When it comes to big breaks, starring in the film adaption of a beloved coming-of-age novel, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, is about as good as it gets. Logan Lerman, who portrays the troubled high-school freshman, Charlie, is feeling the pressure. He calls from Iceland, where he’s filming the Darren Aronofsky-directed Biblical epic, Noah, alongside his Perks co-star, Emma Watson. “I have no idea how much longer I’ll be here. Maybe a couple more weeks; maybe a couple more days.” Despite his dizzying schedule and a grumbling voice hinting at a need for some rest, Lerman’s still got Charlie on his mind.
“My concerns weren’t about pleasing the fans of the book, but more about getting to the place where Charlie is,” he says, which was “a little daunting”. Besides slight uneasiness, Lerman sounds nothing like the achingly awkward lost teen he plays in the film: he is articulate and composed, coming across as an artist far wiser than his twenty years. For the seasoned actor whose professional career began at five, including roles alongside Russell Crowe, Jim Carrey and Mel Gibson, it all makes sense.
But this time, it’s Lerman whose name is splattered across movie posters, though he shares much screen- time with a handful of young actors who portray Charlie’s fellow misfits. they include Charlie’s out-of-his-league love interest, Sam, played by Harry Potter’s Emma Watson, and Sam’s quirky gay stepbrother, Patrick, played by We Need To Talk About Kevin’s Ezra Miller. Despite the film’s dark script, the cast’s off-camera experience was lots of fun. “We literally took over the wing of a hotel [in Pittsburgh] and the whole hallway was filled with the actors – it was just like a dorm. Everyday we were in each other’s rooms, making music, getting to know each other.” In one particular bonding moment, Lerman fondly recalls them dressing as “Greasers” complete with gelled-back coifs whilst getting rowdy at a Pittsburgh Pirates ballgame.
Though, in Perks, the misfits’ cafeteria conversation often focuses on college applications to escape suburbia, the film also serves as a love letter to its writer’s hometown. In a pivotal scene, Charlie is dazzled by Sam’s rebellious ritual of standing on the back of a truck, 90s tunes blasting, while Patrick speeds through a tunnel and soars past Pittsburgh’s shimmering skyline. The screenplay, as well as the novel, was written by the film’s director, Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky and published in 1999 by MTV Books, going on to sell over a million copies. Still, there were stakes for Lerman.
“Perks was taking a gamble because it was a first-time director, but Stephen is just such a passionate, intelligent, fantastic writer,” he says. “My audition consisted of three scenes – one was where Charlie gets stoned for the first time, a romantic scene, and Charlie having a breakdown. It was three difficult places to get to emotionally in fifteen minutes.” Difficulty aside, Lerman, as we now know, killed it.
“Logan was the second person I auditioned for charlie, and after his audition, I didn’t need to see anybody else,” says Chbosky. “He fundamentally understood Charlie, and gave Charlie all of the humour, hope, vulnerability and kindness that the character demanded.”
With the buzzed-about flick set for October release, is Lerman prepared to potentially share Watson’s tabloid fame? “If that were ever to happen, I think it’d be pretty uninteresting. I’m pretty boring.” Still, Lerman’s tone also suggests that this pending unknown is both exciting and nerve-wracking – so much so that he has yet to view the finished film. “Watching myself having a nervous breakdown would be a little weird for me…”
When I bring up the Smiths-heavy soundtrack, Lerman unveils an apt reaction from someone who’s ascending toward Hollywood stardom, innocently asking “Is it good?” (I tell him it’s great). Considering his viscerally layered performance, I have a feeling that, very soon, Lerman won’t need reassurance of any kind.
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perks is out in theaters nationwide october 5th!