Actor Ezra Miller is laying on a king-sized bed — puffy white comforter over half his body, shirt unbuttoned, Sigur Ros playing on his iPod dock — waxing poetic about the fact that he’s conducting all of his interviews in promotion for his latest film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” from the comfort of his own mattress. “If we could bring more beds to conflict zones, it could be very effective,” he says.
On one hand, it’s easy to dismiss the 19-year-old Miller as a wannabe “artiste,” one who looks to inspire as he touts a quasi-philosophical narrative. On the other hand, he’s someone to be completely admired: an enlightened star in the making, talented enough to play both a haunted high schooler who commits a massacre (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) and an animated gay teenager who has the courage to be himself (“Perks”). Either way, Miller demands your attention, particularly in “Perks.”
Based on the popular book by Stephen Chbosky (Chbosky also wrote and directed the adaptation), “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a coming-of-age tale about the introverted Charlie (Logan Lerman), who looks to navigate the choppy waters of high school with his friends Sam (Emma Watson, in her first major role post-“Harry Potter”) and Patrick (Miller). Since it was released in 1999, the book has been an inspiration to millions of teens who’ve found solace in the story’s main characters. Now, these relationships have been successfully translated onto the big screen, thanks in part to the chemistry between Miller and his co-stars. “It was like we had been put together by some Match.com algorithm,” he admits.
As for his character, Patrick, Miller seems completely enamored with him, which makes sense: although the story is told through the eyes of Charlie, it’s Patrick who steals the show, strutting on stage during a production of “Rocky Horror,” dealing with a private same-sex relationship with the star of the football team and providing feel-good inspiration to everyone around him.
“I totally consider Patrick a role model. I admire him greatly,” Miller admits. “The wholesome method of survival — that relief and that joy and that love he’s been able to keep for himself, he can then share it with his chosen family, with the friends he loves.”
Listening to Miller talk about Patrick, it’s hard not to have the same admiration for the actor himself, who recently went public about his own sexuality. “I’m queer,” Miller said in an August 2012 interview with OUT. “I’ve been trying to figure out relationships, you know? I don’t know if it’s responsible for kids of my age to be so aggressively pursuing monogamous binds, because I don’t think we’re ready for them.”
It’s clear Miller has a lot to say regarding teen struggles. These statements are even more pointed if you take his background and career into consideration: a 19-year-old high-school dropout who’s starred in four feature films (“Perks,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Beware the Gonzo” and “Afterschool”) that have used high school as their principal setting.
“I guess the condition of the American teenager in these times has been simply interesting to me,” he said, while also admitting that “Perks” will likely be his last film that takes place in high school: “With ‘Perks,’ I got to go to graduation — I got to put on a graduation cap for that scene — and I think it might be my graduation from high-school films.”
For someone as free-spirited as Miller, moving on to another chapter in his on-screen life makes sense. But don’t expect this next step to force him to temper his opinion. After being “dissatisfied” with his high-school experience, he now appears to be scornful of the young Hollywood world which he currently inhabits.
“The kids who find themselves under the wing of this industry — or maybe clinging to the edge of it — Steve [Chbosky] talks about how they’re almost like cotton fields and how they get run down until there’s no crop left.”
So what about Miller? Does he find himself clinging to the edge like the rest of his acting peers?
“No, I feel like I am maybe dancing on the beak of that bird, and I am up for getting eaten and digested and sh*t out onto a car windshield. Because, uh…” Miller laughs. “This metaphor has gotten super heavy-handed.” He pauses. Fittingly, the Sigur Ros song on his iPod is now increasing in volume and about to reach its crescendo, just as Miller is reaching his. “I think that the bird might be a bit of a vulture at this point, but it’s still human beings telling stories, and I think whatever we have to do and whatever the material reality is of getting these stories told, we should proceed.”