Logan Lerman featured in FADE IN: Is there pressure to take jobs fearing that the script you turn down will make a star of someone else? Yes. Yes, definitely. Above that is the main fear of turning down a job and not having anything. I like to have a few options: an A and B and C and D. But you have to trust your instincts, and sometimes I haven’t. It’s a tough thing to do.
I’ve made mistakes in the past where I’ve done films that I didn’t quite trust, that I didn’t really want to do, but felt like I had to, because it might help me, even help me a lot. At the same time, those are not creatively fulfilling choices. What I do now instead is trust my gut that, a year from now, or whatever, this or that project will make me the most comfortable or happy when I’m out having to promote it.
There was a moment, when you were ten, that you balked at acting, and refused to pursue it for a while. Since then, you’ve made twenty films in thirteen years. What drove you away, and what brought you back? I wasn’t interested in films, originally. I liked movies, but I wasn’t interested technically. And I did this movie, The Butterfly Effect, and that was a horrible experience. Not horrible, but it was pretty bad. I was a kid; I was barely conscious. I was like, “What the fuck is going on?”
What was bad about it? Part of it was probably the shock of going from the big-budget world to the indie world. My first film had been The Patriot [starring Mel Gibson]. That had been huge and fun, from a seven-year-old’s perspectivel there was all this madness going on, and it felt great to be part of it. Then along comes Butterfly Effect, this dark little picture that required a level of intelligence I just didn’t have yet.
I’m plunked into this role that’s just disturbing and weird. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on, so I didn’t like the experience. I was like, “I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore.” And then I got back into it with an interest in film and filmmaking. I began to wonder, “Okay, how do you make these films?” Really, from the basics: How does the camera work? How do you load film? So I got lucky, I got on TV show, and it was a cool TV show [“Jack and Bobby”, 2004-2005], and it was great learning experience. Fortunately, it only lasted a year or so, and that was the start of film school for me.
What was your takeaway from working with Darren Aronofsky on Noah?
I went in as a huge fan and was just devoted. He turned out to be just a very, very humble filmmaker. He definitely has the family mentality. He works with a group of people that he’s worked with for years and years. It’s a very close-knit set, very comfortable, and that feeling was great for the creative juices. He loves that guerilla-style filmmaking; he loves that spontaneous feel. He comes up with ideas and goes with them on the spot, even if they’re not on the page. We’ll be shooting, and all of a sudden he’ll get a brainstorm and run with it. We won’t even shoot what we laid out for that day. We’ll shoot this brand-new thing that he came up with. It’s all very loose, and a really cool atmosphere to work in. A lot of the movies I’ve been on have been very structured and set in advance. Darren’s just like, “Pick up a camera and let’s shoot what we think would be cool,” you know? Just open and a really, really fuckin’ cool filmmaker.
It’s a fresh step for you to be in a period piece — and a Biblical period, at that. What were the challenges creating the character?
I play Ham, one of the last children. I don’t want to give away too much of the story — I’m sure people who know their Bible know who he is and what happens. In terms of creating a period, and a myth, it was an intimidating set. We were definitely trusting Aronofsky and figuring it all out as we were going. We’d ask a lot of questions, working hard to be on the same page.
The cast includes Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, all of whom you’ve worked with before. Did this new context change your interactions, or did having a familiar feeling help?
It was definitely more comfortable for all of us. I can’t really speak for Russell and Jennifer — but I know Emma better than them, because we’re closer in age and did a film [Perks of Being a Wallflower] together more recently. It was an intimidating set for both of us.
When we think of Aronofsky in relation to films like Pi or Black Swan, actors are called upon to live at extreme heights of intensity. Was that part of the intimidation?
Very definitely. I mean, it’s intimidating until you’re doing it. Then you just immerse yourself. My best analogy is first-day-of-school jitters, only this school is filled with people you really admire.
You’re about to work with director David Ayer on Fury. It’s hard to tell from the description whether it’s an intimate war picture or if it has a more epic dimension.
Epic and intimate at the same time: five guys in a tank towards the end of World War II, and a lot of crazy shit goes down. We’ve only just started prepping. I signed on a week ago. The first things we’re going to shoot are fight scenes, and I have a broken arm — so I can’t really spar at the moment, which sucks. There’s a lot of reading for me to do about the time period, though, and David Ayer is so insightful and well-read on the topic that he’s got a lot to offer on the material. I’ve seen the tank, and am learning how to operate that, so I’m really, really excited.
Is that how your broke your arm, in rehearsals?
No, I had a dumb accident. Backstage at an awards show, there was a skateboard. I’d had a few beers with friends and was like, “Let’s go skateboard!” Then fell and broke my arm — it was stupid, man. But this Fury thing came up, and even with my arm this way, I’m like, “I can do it!”
From the outside, it would appear nothing stands in your way. But from your perspective, are there obstacles? You’ve directed a few short films but have you set a goal that, say, by the time you’re thirty you’ll have directed a feature film?
For now, my only obstacles are trying not to get sucked into the black holes of projects I don’t want to do. There are things you get pressured into doing from many different angles, you know? I fight that by keeping a minimal amount of people around. The trick is to make your own decisions, creatively, and trust the people you’re working with. I have a very small group that I work with. I’m not in a position to be arbitrary about what I pick and choose. Most of the time you choose a part based on the filmmaker or the character or both — trusting your instincts in terms of your taste and what you like. As for specifically getting behind the camera and directing — that was actually why I got into acting. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do — and still do. But I’ve decided to almost take it slower than I have. It’s not that I’m less ambitious than I was a few years ago. But I want to make a film the way I’d like to see it. To do that, you need the proper group of people. You have to attract a good crew and fellow actors. I’m not there yet. That’s kind of where I’ve stopped — and so I’m deliberately taking my time in the acting world.
Do you have a specific game plan in terms of moving forward with that?
I definitely do a lot of reading. I’m trying to plan ahead, but most of the great projects I’ve been involved with have come about in a spontaneous way. Step one is just finding them, and then fighting hard to be a part of them.