Struggling to find your true identity can be a challenging and difficult process for many teens who are searching for a way to be remembered by their peers. The main character, Rick Stevens, in writer-director Tim Garrick’s new independent comedy, ‘Behaving Badly,’ intriguingly attempts to prove his genuine nice personality as he struggles to gain the romantic attention of one his classmates. Actor Nat Wolff has once again shown his versatility as a performer in the coming-of-age comedy, as he infused Rick with a vulnerability at getting emotionally hurt, despite his seemingly tough demeanor.
‘Behaving Badly’ follows Rick, a 17-year-old senior in high school who’s struggling to find his place not only amongst his peers, but also in his somewhat dysfunctional family. He sets out to win the heart of his classmate, Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez), who is reconnecting with her faith after recently breaking up with her boyfriend. Thinking he can surely charm the innocent and religious Nina, Rick makes an ill-advised $1,000 bet with another one of his peers, who’s the son of a local Lithuanian mobster. Rick vows that he can have sex with Nina within the next couple weeks, regardless of the fact that she’s never truly noticed him before.
With the help of his best friend and neighbor, Billy Bender (Lachlan Buchanan), Rick sets out to win Nina’s heart. But he faces several challenges along the way, including Billy’s sex driven mother, Pamela (Elisabeth Shue), who continuously makes advances at him, even though she’s still married; his alcoholic mother, Lucy (Mary-Louise Parker), who’s constantly upset that Rick’s father, Joseph (Cary Elwes), keeps leaving without telling her; how his older sister, Kristen (Ashley Rickards), is working as a stripper, instead of following her dream of going to college; and how there are corrupt authority figures in his life, from Principal Basil Poole (Patrick Warburton) to Father Krumins (Jason Lee). But Rick refuses to let the new chaos in his life influence his main goal of proving to Nina that he’s truly the man she should be with and trust.
Wolf generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Behaving Badly’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to playing Rick in the film because not only was Garrick’s script one of the funniest he’s ever read, but he also admired, and wanted to work with, many of the stars who were already attached to the film; how he enjoys seeing films in theaters, but that VOD is an ever-growing and important distribution platform that’s becoming as beneficial to filmmakers and audiences as theaters are; and how he likes working with directors like Garrick who also wrote the script, as they’ve already gone through the journey of the characters that the actors are going to also go through.
ShockYa (SY): You star as Rick Stevens in the new comedy, ‘Behaving Badly.’ What was it about the character, as well as the script, that convinced you to take on the role?
Nat Wolff (NW): I fell in love with the script when I first read it, because it was so funny. It was probably the funniest script I have ever read. I found myself laughing out loud the entire time I was reading it. Then I got the job, and got excited when I heard about what other cast members were involved. After I got attached, Selena got attached. I had always wanted to work with her. So it all fell into place.
SY: Speaking of Selena, you knew her before you began shooting ‘Behaving Badly,’ as you had the same agent when you were both on your television series, ‘The Naked Brothers Band’ and ‘Wizards of Waverly Place.’ What was the experience of finally being able to work with her on the film?
NW: It was great. I had always been a big fan of her work. Growing up, I always kind of knew her as we were filming our TV shows, as I had seen her at events. She was always super sweet. We had the same agent, and he would go on and on about how great she was. Then I had worked with James Franco (on ‘Palo Alto’), and he also said how great she was in ‘Spring Breakers.’
So I was excited to get to work with her. She was such a great actress and a good person. She dealt with all her fame so well, because it would have been easy for her to be a jerk, and she wasn’t.
SY: Besides you and Selena, ‘Behaving Badly’ features a diverse and talented ensemble cast, including Mary-Louise Parker, Dylan McDermott and Heather Graham. What were your experiences like with your co-stars on the set?
NW: Well, one of my dreams was to work with Heather Graham; when I was growing up, I had such a crush on her. I loved ‘Bowfinger’ and other movies I had seen her in when I was younger. She was such a cool person to work with, and I ended up becoming good friends with her.
Mary-Louise Parker had actually done a play with my mom (actress-writer-producer-director Polly Draper). We had a lot of connections to the same people.
It’s interesting to do a movie like this. It was the first time I was in almost every scene of the movie, and I was on the set for the entire month-long shoot. But many of the other actors, like Dylan McDermott, had four-day shoots, and they would only come in and work for a few days. I would get to know them all separately, and then they would leave, which was sad. But it was exciting to get to know all these great actors.
SY: The movie was shot independently over the course of almost a month in Los Angeles, like you mentioned. What was the process of shooting the comedy over such a short period of time? Did having such a short schedule influence the story’s creativity?
NW: It was hard for everyone to get it done. Like any independent movie, it’s hard, but it’s also creative and exciting. You’re fighting to get it done, and there is no Plan B, so you have to get what you need. There’s something exciting about being under the gun.
