In the new biographical drama My Friend Dahmer (out Nov. 3), Ross Lynch (Austin & Ally) plays a teenage Jeffrey Dahmer while Alex Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band, the upcoming Jumanji) portrays a fellow high-schooler who befriends the future serial killer. Given their respective backgrounds in family-friendly TV and the very different nature of director Marc Meyers’ movie — which is adapted from John “Derf” Backderf‘s graphic novel — one might assume the two actors had plenty to talk about. But according to Wolff, the pair barely spoke at all when not actually on camera.
“I met Ross a few days before, and we hung out in the hotel room and played music and laughed,” Wolff tells EW. “Then him and I looked at each other, and we were like, ‘We’re probably going to have to not hang out again until this movie’s over.’ I was like, ‘I’m glad we got to hang out as ourselves, [but] let’s keep a distance.’ And me and Ross barely talked the whole movie, because we wanted to feel like, even the scenes where we were together, we weren’t really together. We wanted to feel a disconnect between them. I loved the idea that we could be next to each other the whole movie, but that it could feel like we were thousands of miles away from each other.”
Read on for more from our Q&A with Wolff.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about your character?
ALEX WOLFF: My character is John Backderf, who everybody calls Derf. I play a real-life guy who wrote this story called My Friend Dahmer, and essentially I play “My” in My Friend Dahmer. The film is in some ways observing a friendship going through a really tumultuous year. [My character] is just teetering the line of being a cool kid in the ’70s. He’s a very counter-culture kid who is in his own little group to the side, but he’s the coolest of them. I see Dahmer as this interesting person, and I’m attracted to his troublemaking ways, and I take him into my group of friends. But I start to realize, as the friendship develops, that there is something wrong with him.
The real-life Derf visited the set; how much time did you spend with him?
I spent very little time with him. You know, I did a film called Patriots Day where I was obsessed with becoming [the person I was playing]. It was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber, and I wanted to be exactly like him. I watched all the videos, did all this research, because we were trying to capture exactly who he was. The interesting thing about Derf is, when I read his graphic novel, he was kind of warm, but he was a little more isolated. Then I read the script, and it showed an even larger gap between Dahmer and Derff, because Derff [in the script] is a little more cool, and has a little more bravado, and I found that more interesting. And then when I met Derff — Derff is a really quiet. I think for the sake of the story, and he agrees, I had to make [the character] my own. So, we actually didn’t spend that much time together. It was a little different with Dahmer: Ross really wanted to be how Dahmer was. But with Derf, we had to sort of nail what was necessary for the film.
You shot in the same area of Ohio where Dahmer spent his teenage years.
We shot at his house!
What was that like?
It was a nightmare. I mean, it was amazing, but it was really intense. We called each other the character names, and we really stayed in it, and the times we shot at Dahmer’s house, it was always a really strange environment. That scene at the end — I won’t give too much away — but that scene, which seems to be most people’s favorite scene, where me and him are in a car, that was us at the real house, and the night was creepy, and we could just hear the crickets, and nobody was making any noise. Him and I were sitting next to each other and not talking, in a car, and the car was fogging up because of the anxiety we had, and our hands were sweating, and it was such an intense thing. It was really dark.
This was the house where Dahmer killed his first victim, Steven Hicks, correct?
Yeah. And buried him.
We’re also going to see you in Jumanji soon. I assume that was a very different shoot to Dahmer.
Yeah, it was definitely a different shoot. But it is interesting, because [given] how much fun we had on set, you’d think Dahmer was maybe the comedy. Because I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun working. That was a blast. And then Jumanji was really fun too, but in a different way, a little more technical. It’s a huge, huge, huge movie. It was fun in its own way, but I think Dahmer was ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and my career. I did three films in a row almost equally rewarding. It was Patriots Day, House of Tomorrow, and then My Friend Dahmer, and they were all just really amazing and rewarding in their own way.
Is it true that the Rock plays you — or that you play the Rock — in Jumanji?
Yeah. I can’t say too much. They’re pretty crazy about keeping everything under wraps. But me and the Rock do look a lot alike and we’re a similar build — that was a joke, by the way. We had a blast and I essentially do turn into him. But you’re going to have to see the movie to figure out how that happens.
What are you doing next?
I have this movie Dude coming out. I did this A24 film called Hereditary that’s coming out. And then I am coming up on directing and starring in this film in New York in January, which I’m really excited about. I’ve got some cool cast and we’re going to announce that soon. But Josh Boone, the director of the new X-Men movie [The New Mutants] and The Fault in Our Stars, is producing it with me. It’s going to be a real cool New York story, and it’s called The Cat and the Moon.
Watch the trailer for My Friend Dahmer above.