By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—In David Ayer’s gritty and realistic war drama “Fury,” Logan Lerman plays a young recruit who has entered the army towards the end of the World War II hoping to ride out the conflict in a cushy desk job but winds up assigned to active duty behind enemy lines inside a U.S. armored Sherman tank barreling its way toward Berlin. Initially fearful, reluctant and naïve, Norman soon adopts the kill-or-be-killed mentality shared by the seasoned soldiers in the cramped metal war machine. At the German front, young Norman discovers over the course of a day that victory comes at a very high cost.
The 22-year-old actor is best known for his depiction of the young god character in the family friendly “Percy Jackson” films. More recently, he played one of passengers aboard the ark in Ridley Scott’s “Noah,” and he delivered a memorable performance as a young man learning about love in the coming-of-age drama “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
In “Fury,” written and directed by Ayer (who previously wrote and helmed the realistic police drama “End of Watch”), Lerman’s Norman is taken under the wing of Wardaddy, the hardened tank army sergeant played by Brad Pitt, who also is a producer on the film.
The older and wiser Wardaddy has managed to keep his tank crew alive for three years of battles across North Africa and Europe, but the march to Berlin, where the Germans are fighting to the death to defend the Nazi regime, is proving much more difficult than any previous campaign. After one of his soldiers is killed in battle, Wardaddy is assigned the very green Norman, whose reluctance to shoot puts the rest of the crew at risk. Wardaddy applies tough-love to get Norman onboard with the program, including making him shoot an unarmed German captive in the head.
Prepping for the character was a lot like going through actual boot camp, recalls the actor. Lerman says he liked Ayer’s intense style of directing and followed the filmmaker like a private following a general’s orders. The main cast (including Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena, who round out the tank crew) was given a lot of prep time, to get into the mindset of their respective characters. Shooting in a cold, muddy field in England certainly helped provide the appropriate atmosphere for the actors.
The boyishly handsome Lerman, who hails from Beverly Hills, Calif., says he liked the challenged of playing the conflicted young recruit, and found it to be “the most creatively satisfying work” he’d ever been part of.
Co-star Pena, who plays tank driver Trini Garcia, says he witnessed a change in Lerman when they were preparing to shoot the film.
“I remember Logan came in, and we started sparring,” recalls Pena. “We had gloves on, and gear, and all that good stuff, but there was, at one point where we ended up in the barrage together, and there’s something that happens when you spar. It really does activate this kind of animalistic instinct that you have, and you really get to bond in a weird way. There’s something that brings out a lot of honesty when you’re getting punched in the face.”
Lerman says he appreciated the ample prep time—they met every day for more than month going over the script—which made him and the other actors more than ready to take on their characters.
Q: Your character goes through a transformation from a clerk/typist to a warrior. Did you feel like you were going through a kind of boot camp in terms of being involved in this? Did you hang out with your co-stars beforehand?
Lerman: Yeah. We had a long, long training period on this film. A lot. David (Ayer) is kind of known for putting his actors through a pretty tough training process. We had months where we did so many different things to feel comfortable with this world that we were living in, and then also get to know each other. We had a good, solid month where we spent every day fighting each other in the mornings, and learning about the tanks, and our positions in the tanks. Most importantly was that last week. We had a boot camp, and we got to know each other very well, and we did become close in that period of time.
Q: You sparred with Michael Pena and actually got punched in the face. Wasn’t that a little unexpected?
Lerman: It just breaks barriers. Once you feel comfortable with punching someone in the face, you can do anything with them. (He smiles.)
Q: How did you see your character’s relationship with Brad Pitt’s Wardaddy? Was it more a brotherly relationship or perhaps a father-son relationship? What is it like working with Brad Pitt?
Lerman: There’s definitely a father-son relationship there, and he is critically, in this very short time of a day, to educate his new recruit, this son, on how to survive. Working with him was great. He was really generous with everything that he gives when you’re working with him. He gives a lot and asks for very little. It’s incredible to work with him.
Q: How was it working with him between takes? Did he make you laugh?
Lerman: We didn’t have many laughs. No, there weren’t a lot of laughs. There wasn’t a lot of levity. He’s a nice person, though. We definitely worked hard together.
Q: Considering the lack of experience and knowledge about what Norman has been thrown into, what would you say was the most difficult thing to understand about Norman and his situation?
Lerman: The toughest aspect to working on this film and figuring out how to portray Norman was mapping his arc and his change from afraid to kill to killer. There are a lot of things that happen to him on this day that this movie takes place, and to make it realistic, you try to have a gradual change and pick the right moments. That was probably the most difficult aspect to portraying Norman.
Q: What was the hardest scene in the movie to shoot?
Lerman: The whole movie was difficult. Every day was a victory. If I had to pick out one moment that I was really stressing out about was the scene with Wardaddy, where he makes Norman kill the German.