Nat Wolff's story is a familiar one: a former Nickelodeon star attempts to break out in feature film. But in two upcoming performances Wolff demands your attention. On Friday audiences will be able to see Wolff in Palo Alto as Fred, a veritable harbinger of mischief. Next month he'll be seen in The Fault in Our Stars as Isaac, a teen with cancer losing both his eyesight and his girlfriend.
My expectations for Palo Alto were mixed, having long ago grown weary of many of James Franco's antics. But despite his turn as a soccer coach lusting after his teenage players—in which he is never not creepy—the movie feels less like one of Franco's art experiments, than the foundational work of exciting emerging artists. Gia Coppola has clearly inherited some of her aunt Sofia's predisposition for imbuing her work with a dreamlike quality and indie music, but the movie isn't all artifice. Coppola has created an ecosystem of teens that you are actually able to care about despite their horrible behavior. And the Wolff's Fred is the worst of them all.
The movie opens on Fred and his friend Teddy (Jack Kilmer, who is, yes, Val's son) sitting in a car in a parking lot. Out of nowhere, Fred slams the car into a wall. It's the first indication that Fred is something of a Tasmanian Devil, prone to leaving destruction in his wake. He vandalizes a children's book. He chops down a tree with a chainsaw. He pushes a girl's head down, making her give him a blow job, and later taunts her. Wolff portrays Fred as a kid who quite literally can't sit still. His gangly frame is almost constantly bouncing up and down. But what is perhaps most miraculous about his performance is that he actually makes Fred somewhat alluring, even though his behavior is vile and revolting. It makes sense that a teenage girl would find him attractive, or that a boy would hang out with him despite being warned time and time again not too. "Gia told me, I want you to find the fun and the humor and the lightness," Wolff told me at The Fault in Our Stars press junket this past weekend. "The asshole’s already in the script. You don't have to play the asshole. Play the other. That opened me up."
In the short time we chatted it became clear that Wolff—whose first adult breakout role was arguably the 2013 comedy Admission—takes his work seriously. Still, he couched his comments in enough self-deprecation that he didn't come off as pretentious. He said he has realized that each role is going to be "hard" if it's going to be performed well. "It’s become so uncool to say that you’re a method actor," he said. "But I am." It goes way back, he explained his mother—the actress Polly Draper—would do acting exercises with him when he couldn't sleep. He only realized what she was doing once he started going to class. (Draper wrote and directed The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie, which launched the careers of Wolff and his brother Alex, and became a successful Nickelodeon show.)
To prepare for his role in Fault he spent time practicing being blind. "I wore an eye patch for a day, just saw how that made me feel, kind of woozy and stuff," he said. "Then I just closed my eyes and put glasses on and did everything blind. I ended up putting Tiger Balm on my toothbrush accidentally." (He wears contacts that blacked out his eyes in the movie.) For Palo Alto he described the process as a freeing one, having initially told Coppola that he didn't feel like the character he was set to play. "There’s a part of me that’s like that, and it’s a part that I keep so hidden," he said. "So basically that role was almost liberating. It was finding this part of myself that needs a ton of attention that I usually keep hidden and bringing it out to the front."
Isaac and Fred have little in common, but both brim with a sort of nervous, at times angry, energy that makes them magnetic to watch. Fred's anger is nebulous, whereas Isaac's is pointed. He is, after all, a cancer patient. Isaac is also secondary to the story of The Fault in Our Stars, which focuses mostly on the love story between Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort). Wolff will have a bigger role in the next movie based on a John Green book: he's set to play the co-lead in Paper Towns, a book he read on the Fault set at the recommendation of Green. He'll also re-team with Fault director Josh Boone—who used Wolff in his first film, Stuck in Love—for the Stephen King adaptation, The Stand. He thinks of Boone and Coppola as two of his best friends, he told me.
"Now I’m sort of getting to the point where I have more control over what I do, but I want to work with really great people and and do stuff that’s good," he said. "That’s been my drive more than being the most successful actor in the world. And I would love to be successful, I love the people who are going to Fault. Nothing against success, obviously. I just mean, it can’t be my number one priority or I think I’ll make the wrong choices."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
The condition has long been considered untreatable. Experts can spot it in a child as young as 3 or 4. But a new clinical approach offers hope.
This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.
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At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”
She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
The story was notably loud. Its retraction is notably quiet.
On Tuesday of last week, the day after TheWashington Post published its bombshell about President Trump’s Oval Office divulgences to Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Kisliyak, Sean Hannity took to the air at the Fox News Channel to discuss a murdered man named Seth Rich. Rich, a 27-year-old staffer at the Democratic National Committee, had been gunned down in Washington, DC, in July, seemingly the victim of a violent crime. Earlier that day, however, a local Fox TV station had reported—in a claim that would quickly be debunked—that Rich had ties to WikiLeaks, and that his death was, rather than the tragic result of random violence, instead evidence of a deeper conspiracy.
