The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of 2012's most underrated/under-appreciated indie gems. Based on the bestselling book by Stephen Chbosky, who also adapted and directed the feature film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower broke the rule and actually managed to create a film that's better than the source material. Chbosky, who made his feature film directorial debut with Perks, also proved to be an expert at casting, bringing in Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, and Melanie Lynskey to play the key adult roles. His young starring cast was equally as impressive, with Emma Watson (who earned a Best Supporting Actress award from the San Diego Film Critics Society for her performance), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons, Mae Whitman, and Nina Dobrev demonstrating why the Academy needs to add an ensemble award to its Oscar categories.
However, Perks wouldn't work if the audience didn't believe in and connect with the main character, Charlie. Fortunately, Logan Lerman delivered a performance in the lead role that's heartbreaking and endearing.
With awards season in full gear, I had the chance to talk to Lerman about this project, his fellow cast members, and bringing Charlie from the book to life on the big screen.
Exclusive Logan Lerman Interview
Does it make it more difficult for you as an actor having someone there who’s so close to the source material?
"No, it was an asset. I was really lucky to have him there to work with him. He was my cheat-sheet. He was also an open collaborator so we would sit down and just try to map out the character. I tried to map out the intentions of the character and figure out his arc and make it work for me, and have it work for Steve as well. He was always really open to ideas and things like that to make the movie work."
What happened when you two have a different idea on Charlie? Did it end up being his vision that won out?
"We were always on the same page, I think. We’d try it a certain way and we’d try it another way and we’d try to give as many options for editing room as possible. None of them ever felt wrong. Other ways felt right as well that maybe one of us didn’t think of. It was a fun collaboration."
I'm actually surprised more awards attention isn't being showered on Perks. Is it too 'indie' and can't compete with the big guns?
"I wonder. You know, to be honest I never really have any expectations. I’m not surprised or disappointed or anything. I just hope that the people that saw it appreciated it. There’s so many great movies out there and everything, but I hope it gets attention. The main person that I really think and really hope and I really think deserves attention is Steve for his script.
His adaptation of the novel, I just think it was beautifully, beautifully written and something that should be, hopefully, recognized. Hopefully people see it - that’s just what I really want. Then the people that have seen it, fortunately, everybody that I’ve spoken to that has seen it have been affected by it in a good way. That’s the most I can ask for, really."
You’re giving him all the credit however he did put together a fantastic cast for this. It has one of the best ensembles that I’ve seen this year, and the young actors made the characters - and their relationships - believable. Was it an easy group to be around?
"Yes. We were all invested. We were all really invested in our characters' journeys and in the movie. When we got together...I’ll speak for myself, I don’t know about everyone else but I was a big fan of everybody that was a part of the project and excited to collaborate with them. The rest of it came naturally. It was just fun. It was fun to live with them, get to know them, and figure out our characters' journeys."
Were you feeling any extra weight knowing how popular the book is and how important it was to fans of the book that you get this right?
"Not really, to be honest. No. I never really noticed that. I never felt that pressure. I was just worried about the material. I was worried about his journey and doing it justice and getting to the place where I can feel comfortable. Just making it work, making it interesting."
Was there much about Charlie that you could really relate to? It doesn’t seem you have much in common.
"No, I’m pretty different from him. I had a lot to relate to as well. There’s aspects of his dilemma and his situation that I really related to."
"At that point in time for me and where Charlie was, the importance of friendship in my life was huge and that sort of investment and what that means and everything. In terms of Charlie as a character, as a person, I knew a lot of people very similar to him that I kind of drew reference from."
Do you think that it helped or hurt that you hadn’t read the book before you became attached? Or did it matter?
"I don’t think it mattered because I ended up reading it before we started filming. It was great and really helpful. I can’t say I drew that much from it."
The script and the book are very similar.
"They are the same - and then I had Steve. We were just focused on Charlie’s arc for the movie and making it work."
