(Credit: Netflix)

Films

Charting the rise of Finn Wolfhard

Ever since Stranger Things broke out as one of Netflix’s definitive contributions to current popular culture, Finn Wolfhard has been touted as the next big star in Hollywood. The actor has earned comparisons to other young talents in the industry – particularly Timothée Chalamet – because of the similar career trajectories and the potential to rise to greater heights.

After starting out as an actor when he was just nine years old by looking up an advertisement on Craigslist, Wolfhard has gradually emerged as part of a cultural phenomenon. The Stranger Things star has amassed a huge fanbase in the form of millions of followers on social media, many of whom are convinced that we are witnessing the early stages of a future legend’s career.

Although it sounds like the hyperbole that everyone on the internet is familiar with, there might be some truth to that statement. Many people thought that Stranger Things was a temporary hit when it was first released, including Wolfhard himself, who thought it was a “big, but also really small” project when he was filming the first season which came out back in 2016.

Five years later, however, and none of the hype around the show has faded away and fans are still eagerly waiting for the latest season of Stranger Things, which is set to be released in 2022. Wolfhard is at the centre of all of the attention on a global scale, with his face now being used as a commodity to manufacture merchandise like Christmas decorations, clothes and even action figurines modelled after his appearance.

Since the beginning of his ascent into stardom, there has been a greater conversation surrounding the extent of his acting abilities. Some commentators have insisted that being a part of such a popular show as Stranger Things has contributed to the amplified projection of his image, but Wolfhard has kept moving, continuing to excel in other projects in order to prove that his career doesn’t hinge on Stranger Things anymore.

It is natural for such questions to arise because almost everyone is aware of how debilitating fame and success can be for child actors who struggle to adjust to the reality of adulthood later on and tank their careers. Wolfhard is well aware of the same, claiming: “In my head, I couldn’t let loose in any certain way. I thought that if I would have gone with a friend to a party, my career would have been over. You’re afraid that someone can see you as a 14-year-old at a party with a beer in your hand, and it can all go away. That was my thought.”

Perhaps he has a good support system to give him the required reality checks from time to time, but it is also evident that Wolfhard possesses a brand of maturity which is helping him maintain the momentum of his professional success. Despite the fact that he has had to deal with all the pressures of fame as well as some pretty traumatic incidents – such as the time adults began following him back to his house after recognising him – Wolfhard has kept his eyes on the prize.

Expanding his range beyond Stranger Things, Wolfhard has starred in other popular franchises such as It and has done voice-acting for other animated works. He even gave a strangely captivating performance in the 2019 film adaptation of The Goldfinch which was lampooned for its poor narrative structure but lauded for its visuals and acting, with Wolfhard playing a major role in salvaging John Crowley’s directorial effort.

In addition to acting, Wolfhard has already made inroads into the music industry via his various projects and has now set his sights into directing his first debut feature. Wolfhard has repeatedly stated that it is by making films that he can truly express himself and explore the limits of artistic expression, drawing inspiration from his favourite filmmakers and comedians whom he labelled as “provocateurs”.

While any speculation on Wolfhard’s directorial abilities at the moment is just that (except for the short film Night Shifts he made last year), the talented young actor is already shaping up to be the best that Hollywood will have to offer in the next few years by adding major projects such as the new Ghostbusters film to his steadily growing oeuvre. Apart from all the artistic achievements, it has to be said that the biggest feat that Wolfhard has managed is to maintain a level of authenticity that is not usually associated with child stars.

As Wolfhard puts it, he went “through puberty in front of literally the entire world” but he has stayed true to himself and his artistic roots. For a rising star with focus like that, the sky is the limit.