In the days since, that idea has leapt to life in the conservative areas of the media—an easy symbol, in the minds of many, of the “mainstream” media’s stubborn and partisan refusal to report on a story that would put the DNC in a negative light. (“Silence from Establishment Media over Seth Rich WikiLeaks Report,” Breitbartseethed.) And so, as many members of the nation’s press corps set out to further the Post’s reporting on the White House, the Rich story became a chorus-like feature on conservative-leaning media—and not just in Hannity’s extra-bombastic corner of Fox News. The Rich story hit Drudge. It exploded on social media. “NOT RUSSIA, BUT AN INSIDE JOB?” Breitbart asked, provocatively. The site added that, “if proven, the report has the potential to be one of the biggest cover-ups in American political history, dispelling the widespread claim that the Russians were behind hacks on the DNC.”
Can governments be as innovative about saving lives?
Yesterday’s terrorist attack that struck at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Britain’s Manchester Arena—leaving 22 people dead and 59 injured, by the latest count—feels perhaps even more callous and personal than other such recent atrocities. As TheNew York Timesnoted, the target was “a concert spilling over with girls in their teens or younger, with their lives ahead of them, out for a fun night.”
For Europe, the attack, now claimed by ISIS, represents a continuation of a nightmare scenario: The pace and deadliness of terrorist attacks in the continent has reached levels unprecedented in the post-9/11 era, with the heinous and grotesque becoming frighteningly routine.
Even five years ago, specialists could count the major post-9/11 attacks in Western countries on one hand, and knew every date on which they had been perpetrated. They were known by names like 3/11 or 7/7 (references to attacks in Madrid and London, respectively).
Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata all said their goodbyes last weekend—in very different ways.
In the past, departing Saturday Night Live cast members have gotten whole sketches devoted to sending them off. Kristen Wiig was serenaded with song and dance from Mick Jagger and the rest of the crew; Bill Hader’s Stefon finally married Seth Meyers; Will Ferrell got a series of testimonials. On last weekend’s 42nd season finale, the show said goodbye to three cast members with varying tenures and legacies: Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata. The first got a goodbye sketch of sorts, the second a couple of featured roles on her last night, and the third no acknowledgement at all. It was a slightly muddled end to what feels like one of SNL’s weaker eras—even as the show breaks ratings records in the age of Donald Trump.
Reports that presidential aides asked senior intelligence officials to help shut down the FBI investigation put those staffers in legal jeopardy.
The Washington Postreport that White House staffers were involved in President Trump’s alleged effort to shut down the FBI’s investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn increases the legal and political peril for the administration as Robert Mueller’s inquiry moves forward.
On Monday, the Post reported that Trump had asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Director Mike Rogers to push back on the testimony of the March then-FBI Director Jim Comey that Trump campaign associates were being scrutinized as a part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. Both officials reportedly refused.
“This is very close to what Nixon tried to do in drawing in the CIA to short circuit the FBI investigation during Watergate,” said a former high-ranking Justice Department official. “His advisers could be very much at risk if they played a role in the alleged interference.” The Post did not mention whether Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo received a similar request.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu explains to his city why four monuments commemorating the Lost Cause and the Confederacy had to come down.
Last week, the City of New Orleans finished removing four monuments—to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee, and the postwar battle of Liberty Place. The removals occasioned threats, protests, and celebrations. On Friday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu explained to his city why he had concluded that the monuments needed to come down.
The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way—for both good and for ill.
Economists say the document doesn’t account for the costs of tax cuts and its other policy proposals.
Regardless of the details, the budget released Tuesday by the Trump administration was likely to be met with opposition from the Democrats for the scope of the cuts it proposed to programs that help low-income Americans. But, big-picture disagreements aside, people assumed that those details would at least add up.
Not the case: There appears to be a major problem with the details of Trump’s budget—namely, that it fails to account for the loss of trillions of dollars of revenue that will result from the tax cuts it proposes. Left-leaning economists have been quick to highlight the omission, which, as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote in TheWashington Post, “would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course.” Others are characterizing it not as an error but a deliberate manipulation: “The unreality/gimmicks in this budget are an [sic] unprecedented, epic scale,” Jason Furman, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter.
The Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday it would subpoena the former national security adviser’s businesses for Russia-related documents, potentially bypassing the Fifth Amendment.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s leaders ramped up their efforts on Tuesday to obtain Russia-related documents from former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, telling reporters the committee is subpoenaing materials from two of Flynn’s businesses.
The announcement comes one day after Flynn informed the committee he wouldn’t comply with a previous subpoena issued to him personally, invoking his Fifth Amendment protections against compelled testimony that could be used to prosecute him. By targeting the businesses, the committee’s leaders hope to circumvent the Fifth Amendment issues at stake.
“While we disagree with General Flynn’s lawyers’ interpretation of taking the Fifth, it is even more clear that a business does not have a right to take a Fifth if it’s a corporation,” Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s ranking Democratic member, told reporters. “So those subpoenas—one has been served, one is in the process of being served. And we keep all options on the table.”