Photography by Danielle Levitt
There have been many powerful coming-out statements, but few as elegant and considered as Miller’s letter this August declining an invitation to be honored at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival. “As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline,” Miller wrote to festival director Maria Averbakh.
“Like everyone, I’d been reading reports online about what was happening in Russia,” Miller says. “So when the invitation arrived, I thought, There is no way I can say yes. Then it occurred to me that if I made my response public, it might help draw additional attention to the situation. It felt like the right move at the right time.”
Best known to millions of Americans for his role as Michael Scofield in the hit Fox series Prison Break (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2006), Miller has since transitioned from acting to writing. He was responsible for the screenplay to this year’s well-received thriller Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska, and has another screenplay, The Disappointments Room, set to star Kate Beckinsale and directed by DJ Caruso (Disturbia).
Miller took another courageous step in September, appearing at a Seattle event for the Human Rights Campaign, where he opened up about his suicide attempts as a teenager, concluding with a powerful statement of intent: “Let me be to someone else what no one was to me. Let me send a message to that kid, maybe in America, maybe someplace far overseas, maybe somewhere deep inside — a kid who is being targeted at home or at school or in the streets — that someone is watching and listening and caring, that there is an ‘us,’ that there is a ‘we,’ and that kid or teenager or adult is loved and they are not alone.”
Out asked Miller, who praises the Mankind Project for much of his personal growth — “It sounded way out of my comfort zone, but I was looking for a change, shift, growth” — to consider what he might say to his 15-year-old self. Here’s how he replied:
“There are plenty of things I’d say to my 15-year-old self, especially prior to his suicide attempt. However, I’d have things to say to him in the aftermath as well. I remember carrying around deep feelings of shame after I tried to kill myself, feeling like I’d stumbled or failed life’s exam. That I was now ‘damaged goods.’ What I would say to that younger self — what I’d say to anyone who’s walked a similar road — is to focus less on the fact that you nearly ended your life and more on the fact that you survived, that you lived to tell the tale. And then tell it. I’d say, ‘What you think of as scars are medals. They’re badges of honor, testifying to something inside you that is determined and tenacious and enduring.’ That’s why when someone who knows my story approaches me with a ‘poor you’ attitude, my response is, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. Because I know what it is to be tested. I know what it’s like to be broken and to have to pick myself up again. I know who I am in those moments. And I’m stronger for it.’ There are people out there who have never been tested, who have never been broken, so when life eventually comes for them they can’t say for sure how they’ll respond. Maybe they’ll pick themselves up and maybe they won’t. And my heart goes out to them. Because sooner or later, life comes for everybody.”
Photographed in Los Angeles on October 7, 2013