The first time Nat Wolff heard about John Green’s Paper Towns, he was on the set of another John Green adaptation, The Fault In Our Stars. It was then that producer Wyck Godfrey suggested that Wolff give Paper Towns a read. As Wolff puts it, Godfrey didn’t quite wink at him, but “there was something behind” the suggestion. So Wolff quickly read the book, loved it, and four months later, picked up his phone just in time to be offered the lead role of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen in a Paper Towns film adaptation. According to Wolff, he said yes before they could even finish making the offer.
“It’s just such a soulful character and a funny book. I’m excited,” Wolff says. And yet what might be most exciting is the fact that screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber knew about Wolff before they started writing the script, which allowed them, for the first time in their careers, to write for a specific actor. “First of all, that is like the most exciting compliment I’ve ever gotten because those guys are such good writers. The fact that I’m the first actor that they’re writing for is really just unbelievable,” Wolff says.
As for the character of Q, there was a lot that attracted Wolff to him, including Green himself. “I’m just a huge fan of John Green’s books,” Wolff says. “I think he doesn’t talk down to teenagers. I see so many bad movies about teenagers and I read so many scripts that are so bad about teenagers, and he’s writing things that kind of celebrate them, you know? I don’t think every movie does need to celebrate teenagers, but I think [there’s] the need to look at them with respect, and I think he does that. With a lot of the books and movies and stuff that come out, [it] seems like they’re just trying to get as many people to buy it as possible. [But] he really wants to give them an experience.”
That being said, don’t expect Paper Towns to be another Fault In Our Stars. As fans of the book know, it’s a completely different type of story, and it’s one Wolff can’t wait to tackle. “It’s a romantic story but I don’t think it’s ever been done,” he says. “It’s kind of like a badass mystery movie in a lot of ways.” Wolff compares the premise to films such as Chinatown and The Godfather before joking that it’s actually more of a Godfather–Norbit or a Citizen Kane–Porky’s. And no, he hasn’t read the script yet. But considering it just entered his inbox, that fact will change in the near future.
For now, Wolff is taking some time to play music with his brother before filming begins on Paper Towns. When he does start, he’s looking most forward to both the mystery element of the story and one scene in particular: “There’s a whole night with [the character Margo] in the book that’s really beautifully written.”
So will Wolff keep doing John Green adaptations for the rest of his career? “I would do anything for John,” he says. “He’s a really, really great guy and a really talented guy, so it’s great to be part of that world. And it’s so great that these stories are so successful, because I think it’s going to be good for movies in general and for teen movies especially that there will be more movies that are more character-driven, not just movies with car chases and vampires and zombies.”
That’s not to say that Wolff won’t be making a vampire or zombie movie in the future. “I like those movies but it seems like that’s all there is now, you know? It’s good to have a variety and I think the same thing gets boring, so I think this will be able to affect people more. Obviously, Fault affected people. It did so well, and I think that’s really a testament to the story, because what else is there?”
Speaking of Fault, which hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 16, what does Wolff miss the most about his character, Isaac? “Isaac’s sort of like an opera singer,” Wolff says. “He just feels things really intensely. That was kind of fun to do that part.”
One thing he doesn’t miss: the cast and crew. But that’s because they’re all still in contact. “I love those people,” he says. “I’m going to see Ansel [Elgort] tonight which will be fun, and I love Shay [Shailene Woodley]. I talk to [director] Josh [Boone] probably every other day, and then the rest of those people I’m going to go do Paper Towns with, so them I don’t miss yet.”