CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Interview: The Perks of Being Actor Logan Lerman
CHICAGO – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was a sweet, provocative and popular independent film released last year. The story of a maladjusted teenager navigating his first year in high school is about to be released on Blu-ray and DVD. Portraying the lead role of Charlie was up-and-coming actor Logan Lerman.
Lerman was born in Beverly Hills, California, and had a passion for acting at an early age. He made his film debut as one of Mel Gibson’s sons in “The Patriot” (2000), and worked steadily in film and TV until age ten. After taking a break for a couple years, he took on TV series with “Jack & Bobby” (2004-05), portraying young Bobby McCallister, a 12 year old destined to be President of the United States.
His name recognition increased with “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (2010), as the title role in the popular film. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was his 15th film, and he breaks out in a sensitive role as Charlie, a teenager plagued with his first year of high school and a past that affects his mental balance. Through a partnership with HollywoodChicago.com, you can find some research papers about “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” so you can learn more about Percy Jackson and his Greek mythology.
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment
Logan Lerman spoke with HollywoodChicago.com via phone in November, and talked about the creative process in creating Charlie, and his life-long acting career.
HollywoodChicago.com: In ‘The Perks of a Wallflower,’ you play a mentally unstable individual. How did the source of the story, writer/director Stephen Chbosky, keep you aware of how to approach the illness, as to not exploit it, make it seem trivial or not real?
Logan Lerman: He had a lot of trust in our collaboration, he allowed me to figure it out. A lot of times it was just me trying to tone it down, choosing the right point in the material to make it a natural progression, from ‘A’ to ‘B,’ as in taking away from certain moments as to have a bigger effect in the end. There were a lot of times when it didn’t work, when I was trying to get there too quickly, but it was an interesting process as it unfolded.
HollywoodChicago.com: Did you fear a misinterpretation of portraying a less than stable mental state?
Lerman: Yes, but the fear was the fuel for working it out and making sure it was successful. It took a lot of time with the script, and imaging the movie in my head, figuring out the points that needed to be hit.
HollywoodChicago.com: Where did you connect most acutely to Charlie? Which element of your experience do you think best defined his journey when you interpreted his character?
Lerman: Starting off, I’m a different type of person. I’m not like Charlie personally, but the aspect of his dilemma – and what was going on in his life – was something I really related to, in terms of my own life and friendships. It’s about the people we trust and have confidence in, it is really important to me and I certainly understood it from his perspective.
HollywoodChicago.com: Given that you were born in 1992, how did Stephen Chbosky get all the young actors to feel the time period, before mobile phones and instant internet gratification. What was part of creating the atmosphere?
Lerman: It wasn’t Steve necessarily who had a big part in that, it was the actors who were invested in the film and what was going on. I can speak for the others, but for me it was about isolating myself in the environment we were in, with the cast in Pittsburgh. I tried to stay away from the wider net of communication, and live with these guys. I lived in a bubble.
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment
HollywoodChicago.com: Since you immersed yourself in that era, do you think there is an advantage to not being so connected?
Lerman: Yes, 100% advantage. [laughs] Today is way different, because everyone knows where you are.
HollywoodChicago.com: Since you began as a child actor, what techniques or acting preparation is most different for you now than when you were a kid? In other words, how have you evolved in your preparation?
Lerman: Each character is different, and requires a different type of preparation. For me, I’ve learned a lot from actors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, that I really appreciate. What it comes down to is you do what you need to do as an actor to get comfortable with a character and on-set in every way, and feeling free on that set with no restrictions.
b>HollywoodChicago.com: You had to connect to some pretty blazing hot young actors, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson. What do you observe about them that you think makes them so distinct as performers? And what can you tell us about Emma Watson that the rest of the world doesn’t know?
Lerman: I doubt that she would want me to mention it. [laughs] And I’m sure everyone wants to know. Maybe if the price is right…. [laughs] She’s incredibly hard-working and smart, and in terms of working with Ezra and her, it’s really just two talented actors that I enjoyed spending time with as well.
HollywoodChicago.com: You also took on a franchise, the Percy Jackson series. What makes the pressure different for a film on that level versus the independent character films you favor? Did Emma Watson give you any tips for being in a series?
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Lerman: [Laughs} She didn’t give me any tips, but we did talk about it. Percy is a different series than the Harry Potters, not even equivalent, in terms of popularity. Character work versus something like Percy are on two different levels, there isn’t as much substance to something like Percy Jackson, it’s also more physically challenging, with wire work and all that. Creatively, it’s much more satisfying to do a complex character like in Perks.
HollywoodChicago.com: You were the lead on the oddball TV series ‘Jack & Bobby.’ What elements of the strange journey of politicians did you take away from that show, and did it help you relate to a person on the precipice of being a leader, like Barack Obama?
Lerman: Not at all. Even Obama wasn’t the leader at that point in his life. I was still a kid when I did the role, too young to have any perspective or depth within it, in my thought process at the time. It was just a family drama for me as a child actor, and I didn’t think about the broader sense of the show. I enjoyed doing it.
HollywoodChicago.com: Your bio states that you knew you wanted to be an actor at a very early age. Do you find some elements of Oscar Wilde’s famous saying, ‘Be careful of what you want, because you might just get it.’ in your career, or is the profession you wanted all your life continuing to give you complete satisfaction?
Lerman: What is nice about where I am now is that I feel like I’m in the position to do work that is creatively satisfying, and that’s great. It’s become a career now, and things can change, but I want to keep doing it unless it gets to a point where it was just a job, to pay the bills, then it might get old.
HollywoodChicago.com: Who is the coolest person you’ve ever met in hobnobbing with the celebrities, and how did that person meet your expectations once you finally got to talk to them?
Lerman: It was for ‘Perks.’ I was doing a preliminary screening at somebody’s house, and Sir Paul McCartney was one of the guests. There was that part of the film where Charlie gives a record to Sam [Emma Watson’s character], and it was a Beatles record. It was a big part of the movie, and there was Paul watching it. He came over after the screening, spoke to me, and he was so nice, gracious and had kind things to say. I’m a huge fan, and I think that as cool as it gets.
HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, what power would you personally give Percy Jackson that he doesn’t have, and why would you give him that power?
Lerman: The ability to fly, why the f**k not? [laughs]