The soundtrack is so fantastic and it's basically another character in the movie. Do you have a soundtrack to your own teenage years that you call back on and listen to occasionally? It’s not that many years ago for you.
"One hundred percent. There’s so many things...I've got to think about it. Probably The Strokes Is This It? I think music that shaped my childhood a lot was like The White Stripes, classic rock and things like that. The two albums that affected me the most and music that really reminds me of my childhood are Is This It? by The Strokes and Funeral by Arcade Fire, probably those two."
Is music as important to you as it is to your character?
"Oh yes. Big time."
In an interview I did with Mae Whitman she was telling me that not only did you guys bond on the set but that she really truly believes that you guys will remain friends afterward. And she said she can’t say about every film she's worked on.
"I would consider [Mae] one of my closest friends now."
What is it about this group? Why did they bond so well?
"I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. I think we have similar interests. We just want to make good movies and we’re all passionate about what we do and we mesh. We just mesh well together. I think Steven just has a good eye for that."
Being a first time director, how did he get it right?
"I don’t know. He’s a smart guy. He’s really talented, really smart guy. It was a perfect cast for the movie, I thought."
Did you worry about putting your career in the hands of somebody who never directed before?
"One hundred percent, yes."
How did you get past that?
"We spoke a lot. We were talking like every week at least and I would just try to be involved as much as I can in the cushion, in figuring out the cushion. The cushion is finding out which DP to use. I was actively talking to him all the time just saying, 'Please don’t choose him,' and, 'Please look at her.' I tried to influence that decision as much as possible, in casting as well, influencing that. Just tried to be as involved as I could creatively. Luckily he was really open to that. He was a really nice collaborator."
How much did he take your suggestions?
"Oh my god. I guess you've got to ask him but everything we talked about ended up really working out. I remember a year and a half before we even started shooting I’d be asking him about the DPs and the people that we could work with and things like that. The first name that came up I’d say, funny enough, in terms of anybody was Mae Whitman. He was like, 'Yes, I really want her for Mary Elizabeth!' I was like, 'Yes, I do too. She’s great.' Everyone else just kind of fell into place. It worked out nicely."
Did you have a book growing up that was really important to you like this book is so important to a lot of people in their high school years?
"Oh yes, there was a ton of material. Most of the books I read in high school came just from my high school syllabus, the reading bit. The classics, a lot of classics really shaped my interests, I guess, in reading and everything and affected me. The classics Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies and those type of books - I really enjoyed them."
You can't talk about this film without bringing up the line "We accept the love we think we deserve" line because it’s so important. How truthful is that to you?
"I love that. A hundred percent. It was one those lines that I just feel really proud to have had the opportunity to be able to say those words. I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t believe it or if I didn’t think it was true."
You must be offered an abundance of projects at this point in your career. How do you decide what you’re doing?
"The first question is who’s directing it. If that doesn’t work out … Of course I read the script and try to see if the character works. Then I look at the cushion as well. The cushion being, you know, if it’s a director I don’t like and I really like the material, then who’s shooting it - that's the question that comes after that. Then, 'Who are you guys looking at for the rest of the cast?' You try to figure it out that way, but I usually invest my trust in the filmmaker if I can. I haven’t had many opportunities to work with great filmmakers. You have to take chances on good material. That’s kind of what this was. I didn’t know anything about Steve. He hadn’t directed anything but he was very passionate and his passion…he really installed it in everybody, passion for what everyone’s working on."
You’ve already worked with Emma and now you’re back with her again for Darren Aronofsky's Noah. Did that make it a lot easier and what was that set like?
"It’s funny. We both walked into this situation where we’re working on this f**king really cool movie. I was just so excited but it was little intimidating with Darren Aronofsky, Mattie Libatique, just people I admire the most. Same for Emma. Our first scene that we had to do in the film was together, fortunately, and we were like, 'Oh thank god. This is comfortable.' In this intense environment we have this comfortable relationship, and we just relied on each other. It was really, really, really nice."