Earlier this year, Stephen Chbosky adapted his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower into a film, starring Logan Lerman as Charlie, a young man entering high school who had recently suffered a number of tragic losses in his life. He soon meets half-siblings Patrick and Sam (Ezra Miller, Emma Watson) and their eclectic group of friends who start making Charlie feel wanted, although his feelings for Sam soon start to complicate matters.
Although Lerman has already played leading roles, notably in Fox’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, his performance in “Perks” is something really special as he creates an infinitely likeable character, one who one can immediately relate to, regardless of how old or young they are.
After shooting the movie, Lerman went on to reprise his role as Percy Jackson in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and then got the plum gig to play Russell Crowe’s son Ham in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. (Lerman previously appeared with Crowe in James Mangold’s Western 3:10 to Yuma.
ComingSoon.net touched briefly on all these things when we spoke to Lerman on the phone last week.
ComingSoon.net: I spoke to Stephen Chbosky right before Toronto and I absolutely love this movie. It’s really definitely one of my favorites of the year. Logan Lerman: Thank you very much. Thank you.
CS: Obviously I’m quite a bit older, but there’s so many parallels to my own high school experience, it was scary. I was convinced Stephen found one of my journals or something like that. I related to it that much, which is kind of scary. Lerman: Yeah, that’s nice. Thank you. That’s Steve’s feeling.
CS: Yeah, and I still haven’t read the book, which I’m embarrassed about. I saw the movie many times now, but I still haven’t read the book. Were you familiar with the book? Lerman: Yeah, I mean, it was very popular around my high school growing up and it affected a lot of my friends that were fans of the book, they truly loved it. I didn’t read it in high school, though, but I was so familiar with the title that I received the script and I was like, “This looks so familiar, this name has just been engraved in my memory.” So I had to read it. It was the first on my stack of scripts. I was like, “I want to read this,” and I just fell in love with it, which is very rare. There’s a lot of crappy material out there. I just feel very fortunate to have found something so beautifully written, and to have Steve around me to portray him.
CS: What was involved with the audition process? Had he already seen some of your other stuff and was interested in you? How did it come about? Lerman: I wonder what it was like from his perspective, but for me, I read it and I was like, “I have to do this,” and I didn’t know in what capacity or what role I wanted to play. Then, I met with Steve with an open mind and Steve was like, “Patrick. You’re Patrick.” I was like, for some reason in that moment it just clicked and I’m like, “You know, for some reason like, I’m feeling Charlie.” He’s like, “Really?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Well, would you mind reading for me? Would you mind coming in?” “Like, of course I will in a heartbeat, in a second.” So I went in and I read for him and I guess the next day it was just like, I’m on. I’m doing it. He seemed to have liked the portrayal that initially came up with and then we just started working on it from there. We had a year and a half before we started production, so it was a good amount of time to figure out the character.
CS: I’ve interviewed Ezra a bunch of times, and seeing how Patrick is in the movie, I think it would be very different with you playing that role, and it’s interesting that he thought of you to play Patrick first. Lerman: Yeah, I mean, I really love that character. There’s a lot there, and it’s a great role, something I actually would’ve liked to have done, but there was something about Charlie that felt right at the time. I just didn’t trust anybody else with it. I was like, “I want to make sure that this is” – I don’t know, I just had somehow a indescribable passion, really. I just felt like that was my role.
CS: I know you’ve been acting since you were really young, and Emma probably didn’t go to school at all, because she was mostly taught on set. Were you able to have at least some kind of experiences of high school to relate to? Lerman: Oh yeah, no, yeah. I mean, I went to high school and I had that whole experience, but I was a little different. I was going back and forth. Like, I’d leave for a few months and I’d come back and be back at school and everything. Yeah, I definitely drew on a lot from my personal experience.
CS: Were you able to relate to any of the stuff like The Smiths and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show?” Is any of that stuff even remotely mentioned in high school these days or in the last ten years? Lerman: No, I mean at least not at my high school. Some of those were discoveries that actually were fresh and new for me during filming. I knew what “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was, but I’ve never seen it, so I saw it the first time with Steve at the theater where he saw it for the first time. The Smiths, I’ve listened to them, but I haven’t really sat down and listened to them, and they were all discoveries for me as well, which is nice.
CS: It’s a really good cast with the likes of Paul Rudd and Melanie Lynskey coming in and out, but you get to spend a lot of time with the younger cast, many whom have acted as long as you have and some maybe with not as much acting experience. What was that like? Lerman: Yeah, to be honest they’re a group of people that I just really admire and really wanted to work with because over the years, like I’ve loved to collaborate with a lot of them. Some of them were friends of mine from back in the day growing up, people that I just knew and I was like, “Oh, great, we’re doing a movie together now,” that I was just really excited about that. We were all passionate about our characters’ journeys and figuring it out together and we had a great time.
CS: It’s amazing that Stephen’s only directed one other movie. I was really impressed that he wrote this novel, adapted it and then directed the movie and was able to get such great and really heartfelt performances out of everyone. What kind of environment did he create for you guys? Lerman: A very free one. He had trust in us, I think – he hired us, I think he had some instinct that we can do it justice, all of us individually, and allowed us to go where we wanted to go with it and be spontaneous and create something out of it. It was freeing and very comfortable.
CS: I want to know also about working with Ezra. Lerman: Oh, he’s great.
