“He’s one of the great actors of about four generations, I didn’t care if I was working on Craft Service,” says the actor
Between the ages of nine and 11, Alex Wolff starred in Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band, a musical comedy series created by his mother, Polly Draper. He played the drums and his brother Nat sang. It was around this time he’d look forward to his parents cooking him French toast for breakfast, a dish he prepares for Nicolas Cage – and is subsequently scolded by Nicolas Cage for preparing badly – in the pair’s new film, Pig. “Whenever I have French toast it brings me right back,” he recalls fondly today. “It was kismet that we ate it in the movie.”
The feature debut from writer-director Michael Sarnoski, Pig has been dressed up as a revenge drama. But it is actually a far subtler affair than any high-energy vengeance piece, closely observing family dynamics and culinary politics through the lens of loss. Separated into three parts – Rustic Mushroom Tart, Mom’s French Toast & Deconstructed Scallops, and A Bird, a Bottle and a Salted Baguette – its storytelling is punctuated by the emotions that surface from the meals served.
Robin Feld (Cage) is a former chef who, despite having long moved to a small hut in the woods to live with a truffle-hunting pig, remains highly revered by those in Portland kitchens. Wolff (Hereditary, My Friend Dahmer), plays Amir, a young truffle dealer who has little time for the woods and even less respect for the man he does business with, known to him only as Rob. Largely concerned with his reputation and seemingly driven by material things, his car is a yellow Ferrari and his belt buckle is pierced with a gold double-G. “I fell in love with the character,” Wolff tells AnOther, “someone who’s imperfect and just as superficial and shallow on the surface as he is deep and vulnerable and lost on the inside.”
A quietly important symbol of Amir’s performative interest in high culture is his taste for classical music, or moreover his inclination to listen to people talking about the genre, which greatly irritates Rob. As Amir drives him into Portland after he loses his pig, a voice speaking the Queen’s English describes how “classical composers are those of the first rank, who have developed music to the highest pitch of perfection.” Rob is riled and abruptly switches it off, leaving Amir visibly alarmed. “It felt like the more intellectual way of listening,” Wolff notes of Amir’s bougie habits, “like a pretentious detail that just fit so deliciously.”
While his research for the part included a deep dive into books about truffle hunting – “The Truffle Underground was terrific, and Truffle Boy was an unbelievable book about Ian Purkayastha, who I based a lot of the character on” – Amir is also the product of some extensive reading on Beethoven. “I fell pretty deeply into the world of Beethoven because I knew Amir loved classical music,” says Wolff. “I found him to be a bit of an ally, in terms of him being angry and a snot-nosed guy as a teen, feeling lost and unloved, and that forcing him to be kind of bitter later on. I connected that to Amir – it was a bit of a chance – but I found a lot of similarities.”
In collaborating with Cage, whom he’s admired since he was a kid and whose involvement part-inspired his joining the project (“he’s one of the great actors of about four generations, I didn’t care if I was working on Craft Service”), Wolff found another ally and something of a guide. “Nic has all the qualities of a great actor – I didn’t know you could have them all in one package,” he explains. “I learnt that it’s possible to be extremely focused, zeroed in on what you’re doing, and also be really warm and giving as a person and an actor; that’s a rare quality I haven’t seen in such a robust way.”
With Sarnoski too, Wolff formed a profound relationship beyond set. “I adore him. We became really tight, and that’s special. It’s one thing to have a great working relationship, but I felt the most important thing was we became best friends; me and Nic had a similar thing – all of us were going through a lonely time right before and we all sort of came together for this movie.” The arrival of Pig, which they filmed in 2019, was a source of much comfort he continues. “I’d gone through a hard few months and was then really lucky, to express it in that way, having this decadent character with so many thick juicy layers. No matter what happened with this movie, it was really more about this experience. It was necessary for me.”
Pig is in UK and Irish Cinemas now. The film is also available on altitude.film and other digital platforms.