The pressure of bringing a beloved fictional character to life isn’t new to Logan Lerman, who has previously played the titular character of Rick Riordan’s fantasy series “Percy Jackson” and D’Artagnan of “The Three Musketeers.” But even he realizes the importance of not disappointing the small yet hugely devoted fan-base of author Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” one of the most relatable and acclaimed coming-of-age tales of this generation.
“From my perspective, I’ve known characters in my life who were similar to characters in the book and the movie,” Lerman said in a recent conference call with journalists. “At that age, discovering who you are and being comfortable with yourself are relatable issues. I feel like (the movie) is a very faithful adaptation of the book, especially since Chbosky wrote the novel and wrote the screenplay for the film.”
Lerman’s name isn’t the most recognizable in the industry. In an era of absurdly popular pubescent actors (who have most probably depicted vampires, werewolves, wizards or all of the above), Lerman is relatively unknown to even those who’ve seen his films. In public, Lerman appears shy and reserved, choosing to let his often more famous co-stars — for “Perks,” this includes Emma Watson in one of her first post-“Potter” roles — do all the talking.
But all it takes is a phone conversation with him to quickly realize that YouTube videos shouldn’t be mistaken for reality. Without a camera in front of him, Lerman is seemingly unafraid to joke candidly about kissing a male co-star, pretty generous with F-bombs — which he admits is his favorite curse word — and has none of the arrogance that one would expect of an actor who has been in show-biz for over half of his life.
“I haven’t really grown up in the spotlight,” Lerman said. “I did films but no one really knew who the hell I was, and they still don’t. So it’s nice having some sort of anonymity.”
Most noticeably, Lerman is nothing like the introverted, borderline-depressed character he plays in “Perks.” Living in 1990’s Pittburgh, his character, Charlie, is an unconventional and intelligent teenager whose only friend in high school is his English teacher — in other words, Charlie embodies the very definition of “wallflower.” For Lerman, it wasn’t an easy task to get into his character’s head.
“(Charlie and I) are very different. I’m not as introverted or naïve as he is, but he reminded me a lot of close friends of mine and I definitely understood his perspective,” Lerman said. “It was pretty tricky to figure out his intentions, just getting in the mind of such a sweet, genuine guy. That was tough.”
Anyone who has read “Perks” knows that this book doesn’t just document Charlie’s depression. It introduces him to Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”) — two somewhat crazy, live-in-the-moment seniors who embrace Charlie as one of their group and breathe life into his otherwise dull existence. His entertaining divulgence into the life of the “cool kids” is a necessary break from the more serious aspects of this film.
“I loved the whole Charlie-getting-stoned for the first time sequence. That was a lot of fun … a little break from the depressing scenes that were hard to get into,” Lerman said.
“Perks” is a distinct book-to-screen adaptation; it’s written and directed by the book’s author. But working with the man who would accept nothing less than perfection for a story he so passionately created wasn’t as scary for Lerman as one would think.
“It wasn’t intimidating at all. I was nervous about my character, he was nervous about making a film for the first time. We complemented each other a little bit,” Lerman said.
In the short conversation he had with the Daily, Lerman couldn’t have expressed his love for films more clearly. From his frequent references to old films like Redford’s “Ordinary People” to make his points, or his enthusiasm for visual-effects and character-driven films, Lerman claims to love every aspect of filmmaking. And household name or not, behind the camera or in front, Lerman’s not planning on saying goodbye to the silver screen anytime soon.
“I really want to get behind the camera. That’s why I got into acting in the first place,” Lerman said. “I love everything that goes into filming so I could be anything — I could be a props guy, who the hell knows?”