Ever pine away for an unobtainable crush only to luck out and have that hottie climb in your bedroom widow asking for help? No? Bummer…but it happens to teenager Quentin (Nat Wolff) who is crushing on school queen Margo (Cara Delevigne). Trouble is, after he helps her, she disappears!
Based on the popular novel by “The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green, Paper Towns is both a romance and a mystery. Cute Nat Wolff, who played buddy Isaac in the film version of “The Fault in Our Stars” was tapped to play lead Quentin, a shy highschooler who dreams of hooking up with popular Margo. When she climbs through his window one night asking him to help her get revenge on those who wronged her with a little road trip payback, he is so in! Then she just disappears and his life changes radically.
We learned why Nat loved working with funny and popular model/actress Cara Delevigne whom he had only seen on billboards, how he got started as an actor, how he deals with competition, the day he was almost beaten up for staying in character and his weird connection to classic actor Dustin Hoffman. Check it out!
Q: We all want to know. How was working with Cara? Nat: Cara was great. She came in for the chemistry read with me because I’d been involved with the movie before she was involved, and I was the only person in the world who hadn’t heard of her. She walked in and I did a double take “I think you were outside my apartment on a billboard.” Right outside my apartment across the street was this big billboard of Cara and Kate Moss and I used to walk my dog past it. I was like “I think I walked my dog past you a thousand times”. She walked in and she was basically Margo. She’s such a natural actor.
Q: John (Green, the novelist and executive producer) was saying that she likes to touch his ears. Did she do anything like that to you? Nat: She liked to check if I had any boogers in my nose every single day (laughter). She would look up into my nose right before a take. Also, one time when we were sitting across from each other, she was on camera and I see her eyes go like this (looking over his shoulder) and she said “Is that a water slide?” She points. We were outside and she saw a water slide to the right. At lunch, she ended up going and buying like eight tickets for the water slide. The whole cast and director went to the water slide on our day off.
Q: Did Cara pull any pranks on set. What was she like to be around? Fun? Nat: Yeah. We honestly had so much fun. Everyone says that on a movie and usually it’s a lie but on this one it’s true. We had so much fun. At the end of the movie me, Austin (Abrams) Cara, Halston (Sage) and Justice (Smith) all started crying. It was really a magical experience and one of those things where doing this movie was a little bit like going in a time machine and going back in time for me playing this character. I didn’t want it to end.
Q: Is there anything similar between Cara and Shailene (Woodley)? Nat: That’s interesting. I guess they are both strong and interesting women and they’re both in John Green adaptations. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head except I really do love them both and they’re both good friends of mine and both talented.
Q: In the movie you say “Everyone gets their miracle”. What’s your miracle? Nat: I think I’ve had so many. I’m so lucky. I guess, right now, my miracle is Paper Towns and that I was included in this great world and John Green for writing this good book.
Q: It’s your first leading role, right? Nat: Yeah. It’s definitely the movie that from the beginning I was involved in, even before there was a script and a director and everybody treated me like a creative partner. Sometimes, as an actor, you feel like a hired gun and, on this, I really felt like part of the team.
Q: So John Green and you found each other on The Fault in Our Stars? Nat: Yeah. John has a joke that when his wife’s around she feels like she is the third wheel with John and me. I think that John should just come on all the sets that I’m working on and just sit there and be the producer and every time he’s got an adaptation I’d be honored to come and do craft (food) service.
Q: What triggered you to want to be an actor when you were a kid? Nat: I grew up with an actress/writer mom (Polly Draper) and a jazz musician dad (Michael Wolff) and all their friends were cool artists and musicians and painters and I thought that’s what people did. I was really obsessed with The Beatles and my parents had a bunch of Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman movies and I used to watch them when everybody was asleep because I was too young to watch these R-rated movies. Then I got to be in a couple of plays. Then, in my second play I got to see my first live naked woman. That was the best. Then I just kept doing plays and I’ve been obsessive about acting ever since.
Q: Some people say you look like young Dustin Hoffman. Nat: Yeah. He’s one of my favorites. I was eleven or twelve when I first started liking him but I won an acting contest and got to go have an acting lesson with Dustin Hoffman when I was in 8th grade. It was so cool. I spent like an hour with him and did a scene from Ordinary People, that Timothy Hutton movie and at the end of it he was like “You’re a real actor, kid”. About four years later I went to a film festival and he was coming out of an elevator and I said “I don’t know if you remember me but I had an acting lesson with you and you said I was a real actor. Now I’m here with a real movie”. He said “Well, I’m gonna charge you more next time” (Laughter).
