Prepare Yourself For The Year of Finn Wolfhard

Stranger Things

If you, like me, have been desperately awaiting news of Stranger Things’ third season since pretty much the day the second season aired, you’ve probably already seen the date announcement teaser that dropped at the stroke of midnight earlier this month, ringing in the new year Hawkins-style. While Stranger Things 3 is certainly worth getting excited about, its young stars have plenty of other projects on their plate, and by this point, the show is just the tip of the iceberg for at least one of them.

At just 16 years old, Finn Wolfhard has not one or two but six film and TV projects on track for release this year, and that’s without taking into account his burgeoning music career and interest in directing. It’s tough to guess what’ll hit or miss with audiences this early in the year, but every single one of these projects is singularly interesting, and most have built-in fan bases and star-studded casts. If there’s one thing that’s certain heading into 2019, it’s that this kid is going to be everywhere.

Wolfhard’s breakout role was as Mike Wheeler, the adventurous and lovestruck leader of the Dungeons and Dragons party who discovered superpowered Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, whose own project Godzilla: King of the Monsters is set to hit theaters in May) in Netflix’s flagship show Stranger Things. His arguable claim to fame, though, came in 2017 when he both reprised the role of Mike and made a huge, wonderfully obnoxious impression as foulmouthed Richie Tozier in Andy Muschietti’s big-screen adaptation of the Stephen King classic IT. The movie broke records and also showed off Wolfhard’s comic timing (he and other cast members have stated that many of their lines were improvised) and great group chemistry among the ensemble cast.

IT: Chapter 2 is scheduled for a September 6th release, and although the original adaptation plan seemed to call for a 27-year time jump that would make the 2017 cast obsolete, the young cast members have been spotted filming for Chapter 2 in their summer of ‘89 outfits nearly as often as their adult counterparts. Whether the kids will pop up in flashbacks, dream sequences, or something else entirely remains to be seen — it’ll be interesting to see how the film will explain its stars’ sudden growth spurts — but the inclusion of the young cast is a great decision on Muschietti’s part, since, despite being called The Loser’s Club, there wasn’t a dud among them. Bill Hader will play the older Richie in IT: Chapter 2, a casting choice that Wolfhard himself predicted.

Another project with an all-star cast plus the stamp of Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin, is The Turning, starring Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project), and Mackenzie Davis (Tully, Halt and Catch Fire). Directed by The Runaways filmmaker Floria Sigismondi and shot on location in Ireland early last year, the horror movie was originally set to release in February but was bumped from Universal’s schedule and now has no announced US release date, although IndieWire reports that it’s expected to release in Europe sometime in the next few months.

We’ll cross our fingers about good news regarding The Turning’s US release date soon since the movie has all the elements needed to set it apart as more than standard genre fare. Aside from an intriguing cast, it’s based on Henry James’ classic 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, a thoroughly frightening tale of an unnamed nanny who is tasked with taking care of two creepy and beautiful orphan kids in their potentially haunted estate. Needless to say, the job turns out to be a lot more than she signed up for. The source material itself is deeply psychological, with elements comparable to those of Shirley Jackson stories or “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and is way overdue for a big screen retelling.

In a departure from horror and sci-fi, Wolfhard also has a pivotal role in The Goldfinch, Brooklyn director John Crowley’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning novel. Another doorstop-sized book with a significant time jump, The Goldfinch tells the story of a young boy named Theo (Oakes Fegley) who survives a New York museum bombing only to be taken on a long and complex odyssey involving, among other things, the art forgery underworld. In an excellent bit of casting, Wolfhard will play the teen version of Boris Pavlikovsky (Dunkirk’s Aneurin Barnard plays the older version, while Ansel Elgort is older Theo), the book’s most interesting and dangerous character who Theo meets in Las Vegas and encounters again eight years later.

Boris is a wild card in every way, and his relationship with Theo involves petty crime, significant queer subtext, and lots of drugs. In the book, Boris also has an accent that’s somewhere between Russian, Ukrainian, and Australian, a vocal cocktail which seems pretty much impossible for any actor to pull off. The film adaptation will likely have to compress much of the novel and decide how to handle its subtly unreliable narrator, but with Crowley at the helm and a talented cast that also includes Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson, the odds are in its favor. With an October release date and a tricky, high-stakes role, the film is set to either catapult Wolfhard into awards season discussion or make his off-the-wall character the punchline of Film Twitter’s next meme.

Live action movies aside, Wolfhard is also taking on two voice acting roles this year, both reboots of beloved pop culture touchstones. First, he’ll be heard opposite Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) in Netflix’s relaunch of Carmen Sandiego, which will debut January 18th, then he’ll be voicing Pugsley Addams in an animated Addams Family movie that also stars Nick Kroll, Charlize Theron, Oscar Isaac, Elsie Fisher, and a half-dozen other beloved actors. Although IMDb lists a 2019 release date for The Addams Family, it should be noted that it’s the only project of the six that hasn’t wrapped yet, so animation and editing could end up pushing its release beyond this year.

If all this isn’t enough, Wolfhard is also playing music festivals and recording an album with all-teen Vancouver indie rock band Calpurnia and has frequently expressed interest in writing and directing. He’s already co-directed one music video and produced another, both alongside friend and erstwhile comedian-provocateur Josh Ovalle, who last year stated that the two have more ideas in the works. When not joking around, both of them have also made YouTube videos that reveal a naturalistic, youthful, and visually poetic style of filmmaking, which makes sense given Wolfhard’s professed love of Richard Linklater movies.

So yes, Finn Wolfhard is poised to have a huge year, and yes, he’s making mature and savvy career choices, but there’s one thing to remember as he and his fellow young stars gain more traction in the industry: they’re still kids. Even as he’s growing his career, it’s clear from social media that Wolfhard is also into regular teen things like postmodern memes and playing Fortnite and dying his hair purple.

In late 2017, after Stranger Things 2 dropped, fans and media outlets tried to cross every conceivable line for the sake of having something to talk about. Every other week there seemed to be a storm of sensationalist headlines about either Wolfhard or Millie Bobby Brown (What she wore! What someone said about him! How they kissed on TV!), and each one reinforced the idea that our click-driven media cycle doesn’t know how to protect young people’s wellbeing or treat them as anything besides a headline. It might be wishful thinking to predict a huge year for Finn Wolfhard that doesn’t involve excessive drama or media exploitation, but with a new year full of possibilities ahead of us, I don’t think it’s too much to hope for.

Valerie Ettenhofer: @aandeandval Val is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer, TV lover, and cheese plate enthusiast. You can find her @aandeandval wherever social media accounts are sold.