Logan Lerman: Teenage Kicked
Logan Lerman made his name playing teenagers in films such as The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and the Percy Jackson franchise. Now, though, the actor is growing up fast…
“That’s all yours,” says Logan Lerman, pointing his chopsticks at some salmon caviar on a sushi platter. “I’ve never really been an egg guy. I remember having dinner with Michael Shannon, while he was playing Zod in Man Of Steel, and he ordered that. He said, ‘Do you know what I love about this? It’s like, I’m eating a hundred salmon in one bite.’ I was like, ‘Alright dude, you’re obviously in a zone or some sh*t.’”
Lerman, as the reaction suggests, is very Californian. He’s the archetypal laidback, good-looking guy – strikingly similiar to a young Christian Slater – and seems slightly out of place among the snow-covered streets of New York outside this restaurant. He’s into music, into films and, unlike so many who flock to his hometown of Los Angeles, actually in films.
His most notable roles to date have been ‘teen’, in the Oscar-nominated Western 3:10 To Yuma, the excellent Perks Of Being A Wallflower and as a demigod in two less-excellent but extremely popular Percy Jackson films.
Now, though, Lerman’s decided it’s time to grow up, to go toe-to-toe with the caviar-eating big boys, with two heavyweight films in 2014.
“It’s a conscious move,” he says. “It’s something I want to break out of, diversify my characters, not let it get boring doing the same thing. It’s also about working with the filmmakers I like – and great filmmakers aren’t doing teen movies.”
He couldn’t be doing all this in finer style. In November, he’ll be sharing a tank with Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf in David Ayer’s unnamed Second World War film (working title: Fury), but first up he’s battling worse weather than even New York can throw up, in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.
Lerman plays Ham, son of Russell Crowe’s titular hero, alongside Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson. It wasn’t a hard sell.
“I’ll do anything for a role with a filmmaker that I really love,” he says. “I’d entertain their kids, nanny, whatever. I’d literally fight for a role. I found out that Darren was doing a movie and I just wanted to do it, regardless. I’m not really religious, but I was excited by this idea, this Aronofsky-esque approach to the Bible. I initially went up for Shem, the older brother, but then Aronofsky asked whether I’d mind going for Ham. I was like, ‘F*ck yeah, I’ll do it. Anything you want. I’ll suck your d*ck!’”
It should be made very clear that Lerman’s laughing when he says this; keen as he is, the 22-year-old is not a man who needs to sleep his way to the top. The rightful acclaim he received for his role as a mentally ill high-school student in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, also with Watson, got him noticed by, and working with, the best – including some personal idols.
“Ray Winstone is a hero of mine,” he says. “He’s one of the greatest – a beast. A sexy beast. I had a good time working with him. You go into a scene and there are so many options. And you just play. The better the actor, the more options and the more unexpected choices you make. Like a tennis match, the better the player you’re playing against, the better your game is. Ray’s character in Noah, Tubal Cain, was so rich and violent – a lot of fun to work off. It’s always interesting to see a tough guy on screen. It’s always interesting when they’re crazy, too. There is a certain level of badass which guys respond to, but it depends what the director does with the character, because it can always go south. A lot of tough guys have failed and haven’t been comfortable to watch.”
Lerman’s MODE shoot earlier in the day didn’t fail; the military look even hinted at his own inner tough guy, with the urban, dark florals providing just enough ‘California’. He admits, though, that it’s not something he’d normally opt for.
“I respect fashion,” he says, “but I wouldn’t say I’ve got a sense of style or a wide taste in clothing. I’m always in dark colours if I dress myself – black, dark blue or grey. I never dress myself for events or anything. It’s always weird, like I’m lying in a way. I’m not really being me. But at the same time I appreciate the help, otherwise I would just be wearing the same sh*t every day.”
Back in his self-selected dark blue jeans and black T-shirt, still chewing on
sushi, he describes doing the shoot as “a walk in the park”. It’s a phrase he repeats when comparing Noah to the last time he wore military clothing: making ‘Fury’. This he describes as “nuts” and “painful”.
If Lerman is growing up, he’s not doing it by halves. Fury is the name of the tank that contains Lerman’s character, Norman Ellison – a rookie called up as the Second World War is playing out its final, messy scenes on the German borderlands – along with four other men: Pitt, LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña. Shot mostly in England, preparation included the five actors taking part in a month-long army-style boot camp, during which they shared a single tent, while filming itself had other discomforts in store for Lerman. Ellison, fresh-faced and positively virginal when it comes to the horrors of conflict, is thrown in at the deep end; if art and life ever reflected each other for Lerman, this was it.
“I didn’t watch Perks until it was released,” he says. “I really liked it, but felt uncomfortable watching it. I know it’s a character and everything, but it’s still uncomfortable to watch that sh*t. That’s kind of how I feel about Fury right now. I just got hazed throughout the whole film; the actors and director really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I hated being out there, but towards the end of it, it felt like I got Stockholm syndrome – I quite liked it. And they brought sh*t out of me that I didn’t even know was there. I’ve got to thank them for that.”
“You want to talk about tough guys? I think Brad Pitt is one of the coolest tough guys in movie history. Fight Club is one of my favourite films and Tyler Durden is one of the most badass characters ever. Every morning at 5am, David Ayer had us put on UFC-style padded clothes and fight each other for a few hours. I forgot Brad is f*cking 50, you know? He’s in killer shape and f*cking fought with the young dudes. He still looks like Tyler Durden.”
If scrapping with your heroes is one benefit of mixing it with the big boys, it clearly wasn’t all a bed of roses. It certainly didn’t smell like one, either. In an effort to recreate accurately the conditions a Second World War tank crew would’ve faced, LaBeouf went beyond camping out and having a wrestle.
“He didn’t really shower,” says Lerman, laughing. “The guy smelt like shit. Not like actual shit, but of BO. When we were fighting, I didn’t want to get his arm around my neck because of that stench. But the dude was just f*cking dedicated, you know? More than any other actor I’ve ever worked with. I love that guy.”
And therein lies a warning for Lerman: evidence that, now he’s no longer a juvenile fish in a small pond, his working life isn’t always going to be a walk in a park. In fact, sometimes it will really stink.