“I don’t know exactly what triggered me to want to start acting”, Wyatt Oleff began as I asked him if he recalled what he was watching on television when he told his mother he wanted that to be him. “But, one day when I was 5, I just decided that that’s what I wanted to do. [Like you said], I was watching TV, pointed to it, and said ‘I want to do that’. The first thing my mom said was no. We were living in Chicago at the time and had no connections with the entertainment industry. Then when we moved out to California, for separate reasons, I tried to ask my mom again. It worked. My parents decided that since I was persistent, they would help support me in pursuing acting”.
Wyatt Oleff is a new face in the highly anticipated adapation of one of Stephen King’s most popular novels, ‘IT’. The new adaptation is in cinemas now and he plays his biggest role yet as Stanley Uris. As the shy, play-by-the-rules member of the famed “The Losers Club”, ‘Stanley’ and the other ‘losers’ will do everything they can to discover what person, or thing, is at the root of an epidemic of missing and murdered children in their small town of Derry.
It’s difficult to speak about someone’s first steps into acting when that person is still only 14 years old. But for Wyatt Oleff, it became his ‘sport’. “I think that [my mom] just wanted to see where it went”, he continued, speaking of why his mother had a change of heart. “She kinda just wanted to let me try it because I kept asking. Also, I was not into sports so both my parents decided that this would be my ‘sport’, and that they would treat it the same way”. As luck would have it, the first steps happened quickly. “We knew someone who knew someone at an agency in LA. I was able to go in and have a meeting with CESD Talent Agency, and they signed me straight away! After that it was just working on the auditions they secured for me”.
Prior to ‘IT’, Oleff played the young Peter Quill; the fledgling version of Chris Pratt’s beloved Marvel personality in the blockbuster films, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2’. It was during this time that Oleff first visited London; “We had 3 weeks to just roam around the city, which was super fun. We rode the Tube everywhere! Plus we went to see numerous famous landmarks, museums and gardens. It was such a great experience, and because of that, London has a special place in my heart. Filming was super fun as well. But having time to explore a place I’d never been before was sweet”.
Young Peter Quill proved a challenge. Because, you know, that emotional hospital scene of his mother’s final moments? “I find crying in general pretty difficult”, he said, “[Acting] is one of the things I’m best at, yet when it comes time to cry, I start to get very anxious. I don’t want to cross the line of unstoppable crying and be stuck in that state for a while”. As Peter Quill, the challenge came because he was younger, and the entire role was about being upset. Whereas, as Stanley Uris, he was able to able to express a range of emotion and not just be sad. “I was also able to let Stanley cry and be upset when he needed to be, but not let it affect me personally. That was a cool moment to achieve as an actor”.
Getting into the character of Stanley Uris didn’t prove as difficult because Wyatt Oleff had an “easy time” putting himself into those shoes; “It’s because I fit into my character the most out of everyone in the cast”, he said, “and playing Stanley was basically just like being myself, with some subtle differences”. Wyatt touched upon the fact that one of his favourite parts of filming ‘IT’ was the friendships he made, saying, “I would say for sure that the best part of filming ‘IT’ was being able to be with everyone almost 24/7”.
The process became more like second nature. “We didn’t even have to act half the time. We were just being ourselves, and that’s what makes the dialogue in the movie so natural. If I could explain how we clicked so well together, I would. But it was just so incredible, and we’re not sure how or why we became such good friends. I imagine it started with casting. And then carried through to the support we had to bond for the first few weeks before filming”. The cast worked closely with Benjamin Perkins, the on set acting coach, and I imagine the countless sleepovers helped too…
“I always knew about the story of the evil, spooky killer clown”, he continued, “but I never really got into the depths of the story until we started filming”. Acting, however, is now a matter of course for Wyatt Oleff. “I don’t find it too difficult to do”, he said confidently. “Especially when I connect with a character personally. Finding confidence to portray different characters is something that isn’t too hard to me. Playing characters is fun, not nerve-racking”. The one challenge that did present itself during ‘IT’ were the scenes where he was alone; “I had no one to fall back onto if I needed it. Those were the scariest scenes to film for sure!”
Wyatt Oleff started his career young, finding himself in a critically acclaimed film at the age of 14. And though he loves film, he creates his own movies, it’s not always fun and games. “You should be acting because you love it, not because you want to be famous”, he said when I asked him what he would say to other young, aspiring actors. “There are a lot of disappointments and frustrations that you have to go through sometimes. You have to be patient, and keep striving forward. No matter how long it takes. I was told that the job is to audition, and treat every audition as if it is the last one. Do your best, then walk away. Also, always keep some really good friends around you!”
Too young to consider majoring in psychology, it is still something of attraction to Wyatt; “I have a huge interest in how the mind works”, he said. “I think, just being able to understand what’s going on in someone else’s mind is so intriguing to me. There’s a lot of stuff going on in my head, so being able to figure out what’s going on for someone else could not only help them, but maybe help me find new ways to look at life”. It’s this attitude that makes Wyatt Oleff so charming. He’s young, but involved. He knows where he wants to be.
In his spare time he makes his own short movies, but he wouldn’t call them movies, not really; “I’d call them skits”, he went on to explain. “They’re two minute comedy shorts that I make and post on my YouTube channel. I find it a fun medium to find my voice and express myself. I make them with my friends, or just by myself. They range from being puns, to… well being puns”. It’s a hope right now that this love of cinema reaches great places. “In front of or behind the camera”, he added as a final thought. “I think it will be one of my main paths in life, and I hope it continues for a long time…”
‘IT’ is in cinemas nationwide, and you can watch the trailer here