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Alex Wolff Talks Committing To Hereditary Scene, But Sounds Like The Process Of Filming It Was Brutal

Alex Wolff in Hereditary
(Image credit: A24)

If you’re a horror fan, you’ve probably got your own list of favorites and most terrifying films. For me, Hereditary is near the top. Honestly, it’s probably up there pretty high, or at least present, for you as well (despite it’s low CinemaScore). Ari Aster’s emotional horror flick does a lot of things right, as do the stars. Star Alex Wolff has opened up about committing to that wild desk scene, and it sounds like the process of filming was almost as hardcore and brutal as it looks on screen.

Alex Wolff was just around 19-years-old when Hereditary came out, and that makes his performance in Hereditary even more impressive. What’s even more, though, is that the young star had some serious commitment to a pretty scary, potentially harmful scene in the film. 

In an interview with The Wrap, Alex Wolff says that he told director Ari Aster he would totally sacrifice his face in the name of art and slam his nose into a desk a few times for that intense scene. Of course, Aster declined this offer, like any sane person would. Here’s how Wolff explains it:

I said to Ari when that scene was coming up, ‘I will do it on a real desk, just tell me.’ And he said, ‘I love you and thank you but that is definitely not allowed, definitely an illegal thing to do so we’re not going to do that…’ break my own face.

Alex Wolff goes on to say that Ari Aster told him they would get a fake desk for him to bash his face into. Apparently Wolff expected it to be pretty soft and not cause too much pain, but he wasn’t as far off in his first suggestion of slamming into a real desk after all, because it wasn’t the softest thing to bash into. This is what he says:

So, he said, ‘We’re going to get a soft cushion desk,’ and I was, like, ‘OK, cool, we’ll do that, that sounds better,’ and then I get there, and I don’t know what I expected, but I expected maybe a foam desk or something and, really, it was not that.

Hereditary has the most realistic depiction of grief I have ever seen in a film by veteran actor Toni Collette, but the young talent in the film had some wildly impactful and downright impressive scenes as well. And Alex Wolff apparently fought through some pain and pressure for his desk sequence. In the same interview, he says he had to nail the tough scene on the first or second shot, because they only had two of the foam (but still pretty hard) desks. Here it is in his own words:

It had a foam top but it was hard on the bottom and there were only two of them, and I had to nail it perfectly. I had to have the blood shoot out perfectly out of my nose and jump back and do that whole thing. I remember after, I was just panting, my voice is gone, blood is dripping down everywhere, and blood is gushing down my knee — real blood gushing down my knee because I slammed it against a chair. I couldn’t move my arm, my complete ankle was swollen — it looked like a balloon.

Honestly, that’s some sacrifice right there. Actors have stunt doubles for just this kind of thing (unless they insist on doing their own stunts), although I don’t know how great a double would have looked on camera in this particular scene. Alex Wolff’s face, although in some pretty wild expressions, is on full display through most of it, minus the creepy shot of his extended arm in the most awkward position ever. I don’t even know if it would be fair to put a double through an experience like that, because someone is going to end up a little hurt either way.

The scene totally works, though, and just like the expressions on the other actors’ faces as they watch Alex Wolff’s character, I would be pretty horrified to be in that room and witness what goes down in the desk scene. Wolff’s commitment pretty much makes the scene. And he has gone on to be in some pretty sweet films since, so it looks like the pain was probably worth it.

You can see Alex Wolf in M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent film Old and alongside Nicolas Cage in Pig. He’s got a few new release films coming out as well, with Susie Searches as his most upcoming title, and hopefully he won’t be slamming his face into any more desks in the future. I feel like one experience with that particular method acting is enough. 

Director Ari Aster has another pretty lengthy film coming out that Hereditary and Midsommar fans will pretty much have to check out, but it won’t be among the upcoming horror films of 2022, because Disappointment Blvd. is not actually just a horror film, but a “nightmare comedy”. Knowing the director, I would be willing to bet that it’s got some seriously amazing scenes in it, though, too.

Carlie Hoke
Carlie Hoke

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.