By Scott Neumyer
Although 19-years-old, Ezra Miller has been acting for several years, the young actor really made his name playing the titular character in Lynne Ramsay’s horrifying and excellent 2011 drama “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”
Last year, Miller took on one of YA literature’s most beloved characters when he signed on to play the part of Patrick in Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own blockbuster book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (out on Blu-ray and DVD now). Hailed by critics as one of 2012’s best films and certainly the most authentic and heartfelt teen films in many years, “Perks” is a beautiful and poignant coming of age tale starring Miller, Logan Lerman, Mae Whitman, and Emma Watson.
MTV recently spoke with Miller to discuss bonding with his fellow cast members, the terrifying prospect of messing up the adaptation, and feeling infinite.
MTV: On the Blu-ray bonus features, Stephen Chbosky mentioned that “Perks” took so long to make because he was waiting for this cast. How did you get involved with the film?
EZRA MILLER: A Skype. It was all a hateful Skype. [Laughs] I went in on tape — I guess in a more traditional way first — and then I did a Skype session with Stephen, and that was it. When I got cast for this film, nobody involved had actually met me. They only experienced me through a twenty-second delay in a fluorescently lit casting office. So I think that, considering that we never did any sort of chemistry reads, the fact that Stephen was able to find this group of people who are able to come together in such a meaningful way beyond even the call of duty of the work and all become this true group of friends and make this movie together, I think was miraculous in a number of ways. I think Stephen is a man that knows how to really swoop in on a miraculous occurrence and use it to further miraculous ends.
MTV: It’s pretty amazing how well you guys got along. It makes the film feel very authentic.
EM: I imagine that good chemistry can just come from when the scene is working and when all the actors involved are properly accomplishing their jobs, but there’s definitely a tilt and an advantage to when everybody actually falls in love with each other on set. It’s got to help, at least a little.
MTV: Were you nervous about how this massively popular and beloved book would translate to the screen, or did that just melt away when you heard that Stephen was directing?
EM: It went away once Stephen actually started directing. It was so plain to see that he had such a clear handle on his own vision and how he was going to accomplish it in this new medium. Before that, it was terrifying because I’ve been a person who has been angered by film adaptations of books. I’ve felt that fanboy rage that so many are a part of. I didn’t want to be guilty of that sort of defilement of a work of art that I really loved.
But once Stephen was in the commander’s seat, I think a lot of our anxieties were able to slip away, and we were able to just focus in on the work because we knew that he had it under control. He wasn’t going to let that happen, and that was sort of the ultimate comfort.
MTV: There are so many “teen” films out there these days that just don’t get it right and don’t bring across what being a teen really feels like. “Perks” nails it though. How did you work to create that authentic teen experience on the screen?
EM: I think it was one of the trickier things about making this film. We wanted to make a film that was true to teenage life, but that teenagers could actually see in theaters. There was a big thing just about how the reality of most teen films becoming inauthentic in their attempt to be viewable by a teenage audience and that a lot of films that speak to truly depict the teenage experience end up being rated NC-17. How can a thirteen-year-old kid possibly be allowed to see Larry Clark’s Kids, for example, even though it might be the truest depiction of thirteen-year-old kids at that time in New York. That’s an interesting line to have to walk, and I think Stephen just had a really adept sense of how that could possibly be pulled off and work and we were all just trying to follow along.
Mae Whitman and I really wanted the characters to be chain smokers like they were in the book, but it was more important to us (and everyone on the film) that this movie somehow managed to slip into that small gap where it’s both PG-13 and true to life.
MTV: Do you have fans come up to you and say that it lived up to their expectations?
EM: Yes! In fact, I have yet to hear (although I guess it would take a pretty ballsy person) the opposite. Even the press reception or what I’ve heard of people in the various blogospheres, it seems like people find something similar or something new, but it seems like it’s been largely positive, which is an amazing blessing.
MTV: Do you have a favorite memory of “Perks” either on screen or off?
EM: There are a couple that are hard to hold in comparative mind. A lot of them are just times in the hotel rooms when we’d all be together and we’d all be playing music and it would be 5:30 in the morning and we would have had complaints from the hotel but we wouldn’t care because we were all so wrapped up in each other as these fantastic human beings. Those are probably some of the best memories.
And then going through that tunnel at the various times when we did go through that tunnel. “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” You know, certain moments that are just incredibly beautiful to be a part of and to watch blossom into reality that way.
There are definitely a lot. I haven’t been able to find “the one” just yet.
MTV: What is it that makes you feel infinite?
EM: I think it’s any time that I can allow my own mind to shut up even just a little, and a lot of things can do that. A song or losing myself in a piece of work with a character or even just sitting in a beautiful place when you look at the world around you and it’s endlessly reflective. When you’re looking at the ocean or the sky and there’s an internal awareness, but not as much internal chatter. Your head goes quiet for a second. I think we all do naturally exist in a state where there isn’t actually a separation between us and all of the things that we perceive.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.