Did you actually bleed? And was that a real eyebrow piercing that you got for the role?
Alex: So yes that was a real piercing that I got for the movie, which was not a smart idea, and definitely a big pain in the ass (laughs). But yeah, that scene where I was in the car was pretty complicated to film. I remember I did one take where I was writhing and bashing all over the place, and the director said, “listen, we already did another scene where you freaked out, and you were doing similar things, so see if you can do something else. See if there’s a way to react where it’s somehow directed at yourself,” and I didn’t really know what to do. And then in the moment I just started smacking my own face and the eyebrow piercing popped. So that was real blood, and I was screaming at Maya, and while I was doing it I was like, “wait am i sweating down my head?” and I realized “ohh wait that’s blood dripping down my head.” It was so explosive and so red that the director had to tone it down and use special effects to chill it out a little bit.
The Knockturnal: Do you have any upcoming directing or acting projects in the works?
Alex Wolff: Yeah, so “Human Capital” is coming out, and the film “Bad Education,” which I’m acting in is coming out in April. And then this film “Castle in the Ground,” which I’m really proud about, is coming out in a couple months.
“Human Capital” stars an ensemble cast including Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei, Peter Sarsgaard, Maya Hawke, Fred Hechinger, and Betty Gabriel. The film was initially planned for a theatrical release on March 20, 2020, but the recent closing of most movie theaters due to Covid-19 means fans hoping to check it out should stream it on DirecTV Cinema or watch it On Demand. Check out the trailer below.