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Opinion:

Finn Wolfhard: The face of Hollywood's next-gen acting talent

Canadian actor Finn Wolfhard rose to prominence with a leading role in the immensely popular Netflix series Stranger Things, carving out his place in a group of talented young actors. Wolfhard’s penchant for the performing arts is not just limited to acting, he has also been a member of multiple bands like Calpurnia and The Aubreys as he continues to flex his muscles within contemporary. As he turns 18, it is important to take note of this burgeoning star and to see whether Wolfhard really is representative of the next generation of acting talent.

Born in Vancouver, Wolfhard landed his first acting role in a music video at the age of nine while scouring Craigslist. In an interview, he recalled, “You could go on Craigslist and search for gigs and some were, like, sketchy, but you would also find, like, ‘Looking for eight-to 11-year-old boy and girl to play younger versions of Canadian indie band.'” Despite the questionable early work, he enjoyed the experience of operating on a production set while filming for the Vancouver band that hired him, prompting him to take up an acting class in the summer. Wolfhard was also drawn towards filmmaking from an early age and, since he was seven, has been making sci-fi themed short films. In fact, the young creative enjoyed the activity so much that he even considered enrolling into film school in order to become a director.

Although the role of Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things was Wolfhard’s breakthrough role, his television debut came in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama The 100. Prior to taking on the biggest project of his life, he also featured as Jordie Pinsky in Supernatural. The circumstances in which he landed the Stranger Things part were far from normal. Despite being sick, Wolfhard responded to the open call for auditions by taping a video on his phone and sending it to the casting team who asked him to meet them in Los Angeles. It is in that sentiment alone that Wolfhard offers the clearest signal that he is well and truly in the new breed of burgeoning Hollywood talents. He later revealed that he was in love with the script from the start:

The synopsis called it a love-letter to ’80s teen drama, horror and sci-fi. I was like, ‘I’m in.’ I love retro culture. I love retro games; I love retro music. And so I was sort of in that boat from the beginning. I didn’t really need any proper training.

The show went on to inject an unprecedented momentum in his fledgeling career, earning him a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance as part of a brilliant ensemble cast. More than the critical acclaim and the awards, Stranger Things gave Wolfhard the platform to showcase his talents as a central figure in one of Netflix’s most popular shows. His increasing popularity and his status as a fan-favourite attracted attention from other places, notably paving the way for his feature film debut in the 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Although he has gone on record saying that horror isn’t his favourite genre, he reprised the role in the 2019 sequel and appeared in the 2020 supernatural horror film The Turning which marked his Sundance Film Festival debut.

Wolfhard is at a pivotal point in his career with a steadily growing portfolio, leaving films like The Goldfinch (2019) in the past and moving on to more significant projects like Jason Reitman’s 2021 film Ghostbusters: Afterlife where he will star alongside Carrie Coon. Like many of the Stranger Things cast, Wolfhard is already displaying surprising maturity beyond his years. In his earlier interviews, the actor has repeatedly indicated that he is aware of the precariousness of being a child star. He said, “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.” Having already become a victim of some of the pernicious side-effects of celebrity culture, Wolfhard has claimed that adults followed him home back to his condo in order to ask for a picture when he was just 13-years-old in what is a damning indictment of the pressure young creatives must manage.

While working towards furthering his acting career, Wolfhard is also revisiting his early passions by exploring the possibility of being a filmmaker. He made his directorial debut this year with the comedy short Night Shifts, insisting that writing screenplays has helped him push the boundaries of his artistic sensibilities. “All my favourite directors and comedians and provocateurs and they all test the boundaries,” Wolfhard revealed. 

He added: “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.” 

It is still too early to say whether Finn Wolfhard will manage to rise to the top of the industry as the face of the next generation but what cannot be denied is his enormous potential to become the next big Hollywood star. Consistently named by magazines as one of the top 30 acting talents in his age group, Wolfhard has all the makings of a future star. With creative talent flowing out of every pour, it will be interesting to see whether he will succumb to the unimaginable pressure or live up to his bounding potential; my money is on the latter.