By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Ezra Miller, who played the sociopathic title character in last year’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” is nothing like that and other dark troubled youths he has played in his brief but productive career. In fact, when he calls an hour late by phone from the Toronto International Film Festival, he gushes apologies for the delay.
“I hope you’re not angry with me,” the 19-year-old thespian pleads. “We had some scheduling bumps.”
With his charming manner, openness and out-there wit, it’s hard to hold a grudge against this promising young performer from New Jersey.
Already, he’s had an interesting month, having publicly revealed his sexual orientation, declaring to “Out” magazine, “I’m queer. I have a lot of really wonderful friends who are of very different sexes and genders.”
He went on to say he is in love with “no one in particular” and is uncertain whether people his age should pursue “monogamous binds.” He makes no apologies for smoking pot occasionally. (He was pulled over by New Jersey cops last year and arrested for possession.)
As he told New York Magazine, “I don’t feel like there’s any need to hide the fact that I smoke pot. It’s a harmless herbal substance that increases sensory appreciation.”
In his newest film, he plays a proudly pot-smoking gay teen, who’s kind of the de facto leader of a group of outcast high school students. He and his equally oddball stepsister (played by “Harry Potter’s” Emma Watson, in her first American role) befriend a younger classmate (Logan Lerman), who is struggling to cope with his personal demons. While this trio may not be the most popular kids in school, they find a way to have a good time, hosting their own parties and dancing to a beat of a different drummer.
Front Row Features: You play Emma Watson’s slightly older stepbrother, yet you’re actually a little younger than her in real life. Did you feel like a big brother to her or did she become the big sister to you on set?
Miller: I think our characters Patrick (Miller) and Sam (Watson) trade off roles of who’s taking care whom. Emma and I in one of the many ways that our relationship so oddly and surreally mirrored the relationship of our characters while we were making this film did the same. There were a lot of times that I felt like the protective older brother, that I wanted to take care of Emma, but then there were times when I was a mess and Emma was laying down the law and taking care of me. I think those are usually the best types of relationships in the world—when the caring is mutual and no one is only giving and no one is only receiving. Those are usually the best ones and we got lucky to get cast with one another and we find out people are bound to have a relationship like that.
Front Row Features: Do you have brothers or sisters?
Miller: I have two older sisters.
Front Row Features: So did you draw from your own sibling relationship going into this?
Miller: It’s a basis, yes, but what’s so amazing about our imagination is that we can draw on all sorts of things. We can draw on things that never have happened to us, and the magic of all this is: sure, I have siblings but our relationship is much different from the characters in the film. It’s always fun to remember that you need an imagination as well as draw on your internal resources.
Front Row Features: Because Emma’s famous for being part of the “Harry Potter” franchise, did you refrain from asking her about that? Was there anything you were curious about? Or did you avoid the subject altogether?
Miller: First of all, details about the making of the “Harry Potter” franchise weren’t my thing. I don’t find a lot of interest in that. I don’t know why you’d want to find out about the fake movie magic behind the real movie magic of “Harry Potter.” I would never hold back a question or thought from her. It’s not my mode of operation. There’s nothing worse than repression of thought or feelings. I spout out whatever might potentially come to mind so we had an incredibly upfront and honest relationship. Emma is not unaware of her reality. She’s painfully aware of her reality and very much ready to discuss it, especially with those close to her. She’s ready to start figuring out the context of her life so she can grow and be happy in her life but understanding this unusual, extenuating circumstance that she’s been in. Definitely, nothing was off the table in my conversation with Emma. I always tried to be honest and upfront with her. She’s a brave human being who’s never going to shy away from the reality of what her life as been.
Front Row Features: Was she curious about you? Or does she have that traditional English reserve?
Miller: We talked about everything. It was really important to us that we built this relationship of two people who know for certain they know everything about each other. We wanted to invent that dynamic between us. We pretended like, it wasn’t a justification or excuse for us to prepare for our roles, but Emma and I just both needed someone like that in our lives. So we didn’t withhold any piece of information between us. We’d just be open to hear it and not be judgmental.
Front Row Features: You have fun dance scene together? Was it choreographed? Who was the better dancer?
Miller: Why are you trying to pit us against each other like it’s a competition? That’s my question. (He laughs.) The better dancer? Why? Why can’t we just be happy dancing together? How do you measure an art form and say whether someone’s better than someone else? We had a choreographer and her name was Kiesha Lalama. She was amazing.
Front Row Features: Did you have fun doing that scene?
Miller: We had a great time. It’s good to dance, no matter how good you are.
Front Row Features: Self-confidence helps, right?
Miller: Yeah, especially when it comes to art. Who’s to tell you what a good or bad piece of art is? It’s just about believing in what you’re doing.
Front Row Features: How did you like dressing up in heels and fishnets as Dr. Frank-N-Furter for the “Rocky Horror” scene? Was that a fun moment?
Miller: Of course. Nothing could be more liberating or empowering than getting a moment with the blood of Frank-N-Furter running through your veins. It’s a powerful alien life force to take on, you know.
Front Row Features: One thing about your character Patrick is that he doesn’t hide his sexual orientation in the film. Do you think people your age today feel more comfortable and confident they’ll be accepted by straight society? This film is set in the early 1990s, right?
Front Row Features: So do you think the situation may be different today. Did you feel it is easier for teens to come out about their sexual orientation now than it was 20 years ago?
Miller: It’s hard to talk about “people” like that. It’s a broad generalization. If you go to certain parts of the world today, women aren’t allowed to show their faces. If you’re gay, you’ll be killed. In another part of the world, you may be on a coast and it might be the 21st century where everyone is accepted and loved, but there are still hate crimes in that city. Some of the most progressive cities in the world like San Francisco and Los Angeles have gay bashings every year, in the hundreds. We’re on a long road towards inclusiveness and acceptance in world love and sexuality. I, for one, don’t feel like waiting for the complacency for another slow-moving American tide to give people a set of freedoms. I think we have to start moving down this road quicker because it affects people’s lives and safety, and love. We’re talking about being at risk and in peril.