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Finn Wolfhard on casts, cursing and those heavy ’80s bikes

Finn Wolfhard, who plays Richie Tozier in the film "It," is also on TV's "Stranger Things."

WARNER BROS. PICTURES/TNS

By MEREDITH WOERNER | Los Angeles Times | Published: October 20, 2017

The two hottest horror commodities right now have two things in common: a band of kids in distress and Finn Wolfhard.

In Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Wolfhard broke out as Mike Wheeler, dungeon master and leader of the bike-pedaling gang seeking to solve the mystery of their missing friend. More recently, he was the profanity-punctuated comic relief Richie in Warner Bros.’ hit horror film “It.”

In the world of nostalgia-baiting entertainment, Wolfhard is the king of the scabby-kneed army.

Just after school, we chatted with the 14-year-old Wolfhard to get intel on the new season of “Stranger Things” (set to air Oct. 27), working on “It’ and reviving yet another 1980s classic — Wolfhard is currently lending his voice as the “player” on the TV resurrection of “Carmen Sandiego.”

Your character Richie in “It” was a breakout success. Were you surprised?
A lot of people have been saying Richie is a fan favorite, and that’s really cool. I just did it because I really loved the role, and I loved being funny. It was fun for me. I didn’t really see the character as a fan favorite. I just see him as a loser.

You were attached to “It” back when Cary Fukunaga was going to direct.
Yeah, I was. I was the original Richie.

Did you think the movie would ever happen after they lost Fukunaga?
I sort of knew deep down that maybe one day “It” would come back, because of how beloved it was. I thought, “Oh, they’re probably going to bring it back, but I’m going to be way too old for it and they’re going to ask new kids to audition. Whatever.” But I ended up coming back a year later, which was amazing because that allowed me to do “Stranger Things.” It was perfect timing.
My agent and manager sent me a link that said “’It’ returning with new director Andy Muschietti.” They asked if I wanted to get an audition, and I said yeah. I loved it. All the scenes that I had auditioned with the year before were the same scenes. I just went a second time.

You had to re-audition?
Yeah. Funny story about that. I thought I got the part because of two things. One, because maybe Andy liked my tape. And two, (I thought) they knew me, because they saw my old tape from Cary’s stuff. But that was not true! Two months during shooting, we were talking and I mentioned (the first audition). They said, “Oh, you auditioned for the original Cary ’It’?” And I said, “Yeah. Isn’t that how you guys know me?” They said, “No. We just stumbled upon your tape really randomly. We had no idea who you were.” I got it twice, apparently.

You landed it twice!
Which is nuts. I still don’t understand that, but it happened.

You get some of the best lines such as, “Now I’m going to have to go kill this ... clown.” Was it fun to get to deliver rather adult lines?
Definitely. Some of it was actually really improvised, except for the kill-the-clown line. I had so much freedom to do whatever I wanted with the character, and that was amazing.

What was improvised?
All the pharmacy stuff with Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer). When I break Eddie’s arm back into place, Jack and I wrote that scene. Mostly when you see Jack and I together, that’s all improv. The loogie game, where we’re spitting off the cliff, that was all improv. We needed something to do before the scene so there wasn’t dead air. All the kids and I brainstormed, “Oh, why don’t we just spit?” We made a game out of it.

What about the swear words you added?
I knew it was a hard R rating, and I knew that there were swear words in the script. Richie had a couple, but he didn’t swear in the script as much as I did for the movie. I felt like I was bringing a lot of myself to the character, and that was part of it. This kid won’t stop talking. He has ADHD, he can’t sit still, obviously he’s going to swear.

What did Andy Muschietti think when you would freewheel swear on set?
The swearing was really because of Andy in all my lines. From the very beginning we all talked together, we had this little meeting where he said, “I love surprises. I love when people improv. I think you should have full control over your own character since you’re so much in depth with it. It’s not my say; you’re in charge of the characters. Whatever choices you make, I’ll support and I’ll tell you if they’re bad choices or not.” That doesn’t happen a lot, which is great.

How are you like Richie?
I think if I’m with a friend group, I try to be as funny as possible, and I don’t always succeed, obviously. Everyone wants to be funny. Maybe not everyone but to an extent.

Who are you closer with, the cast of “It” or the cast of “Stranger Things”?
I don’t know. They’re so similar and so different at the same time. I’m close with them in different ways. If it comes down to brass tacks, I guess they’re equal.

Do you have a “Stranger Things” text group and an “It” text group?
Yeah. One is called Stranger Texts. Then the “It” group chat is called Derry’s Dickheads, which is what Nick Hamilton, who plays Henry Bowers, named it. Because apparently that’s a big thing to call each other in Australia.

What’s the last text from someone in the group?
The last text I received was from Jaeden Lieberher. He sent a meme of Superman and a kid holding hands. And it says “Help me” under it. That was the last text I received from the amazing, wonderful, glamorous “It” chat.

“It” takes place in the past; “Stranger Things” takes place in the past. Is there anything from that time period that you’re tired of? Like the bikes?
I never want to ride the (’Stranger Things’) bike with someone on the back of it ever again. That bike wasn’t an actual traditional bike that they bought. They built it with different parts. The weight was all off, and the bicycle seat was heavier than the wheels. It was hard to get up hills. You could just get to a certain speed and just stop. That was really hard to do just to have someone on the back of you at the same time. We’ve still got a couple years until I get completely sick of it.

Is David Harbor (Police Chief Jim Hopper) a big part of the second season given that he’s also shooting the “Hellboy” reboot? Did you guys get any inside information about “Hellboy”?
He’s a giant part of (Season 2). Everyone is a giant part of Season 2. But yeah, he had told us that he was in the running for (“Hellboy”) and then near the end . he told us that he got it, that he was going to Bulgaria or wherever to film. We were really psyched for him.

He got super jacked for that role; was he working out all the time on set?
Not at all. His regimen for the second season was different from the first season. He got a little chunkier.

Give the fans what they want.
Yeah, exactly. They call for chunky.

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