Q: You’ve also been writing songs since you were five and been a musician. You’ve done a lot at such a young age. Nat: I hate to be bored. I have a lot of crazy energy and I like to put it into music or acting. Cara also has a crazy appetite for life as well.
Q: Do you have anything in common with your character Quentin? Nat: I had more in common with Quentin when I was in 7th or 8th grade than I did at the end of high school. Because I grew up in New York and was an actor/musician, I grew up a little faster than Quentin did. But, when I was in 8th grade, I kind of was that kid. I used to play it more safe. I had to learn to be more courageous and I think that’s the journey of Quentin.
Q: How challenging is to be a young actor today competing and trying to find roles? Nat: I do find acting really challenging and at the same time really fulfilling. I’ve been extremely lucky. I have a lot of friends who are really talented actors who have it a lot harder than me. At the beginning of my career I really was at the whim of everyone else. The lucky thing now is I’m in a little bit more of a power seat where I can control what I do. Not completely but I have way more control of what I do and that is where I’ve wanted to get to. When you first start out you just want to act in stuff, you want to be in movies. You love movies. But, now, I want to be in good movies.
Q: But there is just so much competition. Nat: I try not to think about it. I try to focus on the work. I don’t like to think about it because if it gets in my head it might not be good for my acting. I just think of an audition as an excuse to act and perform and find a character. Now, I don’t have to audition as much.
Q: In the John Green movies (this one and The Fault in Our Stars) nobody is on their phone or texting as much. That’s like going back in a time machine. Does that seem normal to you? Nat: Yeah, I think a lot of people who’ve seen Paper Towns feel nostalgic for their high school years. I think the best movies about young people are not too specific to the time where it’s not relatable but also doesn’t feel dated. (You wouldn’t say) “Kids don’t talk like that anymore”. It was like all of us did get in a time machine and stayed back there a couple of months. Then, when I came home, it was like I was coming out of a fog. I felt like an alien when I got home.
Q: Could you be as obsessive as Quentin? Would you go all over the world trying to find a woman? Nat: I feel that one of things I can connect to is my passion to be the best kind of artist that I can be. That is almost like my Margo (Cara’s character). It’s always something that is just this much ahead of me and I can’t really touch but it’s always leading me.
Q: What’s next? Nat: I’m in this movie called In Dubious Battle where I got to play this guy leading a strike with James Franco and Robert Duval and Ed Harris and Vincent D’Onofrio and all these great actors and I got to jump on a table and be like (yelling) “Strike! Strike!” So, that was super fun. But I got home one day from work and I’d been beating this guy up all day in themovie and there was a girl in the movie and we were getting out of a van and these like drunk crack guys were harassing the girl and I was like “You guys! Back off!” in my accent that I had for the movie. Then I thought “Oh my God. I don’t know how to fight. I’m gonna die” (laughter). They all started screaming at me. “Uh we should go”. Sometimes I get a little too lost in it.
Q: You act with a lot of famous, great actors. Do you ever get intimidated? Nat: I so do. But, I spend a lot of time beforehand trying to forget who they are and forget what they mean to me and just think of them as the character they’re playing. I got to do one scene with Robert De Niro and the day before I needed calming down. He’s a hero of mine. Honestly, with De Niro, he was so comforting when I got there. People say he’s quiet on set but when I got there he was like “You’re chewin’ on that piece of gum. Whereya gonna put that gum”? “I don’t know”. “You should put it under the table”. Okay, I’d do anything Robert De Niro told me to do so I did it. I put it under the table and he was like “I can’t believe you just did that. You’re breaking the set, kid”. He starts making fun of me with the crew.
Q: That’s a good impression of him. Is that a hidden talent? Nat: At the end of every movie I have an impression of about three or four of my castmates.
Q: What about this movie? Nat: (In high Cara voice) Is that a water slide? Then my John Green (nasal sounding). Here we are making Paper Towns. (laughter).
Q: Do you do impressions on stage? Nat: Oh no. I tried in 5th grade and I was so bad. Then all summer I wrote fifteen minutes of material. I’m gonna be a stand-up comedian. I’d start off with “I’m Nat Wolff and I’m eleven years old and my life is hell”. In music everybody is going to clap no matter what but in comedy there is that immediate reaction. Wasn’t good.
Q: Are you going to do more music? Nat: Yeah, I’ve been doing music all summer with my brother. We have this EP coming out and we’re gonna play some shows on the Paper Towns tour.