It's hard to tell if actor Logan Lerman is terribly press shy, or simply doesn't give a shit. Our guess is a little of both, somewhere along the tenuous line between polite and punk. Granted, it's difficult to grasp the essence of a person during a 20-minute phone chat - on his end, from the back seat of a New York taxi - but the young actor is a hard nut to crack. His answers to questions are brief, sometimes nothing more than "Mmhmm." It's frustrating and admirable in equal measures. Maybe it's a manner the Beverly Hills-born actor has learned from entering the industry as a four-year-old in commercials before going into movies like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief in his teens. Lerman may only be 20, but he is clearly an expert in the trappings of the business. And now, as the star of the high-anticipated adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower with Emma Watson and Ezra Miller (the author of which, thankfully, wrote the screenplay and directed), plus big roles forthcoming in Darren Aronofsky's Noah and Josh Boone's Stuck In Love, there is no doubt that Logan has acting chops. He just does not care to elaborate on it all that much.
The Block: Hello Logan, it's Labor Day. How did you spend your last weekend of summer?
Logan: Oh, this is the last weekend of summer? I didn't realize. I was doing some publicity work for Perks, you know, starting all that... craziness. We had a screening in the Hamptons at the home of Donna Karan, and I was there, and all that fun stuff.
TB: Perks is such a beloved story. What brought you to the project?
Logan: I just got the script and was familiar with the title. It was a popular book in my high school.
TB: Had you read it?
Logan: No, no, I had only heard about it. I had friends that really loved it, they were always talking about it, but I had never read it in high school. I read the script and loved it and was really drawn to Stephen's writing. I fell in love with the book after that - so it was sort of a reverse process.
TB: Did you chemistry test with Ezra and Emma for the role?
Logan: No no, not at all. We were all cast separately and then met in Pittsburgh and got on really well.
TB: What did you like about working with them both?
Logan: Oh, Emma is incredibly talented, intelligent, a genuine, kind person. It's a great combination. These things make it really nice to collaborate with her. And working with Ezra is so much fun. We became really tight through the whole process. He's just so freaking talented that we had a blast working together, playing off each other and finding our characters.
[rest of the interview behind spoiler cut]TB: What did you take away from working on the film?
Logan: It was a creatively fulfilling experience for me to do something that everyone was so passionate about, so I was really satisfied by the end of that. I did some movies before that were ... how do I say this? They just weren't the same kind of movie. It was a different kind of passion I had for this project that made me very, very satisfied creatively.
TB: How did you approach the role of Charlie?
Logan: I would say the key was isolation. Isolating myself.
TB: How did you do that?
Logan: I just kind of locked myself in a room for a few weeks and saw no one.
TB: And that was your idea?
Logan: Yeah, that helped me figure everything out. I came to Pittsburgh a few weeks before everyone else and hung out alone in the middle of this hotel in this mall, at the Crowe Plaza there. TGIF's every day. I remember the day I got there, it was Easter and I was eating alone at TGIF's, and everyone was looking at me so sad, like they all felt so bad for me. It was kind of funny.
TB: Was that a new feeling for you? What was your own experience in high school like?
Logan: I was definitely a kind of social guy. I mean, I knew everyone in my school and I talked to everyone but I wouldn't necessarily socialize much outside of school.
TB: Because you were acting from such a young age?
Logan: Yeah, I was working, but my passion was to make short films and watch movies and that really wasn't what everybody else was into. I had my three best friends that I'd hang out with and that was really all we did, growing up.
TB: How would you describe a teenage Logan?
Logan: A teenage me ... I was pretty awkward, well, and shy - horrible at talking to girls. I wasn't as introverted as Charlie, but I definitely related a lot to his feelings and the stuff that he was going through.
TB: The character of Charlie is pretty weighty. He's not just an awkward teen, but someone who's dealing with serious depression and other problems. There has been talk that this film could even prevent young people from committing suicide. Did you feel the responsibility of the role?
Logan: It's all kind of personal talking about the research and everything [I did] but yeah, I felt it was a role that meant a lot to a lot of people and it meant a lot to me. I definitely took it very seriously and I wanted to do it right for everyone who's not just a fan of the book, but is really affected by it. So they can have something that they're satisfied with as well.
TB: I'm sure this film is going to have the power to give hope and comfort to a lot of kids in that situation. What would you say to kids who are struggling and maybe haven't found that group of fellow wallflowers who become a sort of savior for Charlie?
Logan: I would say, you can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, and don't be afraid to rely on your friends. Talk to people about things, you know? Whatever's on your mind. A lot of people feel the need to store it deep down inside. You can trust your friends and family, but it is about feeling comfortable with who you are as well. I think that's big.
TB: Music makes a big role in the film. I heard you like to make and play music yourself?
Logan: I love music! I love the music in the film. Yeah, music does play a big part in this film and the soundtrack is really quite amazing.
TB: What instruments do you play?
Logan: I play a little bit of piano and guitar. I've been playing since I was a little kid. It was kind of therapeutic for me. It was my escape a lot of the time. With everything going on in a kid's mind, it was a good way to de-stress.
TB: Do you see many live shows?
Logan: Yeah, I do. It's one of the things I like to do for fun. You know who I really loved recently? Beach House. And Alabama Shakes, I have not seen them, but I want to. The last concert [I went to] was The Black Keys and that was great too.
TB: You're starting to get bigger roles in bigger projects. What's been your experience of the Hollywood system so far?
Logan: I'd say I really got into acting to get my foot in the door for so many things. And then I grew a passion for it. Every single department, every medium that's involved in the process of film-making. I love acting, but directing is something that really interests me, one day. I really don't know when that day will be, but hopefully soon. I used to write a lot and I've found that lately I've kind of slowed down writing, which is kind of disappointing. I need to find my creative spark again and get into it.
TB: What draws you to a project?
Logan: I'm attracted to the filmmaker most of the time. In terms of something like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, where it's a first-time director, it was really the material and the character that played a big part for me. It is also the security, the cushion of knowing who is the director of photography, who the cast will potentially be, and kind of weighing those factors as well ... but I think it all comes down to character and if it's challenging and worthwhile.
TB: And next you're in Darren Aronofsky's Noah - pretty big deal!
Logan: Yeah, yeah, I'm doing that right now. In fact, it's with Emma [Watson] also, we're working together again. It's great, it's like a dream project to work with Darren Aronofsky. He's a filmmaker I just love.
TB: Which other directors you want to work with?
Logan: Oh, there are so many good ones out there, so many great directors to work with. If I started naming a few I'd feel really bad if I left out anyone else I love as well.
TB: Do you have a ton of DVDs? Are you a Criterion Collection kind of guy?
Logan: Yeah, it's kinda stupid how many DVDs I have. But now everything is going digital, so I can find a lot of things digitally.
TB: But do you feel that cinema, as a physical entity, still has legs?
Logan: Yes, of course it does, of course! That's the best way to see a film - in a theater. I just love classic movie theaters. There's this great movie theater in Los Angeles called the Archlight that's just perfect for anyone who loves movies.