Author Stephen Chbosky‘s The Perks of Being a Wallflower ranks among the most familiar and cherished books of Gen Y teenagerdom, that ubiquitous lime green book about high school friendship and self-discovery. Since Chbosky himself wrote and directed the recent film adaptation of Perks, which comes out on DVD today, it’s no surprise that the warmth and power of his epistolary novel truly comes to life on the big screen. What’s slightly more surprising is the utter precision of the casting: Logan Lerman is perfect as the conscientious, but troubled Charlie; Emma Watson is lovable as his new friend Sam; but best of all, Ezra Miller is wonderful as the funny, charismatic, and Dr. Frankenfurter-impersonating gay character Patrick.
Miller has been provocative on screen as the titular psychopathic teen of We Need to Talk About Kevin and as Ellen Barkln‘s son in Another Happy Day, but in Perks, he’s both cheeky and freewheeling as the wisecracking Patrick. You know this kid. He’s both gregarious and a burnout, and Miller plays him with what appears to be wonderful ease. In fact, he’s so good that I requested he play more gay characters in the very near future. So there.
We caught up with Miller to discuss his work in the movie, what surprised him about his costars, and the joys and comforts of identifying himself as “queer.”
AfterElton: Perks is such a good movie. I’ve seen it three times now. Has your perception of the movie changed since making it and its release?
Ezra Miller: I mean, I only saw it once. You’re actually two ahead of me. It fulfilled and then exceeded my expectations of what I thought this film could be to such a huge degree that there hasn’t really been an evolution or an arc of how I perceive the film. There’s been a really pleasant continuity, especially hearing people — especially kids — react to this film in a way that’s so reminiscent of how I reacted to the book when I was that age. It’s all been sort of on the same really wonderful heel. It hasn’t changed. My perception of what the story is and why the story, because it’s so personal and so intimate, is so universal and relatable, that’s still very true to me. With the film, with me being so attached to it — I mean, my face is in it — that’s been the only very minor alteration. I still feel the same about Stephen and the story as I did when I was 14.
AE: There’s never a point in this movie when I think, “Ezra Miller isn’t quite going for it.” Patrick is an ebullient character, and you really energize him. Was it also exhausting to play him?
EM: I think there is something a little challenging about playing someone who’s so constantly on, in the way you just described. That’s tricky. To play Patrick’s manic ability to be constantly the proverbial life of the party and then really only have that be a manic overextension at very certain points in the plot line where, for me, being that manically joyous and hilarious all the time would be a sign that something terrible is going to happen. You know what I mean? Like a crash is just around the corner? It was important that that actually only be at a couple specific points in the story arc, that we feel that. The rest of the time, it’s genuine, you know? He’s a genuine life force. It’s tricky to capture that when I might not be as constantly enthusiastic. [Laughs.]
AE: He’s a very physical character, much more so than your role in We Need to Talk About Kevin and presumably more than your upcoming role in the new adaptation of Madame Bovary. Was it a one-of-a-kind experience, being this physical on film?
EM: Actually, the physicality of a character is usually the first thing I think about. Even with Kevin, the creepy way he held his shoulders was kind of like a starting point for me. I find that finding the body of whoever this [role] is lends itself to all of the other parts of the sort-of deconstruction required to then reconstruct and play a character. Definitely in terms of the dancing and jumping around, I hope it’s not a one-of-a-kind experience for me! It’s a great deal of fun. I would love to be able to dance and jump around in some other film. But yeah, it was definitely a joy. He’s definitely the most physically buoyant I’ve ever played.
AE: Peter’s a big fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Do you have cult movie obsessions?
EM: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I have a bunch of those. In terms of cult films specifically, I’m a huge fan of – I couldn’t act this movie out because it’s in Japanese — but the very epitomizingly cult film Suicide Club, which is actually about a cult. That’s one of my favorites. Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of my favorite cult films, just to be real. I saw that movie when I was way too young, and it scarred me in a very irrevocable, permanent way. It’s a scar I cherish, and one of I’ve been able to use to my advantage in my professional career and whatnot. I’m a huge Tim Curry fan all around. I really can’t speak highly enough of Mr. Curry. He’s a personal hero of mine.
AE: Hell yes. I’m a Clue man.
EM: Oh, yeah. Oh, I’ve seen Clue. Many times. That’s the thing, man. Tim Curry dominates. Tim Curry is the cult king, the cult leader. His booming voice, you know? Many follow it. He’s like the pied piper.