Alex Wolff drew from his own painful experience with cancer for his latest movie.
The young actor, 21, plays Henry in Castle in the Ground, who loses his mom (played by Neve Campbell) to cancer and then descends into a world of addiction.
Wolff told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly at the Toronto International Film Festival that the movie hit close to home after his own dad survived a cancer that was supposed to be fatal. The film recently had its world premiere at the event.
“I sat next to my parents at the screening, it was definitely weird and heavy to sit next to them,” he said. “At the time it was definitely kind of eerie going through it again, a lot of things were similar except my dad survived. My dad had a terminal cancer, he had a full on death sentence. He’s like one of the only people to survive it.”
“I was definitely hardcore triggered, but I felt super safe and worn into this rough world and I was in a place where I was ready to burn, so to speak,” Wolff said of filming the movie and Campbell’s death scene. “I just felt very safe. It felt like I was free to go back there, and what was so great about this process, [director/writer Joey Klein] knew my situation and was very sensitive about imposing. He was really open to me bringing up what happened to me and my feelings with it.”
Though the experience was hard, Wolff said he’s happy to have gone through it and have the chance to work through his feelings in a safe place.
“At the end of the day, you get to make a movie and a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to work through things in a healthy way. A lot of people can’t afford therapy and things like that. This was a nice, therapeutic thing,” he said.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through to Sept. 15.