Alex Wolff Was Ready For A Big Break While Filming Hereditary

Ari Aster's psychological horror film "Hereditary" is teeming with scenes that will frighten the wits out of any horror enthusiast. The film follows a family haunted by an otherworldly presence after the death of their mysterious grandmother, the leader of a cult. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, and Milly Shapiro in the leading roles. If you've watched it, you know "Hereditary" is a profoundly unsettling film with plenty of terrorizing moments. One sees Peter (Wolff) slamming his face into a classroom desk, seemingly against his own will. His actions cause him to break his nose and react with terror as he realizes he's losing control over himself. It's scary stuff. The gnarly scene in the movie ends with Peter whirling away from his seat and screaming, his face bloodied and full of hysteria.

The scene is an excellent example of Wolff's unwavering commitment to his character. It turns out the actor took the part very seriously, thinking it to be his big acting break. He even asked Ari Aster if he could use a real desk for his performance. Naturally, the filmmaker was not on board with Wolff's fierce dedication since it could have disastrous effects.

Alex Wolff wanted to slam his face into a real desk

In an interview with The Wrap, Alex Wolff recalled being sincere about performing the scene with a real desk. He was prepared to film the brutal sequence despite it being dangerous, all in the name of cinema. Ari Aster's response was a resounding no. The filmmaker appreciated Wolff's commitment but respectfully declined. And they brought in a cushioned desk to create a safe filming environment for the actor. Wolff told The Wrap:

"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. 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."

Wolff expected to slam his face into a desk made of foam. But it wasn't as easy as it seemed.

The scene was just as brutal to film

Here's the thing: The prop wasn't as soft and nonthreatening as the actor expected it would be. When he was done with his performance, Alex Wolff was breathless, unable to speak, and there was blood everywhere because he had slammed his knee against a chair. The actor's ankle was swollen, and he couldn't move his arm — it was as brutal as the film's scene. He continued to The Wrap:

"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."

Wolff's character, Peter, initially appears to be a typical teenager trying to find his place in the world — until his sister's death takes over his life, riddling him with guilt, and the traumatic experience of the accident makes him more unhinged. Considering the film's evident horror theme, it's unexpected to learn that "Hereditary" was pitched as a family drama instead of a horror story. The fractured Graham family appears to be experiencing everyday woes until they discover a demon-worshipping cult has invaded their lives and is manipulating their every step with a plan to turn them into devotees. It's a truly frightening film that explores what it is like to be grieving and overwhelmed with the supernatural, and it is not for the faint of heart.