The Quirks of Being Ezra Miller
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Outtakes and extended answers from Out’s interview with Ezra Miller. Read the full story, "Lost & Found."
ON BEING A FAN OF PERKS LONG BEFORE THE FILM:
I’m in the weird position [where] I’ve been offered to go and see screenings of this film now three times, and all three times now I was like, yeah, I’ll totally be there. And then I haven’t gone. Because I read this book when I was Charlie’s age, when I was 14. And it was actually recommended to me by sort of, like, the Patrick and Sam of my existence as a young high school student. There were these two best friends who lived in the same on the same block in Maplewood, New Jersey, and one of them became my really close friend, and the other one became my girlfriend. One of the things that they insisted on being a part of my adolescent education was the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. They handed it to me and one said, ‘This is my favorite book.’ The other said, ‘This book saved my life.’ So I read it and I found one of the best mythological maps for being a fucked-up kid that I’ve still ever found. There are certain ones that are just great, right? Like Catcher in the Rye, or a movie like Igby Goes Down, or like Rule of the Bone, like 400 Blows. There are certain pieces of adolescent mythology that can almost become a necessity, like a lifeline for a kid. Perks was that for me. So when I was over at my friend’s house in LA, and I saw some script from William Morris or something, and it said The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I picked the script up and I threw it against the wall, and then I kicked it and spat on it—because I was furious that somebody, some idiot somewhere was trying to ruin a great piece of literature. And then my agent called me and told me that the writer of the book had written a script and was directing the film, and obviously that granted sort of new perspective. It was no longer Hollywood eating another thing we love. It was all of a sudden maybe a chance for Perks of Being a Wallflower to become a bigger, friendlier, more helpful monster. And I do now find myself in the position of being a star of the film who also is a fan of the book who is, like, kind of skeptical. It’s a little weird to be in both of those roles.
ON PLAYING PATRICK:
I had sort of a crazy realization, which was four years ago I was reading this book, thinking of myself as Charlie. And here I am, four years from that point, 18 years old, the same age that my friends were when they were recommending the book to me. Look—I would have played Sam if given the option. Given all the options, fuck Emma Watson! [Laughs] Should have been me! But I settled for Patrick, the second best character.
ON PERFORMING SONGS FROM ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW IN PERKS:
I was 15 probably [the first time] I went to the one in Chelsea [in New York City]. I’ve been to a couple now but certainly had never dreamt of donning the mighty pearls, as it were. From a very young age, Tim Curry was it for me. Like, it. Totally the man. Mostly because of The Muppets Treasure Island. But also because of other great performances in movies such as Legends or The Three Musketeers. Just like, Tim Curry, really hard core, man.
I remember the first time I watched it. Not like the first time I ever saw a stage show—but the first time I ever watched it, I was very young. The eldest child in my family was left in charge of babysitting, and we decided to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And maybe an hour in, maybe starting to approach “Creature of the Night,” moving that direction, my sister had a panic attack and turned it off and was like, “You cannot tell Mom and Dad that I let you watch this movie.” And I just remember being really infuriated like, wait, no no no, you can’t just do that. That movie was just getting awesome!
I was much more interested in the violent elements at that point than the sexual elements—I don’t think I really understood the sexual elements explicitly, but I was probably also excited by those in sort of subconscious ways. Doing that scene is just kind of like a dream come true. A rare opportunity to just give a very humble salute to one of the artists who has influenced me most. All hail Tim Curry.
ON PATRICK’S FIGHT SCENE IN PERKS:
The man that Patrick is in love with calls him a faggot. The man he’s been sleeping with calls him a faggot. That’s… I mean, you can look at that from every angle. Look at the etymology of the word. If I was in that situation, I would do what Patrick did. Probably. Not because I’d mean to, but because that’s just what you do. I think that would be a natural response for anyone to have someone who they became so vulnerable to—when you are in love with someone you very slowly let them in closer and closer to like your core, you know what I mean? And then if someone violates that in a way where then it’s a reflection of bigotry? I don’t—maybe I take that back. Maybe there are certain situations in which I would throw the first punch. Certainly if someone was threatening someone I love.
I’m aware that there’s no limit to what I might do to protect someone. I also just know that you can always brutalize someone harder with words. Always. Physical pain is physical pain and there’s only so far you can take that. At a certain point the victim passes out. But verbal pain? Emotional pain? Psychological suffering? That shit’s endless. In a world where pretty much every weapon is available to anyone who wants it, you can’t win a physical fight. You just can’t. If you fight enough people, it doesn’t matter how good a fighter you are, someone’s going to kick your ass. But if you fight with words—the zeitgeist supports being a word samurai a little bit more than walking around with a sword.
I just want kids in all situations to hold on. That’s my only thing for the promotion of this movie and everything that comes with it and just in general what I think about more than anything. I described some of the events of my youth. A lot of those events left me wanting to end my own life. Just give up. It feels like the world. It feels like the whole world—because it is. It’s your whole world. But, man—life is a really, really cool ride. It’s really amazing the type of shit you can get up to if you endure.
The world is really about to need the smart young people who are advanced in the way they think and the way they feel—and I mean advanced in this way, like, where it’s something that other people cannot understand yet. Like new breeds of human beings. Whether you’re genderless or you’re low-functional autistic but you know everything about, like, fucking computer hacking. We need to focus up as a generation. We need to start getting our heads out of suicide. It’s unbelievably unacceptable. I know that a lot of communities are failing in their responsibilities to kids to make them feel that life is truly full of hope, as we know it is.
As long as there’s, like, hydrogen and oxygen in some degree of proportion in the planet, there’s a lot of hope. Individual communities particularly in the United States of America, I feel, are failing to let kids know that no matter who or what they are they are wonderful human beings. And if individual communities like schools, like families, like churches, like small towns—if these individual communities are continuing to fail, I say, fuck ’em. We have the internet. We have a global community. Nobody is alone any more. And that’s always been the case. We’ve always had somewhere, right? But now we can literally get in touch with each other. I just want kids to stop offing themselves, man. I’m sick of it. It’s too much of a waste. Like, you can do anything you want—if you can survive.
ON WHAT KIDS CAN DO TO BE MORE LIKE PATRICK:
Turn off television and mainstream news. Stop reading mainstream news. Just listen to yourself. Just listen to yourself. That’s it. That’s all Patrick is doing. He’s just loving his friends and listening to his own heart. And just fight—once you get it, fight to protect it, because it’s not guaranteed once you understand it. In fact, then the real fun and the real fight begins.
But also for someone who is feeling oppressed, like a lot of the people of the world right now? Stand up is what I say. Stand up for yourself. Like Patrick. Whether it’s a teacher, or a principal or a parent or his boyfriend who is telling him that he’s not okay or he’s doing something wrong or he’s nothing—it doesn’t matter. He loves them anyway, which means he wins. And he stands up for himself. What he believes, what he knows to be true. And that’s it. That’s all. Don’t give up the fight. Oh—and smoke weed, kids. Smoke weed. Or eat it. You don’t have to smoke it. Just don’t inject anything or snort anything. You shouldn’t be snorting or injecting weed anyway. Smoke it or eat it. That’s my other suggestion. Cures all ills, you know?