CS: He’s really funny in real life and in this movie, it really comes out. It seems like he could let loose, so how was it doing scenes with him? I assume it would be hard to keep a straight face when he’s going off. Lerman: Well, I mean, we just knew each other so well by the time we started filming. We really put in that effort to establish a relationship for working. We just had a creatively freeing experience and just spontaneous and just made it natural. Yeah, I mean, for Ezra, though, with his character, he had a lot of wiggle room to play around. With my character, I had to resist from making choices that would be fun to play around with but wouldn’t fit the character. So I kind of had to keep it within the boundaries of who Charlie was, you know?
CS: It’s interesting that Charlie sometimes starts off almost as a straight man to Patrick’s humor, but then we see him transform and become more confident as the movie goes along. Was Stephen able to shoot that transformation in any kind of order so that your relationships with the other actors grew along with Charlie? Lerman: I wonder. I wonder if they did it on purpose, but I’m sure that they did, that they organized it in a certain way, but it all seemed to come together perfectly, like very organically, at least.
CS: It’s interesting that you went on to do another movie with Emma. Was that just a complete coincidence? Lerman: A complete coincidence, complete coincidence. I mean, I was signed on and I was like, “Oh, this is cool. We’re going to be doing this movie. Oh, they’re looking at some people for that.” Her name, I didn’t even hear about, and then all of a sudden we’re working together again and I was so happy because she’s an incredible actress. We’ve an established relationship already from another film, so our comfortability around each other kinda saved us a little bit because we were both a little intimidated by our environment on the film that we just finished.
CS: I actually saw the Ark. I was on set and saw you running into the Ark being chased by a mob of people, but we didn’t talk. Lerman: Oh yeah, no sh*t? I remember that. Yeah, it was insane, right? That whole set was nuts, but I wish you guys saw you’ll see it in a few years, I guess, but the interior is insanely cool.
CS: That was the one disappointment. I was like, “Oh man, I wish I could go inside.” The interiors were not there, they were on a sound stage somewhere. Lerman: Yeah, it was in Brooklyn. I thought the exterior was huge and very cool, but the details of the inside are just mind-blowingly cool.
CS: I could imagine, yeah. So, I mean, it’s really kind of taken off. Have you done a lot of Q and A’s? Have you been able to talk to a lot of young people who’ve seen it? I was curious about what has happened after the movie in Toronto and other places? Lerman: I would say, you know, I mean, I’m so busy filming “Noah” that it was hard to find breaks to go out and promote it. So, I tried to do it as often as I could. You know, I met a few people that have seen it. Everybody that I’ve met has – they seem to have really enjoyed it, and that’s a huge compliment. But I’d say the number one review that means the most to me is from my family. This is one of the first times that they’ve said that they’ve really enjoyed a movie that I was in. This is one of the first times that they were like, “Wow, like, you did a really – you were part of a really great film,” and that’s actually really satisfying.
CS: A lot of the films you’ve done, you were the youngest person on set. Not so much in “Percy Jackson,” you do that. You have the three of you, but a lot of the movies have you interacting with older actors, so it’s interesting to have you with your contemporaries or your peers. Lerman: Yeah, it was definitely refreshing to be on a set with other people around your age. There’s a different kind of intimate connection we all made and it wasn’t odd to socialize after work together. It would be odd going out with someone who is three times your age and you just don’t really socialize outside of work. In this case, we all became very close.
CS: I guess you shot “Percy Jackson” in between “Perks” and “Noah,” so was it strange going back into that fantasy world? Lerman: Oh, very difficult, yeah, very, very difficult. I mean, actually not difficult, because it wasn’t really difficult, but it was interesting to go back into that world.
CS: You’ve just done a movie like this about real people and “Percy Jackson” and “Noah” are both so fantastical, so were you still able to draw from any of your experiences making “Perks” for those movies? Lerman: They’re just so different, so, so different. All three of them are just completely unique challenges, and yeah, I guess the variety is what makes it fun.
CS: Do you have any idea what you’re doing next now that “Noah” is wrapped? Have you figured that out yet? Lerman: I’m just trying to find something that I really respond to that’s going to be challenging and not like the same thing that I’ve done, you know? I feel like I really want to do something completely different, so I’m trying to find that right now and just reading a lot. I haven’t really found it just yet, but yeah, in the meantime, I guess I’ll just be reading and relaxing a little bit.
CS: I remember when we spoke years ago, there was talk of you being the new Spider-Man, but I read that you might still do a movie with Marc Webb on something else. Is that still happening or is he too busy with the sequel? Lerman: That would be interesting. I haven’t heard anything about that project. I mean, I know what you’re talking about. It was a while ago. I remember I was attached to it, but I think that he’s been on another film, and I haven’t even spoken to him about it. But, yeah, I’m curious. It’s a really good script, though, “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Yeah, I’m curious. I think that’s kind of on the backburner right now, though.
CS: It was great talking to you. Thanks a lot for taking the time and again, I loved the movie. I’m not sure if it’s still in theaters but hopefully people can catch it on TV. Lerman: I have no idea. I’m not sure. I haven’t really seen it anywhere around where I am right now, but I really appreciate the conversation. Thank you very much. It was really nice talking to you, too.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is actually still playing in a few cities and should be coming to Blu-ray and DVD soon. And if you’re one of the thousands of awards voters who happen to have gotten a screener, it’s worth checking out.