SY: ‘Behaving Badly’ is now available on VOD and iTunes, and will be released in theaters on Friday. Are you a fan of watching movies On Demand, and do you think the platform is beneficial for independent films like this one?
NW: It totally is beneficial. One of my favorite recent films, ‘Drinking Buddies,’ was on Video On Demand about a week before it was released in theaters. I thought, that’s the start of something new. VOD is coming to the point where it’s not the lesser platform; it’s just the same as theaters. People will try to deny it, but that’s the way things go, and things change. But I still love seeing movies in theaters, as I like the experience. But, a movie’s a movie, and there are so many films, and there are so many ways to see them.
SY: Tim Garrick, who co-wrote the script for the comedy, made his feature film directorial debut with the movie. What was the process like of working with Tim, particularly since he’s a first time helmer? Do you prefer collaborating with directors who also wrote the screenplay?
NW: Yes, I like working with directors who also wrote the script. They’ve already gone through the journey of the characters that the actors are going to also go through. I’ve had really good experiences with writer-directors.
Working with Tim was cool because we have the same sense of humor. So we would talk about movies from the ’80s and other things we liked. We called the movie ‘Ferris Bueller on Crack.’ (laughs)
SY: How did you prepare for your role as Rick? Did you draw on any of your own life experiences?
NW: Rick was a slightly more immature version of myself. He wanted to do the right thing, but was too hormonal to do so. The character wasn’t really strong, so he was mainly defined by the people he was around. So having all those other colorful characters around him defined him. So he had to stay grounded while all these cartoonish people spun around him.
SY: Were you familiar with, or reference, Ric Browde’s 2000 book the comedy is based on, ‘While I’m Dead Feed the Dog,’ while you were filming?
NW: I actually read the book before I heard about the script. I really liked the book, but the movie’s not totally like it. There’s a lot that’s different in the book, but I think the film captures the wildness and the fun of the book.
SY: Besides ‘Behaving Badly,’ you have appeared in several films throughout your career that are based on books, including ‘Palo Alto,’ ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and ‘Admission.’ How does shooting a movie that’s based on a book compare and contrast to filming an original film? Do you take a different approach to act in a project that’s based on source material, as opposed to an original storyline?
NW: Yes, I think the great thing about having a book that a film is based on is that it gives you more material. With any script, even if there is a book it’s based on, you’re still searching for as much information as you can. But it’s great to have a book, because it gives the film’s story context.
What’s interesting with ‘Palo Alto’ is that my character, Fred, wasn’t even in the book. But I got a lot of the story’s vibe and context from the book. With ‘Admission,’ the whole ending in the film was the complete opposite from what it was in the book, but it was still great to have the character background.
SY: The comedy offers an amusing and funny insight into the emotional struggles and the at-times strained relationships Rick has with his family and friends. Did you and your co-stars improv at all while you were filming to help infuse your characters’ relationships with authenticity?
NW: Yes, the script was really funny, but there were some things that we were able to be more loose with than others. But the story was pretty structured, since this is a comedy. But Tim was open to letting us find the beats and reality of every scene. We wanted to make sure I didn’t go to a fantasyland, and I stayed in the reality of the story. So that was the challenge of the movie.
SY: While the film features several extreme situations that Rick inadvertently finds himself in, from excessive drug and alcohol use and mistakenly accepting a car with dead body in the trunk from mobsters, ‘Behaving Badly’ is focused on his coming-of-age story. Do you think audiences can relate to your character’s struggles to be accepted by his family and peers, particularly with Selena’s character, Nina?
NW: I don’t know if it’s a message movie, as much as it’s about a kid who learns how to be a man and a better person. It’s a classic coming-of-age story in that way. But I hope it makes people laugh, and they enjoy the romance between Selena and my characters, as well as the craziness, because I sure do.
SY: You mentioned ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ earlier. Are there any other coming-of-age films that you’re a fan of and enjoyed watching while growing up?
NW: I’m a huge fan of ‘The Graduate,’ which is one of my favorite movies of all time, ‘Risky Business’ and ‘Almost Famous.’ One of the more recent films I loved is ‘Adventureland,’ which I thought was underrated
SY: After appearing on ‘The Naked Brothers Band’ when you were younger, would you be interested in acting on another television series again in the future?
NW: Sure, but it would have to be something that was really exciting to me. With TV, you’re locking yourself down to one character for a longer period of time. But if it was the right thing, that would be amazing. But right now, I’m enjoying doing movies, because I get to play all these different types of characters, and I’m so lucky.
SY: You have released several albums with your younger brother, Alex. Are you interested in continuing with music?
NW: Yeah, I would. What’s been great is that we’ve been able to get music into a lot of our movies. We had a song in ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ ‘Stuck in Love’ and ‘Palo Alto.’ We’ve been putting out a lot of music, and our last songs charted. The hardest part about balancing our band is the scheduling. But once we get by that, we’re equally as passionate about band as our acting careers.
Written by: Karen Benardello