Nat Wolff, On the Verge of Leading Man Status (Exclusive)

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“I’ve done some bad movies,” Nat Wolff admits to ETonline. The 20-year-old former Nickelodeon star isn’t referring to Ashby, the dark comedy starring Mickey Rourke and Emma Roberts, or the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns. Those two films, much like last year’s summer hit, TheFault in Our Stars, Wolff is proud of.

In fact, it was the success of that teen romance -- also an adaptation of a popular Green novel -- that gave Wolff the opportunity to take more control of his own career. While wrapping up production on The Fault in Our Stars, producer Marty Bowen hinted at the possibility of doing Paper Towns and Wolff made clear he was interested, even before a script was ready.

Obviously, that film was an easy choice for Wolff: the leading role of a highly anticipated adaptation, produced by the same team as the first hit, and, later, co-starring Cara Delivingne, the somewhat controversial, but extremely popular fashion model and part-time actress. 

As for Ashby, it’s an unexpected move for the young actor who has only briefly flirted with edgier material in Palo Alto, written by James Franco. “It’s f--king crazy, right?” Wolff says of the dramedy about Ed, an awkward teenager who forms an unlikely bond with Ashby, a former CIA assassin played by Rourke.

The actor could have easily followed the footsteps of his The Fault in Our Stars co-stars and maybe even joined them in the Divergent franchise, but instead was drawn to the project by writer and director Tony McNamara -- and the chance to work with Rourke. “We would tease each other if one of us got too serious,” Wolff says of the candor he developed with the 62-year-old acting legend. That relationship plays on screen, which features the two often going back and forth as Ed unwittingly drives Ashby around town to assassinate names on his hit list.

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Now, Wolff is on the edge of leading man status, even if acting alongside two high profile names, such Delivingne and Rourke, elicit new questions about working with them.

What did he think of that fact that Rourke provided his own wardrobe? “He flew home to L.A. to get his own clothes,” Wolff says, almost in admiration.

Did any of Delivigngne’s famous friends -- yes, including Taylor Swift -- visit the Paper Towns set? “I’m friends with some of her friends,” he offers, but says no one visited the North Carolina set, allowing them “to get lost in the movie.”

Soon these questions will diminish as Wolff continues to step out on his own. Ashby, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is seeking distribution, will earn him the acting cred, while Paper Towns will undoubtedly cement his box office status -- both roles making those “bad movies” a thing of the past. 

Get to know the stars of the Tribeca Film Festival: director Brett Morgen, Sarah Bolger, and Theo Rossi.