Dear Hollywood: Please Stop Casting the Same Five Kids in Everything
I am imploring studios, which are already becoming more and more centralized, to stop casting the same few teenagers in every movie. This is far from a new phenomenon. For a while, at the start of this decade, it was Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, and Ansel Elgort in every movie within a five-year span. In a single year, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort played love interests in The Fault in our Stars (2014), and siblings in Divergent (2014). Miles Teller was also in Divergent, after he and Shailene Woodley played love interests in The Spectacular Now (2013). Occasionally there would be a Nat Wolff thrown in there too. Since they’re all now nearing thirty years old, and therefore (by most accounts) too old to still play teenagers, they’ve graduated to bigger things (more serious ~adult~ films) to leave room for the next class of young actors to have their days in the sun. We can already see the effects of this happening, but I am begging casting directors to staunch the bleed before it gets worse. Every generation wants its own Brat Pack, but it gets exhausting after a while, especially when (in my opinion) they’re snatching up the worst of the bunch.
Much like the Brat Pack, this new class of teenaged actors seems be drawn from two main sources: Stranger Things (2016-) and It (2017). One of the most obvious and ubiquitous ones is Finn Wolfhard, who has seemingly been in every single movie since the first season of Stranger Things aired four years ago. This is also the most baffling choice because (hot take) Finn Wolfhard is not a good actor and is definitely the worst of the main five on that show. Even taking only what we saw on Stranger Things, I genuinely don’t know how anyone looked at the incredible and emotional work that Noah Schnapp did in season two and decided the kid who was going to become a superstar was the one who barely speaks like a normal human being and whose face telegraphs the complicated commands his brain is working through to show any given emotion when needed. He was okay in season one because he was twelve and we expect so very little from kids, but even then, it was borderline, given the caliber of child acting has improved greatly in the past decade. It’s not only that he stopped being good in the second season of the show and onwards, but that he has consistently been bad in every property he’s been in since then. In The Goldfinch (2019, interestingly also starring Ansel Elgort), opposite Oakes Fegley, a young actor actually doing a tremendous job with some less-than-ideal material, Wolfhard blunders through every scene with the grace of a limping rhino and the accent of someone who’s vaguely heard of Ukraine as a general concept but has no idea whether it’s a country or an intestinal disease. He was pulled through It (and its sequel) by the strength of a great script and a nearly pitch-perfect ensemble cast. Who knows how he’ll fare in Ghostbusters (2021).
To avoid spending too long lambasting a seventeen-year-old, the other kids who are, like Wolfhard, pervasive in the general popular culture, are Millie Bobby Brown, also from Stranger Things, and Jack Dylan Grazer and Jaeden Martell, also from It. Brown, Grazer, and Martell, however, are generally better actors than Wolfhard, although Martell has a lot of natural awkwardness that he may or may not yet grow out of. There are obviously other kids who are acting and have also been in multiple films, but these four seem to be at the forefront and are the most oft discussed, although Grazer has already shown a tendency towards more independent projects (e.g. Beautiful Boy, We Are Who We Are). This generation is a bit less incestuous than the ones of movies past, but from Godzilla (2019) to Shazam (2019) to Knives Out (2019) to a myriad other films, big and small, we are seeing these same few kids stunt cast in films riding the waves of their popularity. These kids, going by the Hollywood modus operandi, will conceivably continue to play teenagers for the next five to ten years. In that time, I desperately hope that directors and studios will come to understand that diversity (not just in the buzzword sense of the term, but in the literal sense) in their casting decisions are much more interesting than the alternative. We’ve seen the dynamic between these kids already, we know their energies. Give audiences something new. Everyone wants to replicate the Brat Pack, sure, but there’s a reason no one can remember which Molly Ringwald movie was which. Let Finn Wolfhard do his indie rock band and find some new kids to cast.