Logan Lerman on ‘Fury’ and How Mel Gibson Jumpstarted His Career
It’s been an interesting year for Logan Lerman. For an actor who’s probably still best known for playing the title character in the Percy Jackson series of movies, he’s had a year in which he’s made a biblical drama with Darren Aronofsky and, now, a World War II drama alongside Brad Pitt in this weekend’s new release, ‘Fury.’
When you meet Lerman, there’s something very adult about the 22-year-old actor. He’s brimming with confidence, but not in any kind of arrogant way. A typical 22-year-old in his position is media trained to the point of absurdity – only speaking in sanitized sound bites that don’t really mean anything. I suspect Lerman is media trained, but he’s either at that point where he’s so good at it that it’s harder to notice, or he just doesn’t care anymore. It’s probably a little bit of both. He just seems like an actor who has already made over 20 movies – which is a remarkable total for a person born in the same year that Right Said Fred had a hit song.
Ahead, Lerman discusses filming ‘Fury,’ a challenge for obvious reasons when you’re working day in and day out with a giant deadly weapon – ‘Fury’ follows the lives of a World War II tank crew; Lerman plays the “new kid,” Norman – but won’t discuss the hazing he endured because he doesn’t want anyone to look bad. (OK, that’s pretty good media training.) Lerman also discusses his first two roles, ‘The Patriot’ and ‘What Women Want,’ and how Mel Gibson, of all people, really jumpstarted his career.
Did you have to go to a boot camp, then everyone is mean to you?
Did you come in later, so you’re the new guy that everyone hates?
No, I didn’t come in later. They were just mean.
I thought the point was the new guy comes in later?
I know. It didn’t really make sense. In a way, I wanted to mention something, “Maybe I shouldn't be doing all of this.” I was there the whole time. Then I had to throw away everything that I learned.
We went through months and months where I knew everything about the weapons.
Then you had to unlearn the jargon?
Then I had to throw it all away. Like, pretend like I didn’t know how to climb up on the tank at first.
You’re 22 and you’ve already been in a lot of movies.
I’ve done a lot of films, but only a handful of them have been good. Not even a handful.
There are some good movies on your resume.
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’
That was good. I was really proud of that.
I remember when it premiered at Toronto...
Oh, Toronto was crazy. I was so fucked when that happened. I was supposed to be there for all of that press and I left my passport in Los Angeles. And I ended up flying to Buffalo and then trying to walk across the border.
Yeah, all of this shit happened and it was so stressful for me. I missed all the press for that movie. I really fucked that film, in a way. Not purposefully…
What does one have to do to get across the Canadian border without a passport?
You walk across the border and there’s the border patrol and you beg them to let you in to the country. Then they say, “No.” But I happened to have a work permit, a visa, that was still in effect for like another couple of weeks.
You don’t hear too many “I couldn’t get into Canada” stories.
Yeah, they were really nice at the border. They lived up to that.
Do you look at ‘Fury’ as a shift for you as far as movies you want to do? A lot of people know you from the Percy Jackson movies.
I only want to do World War II dramas. No, I just want to work with good filmmakers. I don’t want to do repetitive roles; they’re too boring.
And you worked with Darren Aronofsky on ‘Noah.’
Yeah, it was really great and very different roles. Very different movies.
So World War II dramas and Biblical dramas.
I guess I have a very similar “frightened face.” I’m constantly frightened.
Aside from filming, is it fun to ride around in a tank?
When I grew up there was a park near us that had a tank to play on. Now that I said that out loud, that sounds weird.
I had the greatest position, too, because I didn’t have to drive it, that’s too much responsibility.
You never drove it?
You didn’t want to drive it?
No, no. It took a lot of training to drive it and do it well.
There are like two sticks.
It’s like this, “left, right, forward, backwards.”
Actually, the way you just did that doesn’t look too hard.
It’s not too hard, it’s just tough … it was cool, but that the same time, I didn’t appreciate it enough. I was a little miserable in the experience of what Norman was going through.
Because of real conditions or getting in the mindset of the character?
Mindset and real conditions.
What were the real conditions?
Well, there were a lot of psychological games being played.
On me, yeah.
By [director] David [Ayer] and others.
What were they doing?
Some things I can’t mention. They did a lot of stuff. We’ll talk about it in many years.
You can mention one.
Well, no, there was a lot of hazing. The new guy being treated like a new guy.
No, no, not whoopee cushions. It would be, you know, a lot of stuff. I’m trying to think, but that makes someone look bad. That makes someone look bad, I can’t say that -- stuff I can’t talk about just yet.
It won’t make anyone look bad.
No, it would. It totally would.
Don’t mention names.
You’ve piqued my interest because you really set this up.
I know. And it would be really great. But that’s what I wanted it to be. I didn’t want it to be a comfortable ride. I wanted it to be fucking horrible. I wanted to not want to be there the same way that Norman didn’t want to be there.
You were in the Mel Gibson movie, ‘What Women Want.’
That’s kind of incredible, that was a while ago now.
It was! I didn’t really do anything there, though.
Do you remember much about it?
Yeah. A little bit. I actually do. I don’t remember a lot of things – all of the drugs [laughs], no, I’m kidding.
A lot kids in that position don’t go on to be a successful actor.
I did this movie, ‘The Patriot,’ when I was a kid. And Mel Gibson just came over to me and was like, “You look like me, you want to be in this movie?” And just got me the role. So, he really kind of jumpstarted my career in a way – because having two films like that as a little kid, it kind of puts you in a better position for getting more work and things like that. He kind of started my career.
Do you feel a loyalty to him at all?
Not at all, no.
“Loyalty” is a strong word, but maybe an affinity toward him.
I don’t know him. I don’t know him at all. I’ll say I definitely give him credit. You know what I mean? I definitely have a lot of respect for that, to do that, and help me out a lot. A lot, when I think about that.
It’s just surprising your paths haven’t crossed.
You know, where he’s at right now, it’s kind of hard.
He was in the news because of Robert Downey Jr.
Yeah, I saw that – campaigning to have him direct. Or that’s the way the media made it seem.
Right. He was asked if he’d do ‘Iron Man 4’ if Mel Gibson directed it and he basically said, “sure.”
That was bullshit. At the same time, I read it thinking, He’ll only do the movie with Mel Gibson. Well, let’s see if that happens.
And you will only do ‘Iron Man 4’ if it’s Mel Gibson.
I will only do it if it’s Mel Gibson and me, alone as our ‘What Women Want’ characters. Then Iron Man shows up.
And Iron Man says, “I don’t like it that you’re reading women’s thoughts.”
I’ve got this great photo from ‘What Women Want.’ I had no idea what was going on because I’m a little kid, but I’m there in front a birthday cake and there are all of these naked women behind me … his background was that he grew up in a strip club, and I have this funny photo of me smiling.
You should use that as your headshot.
I should. "This is my headshot."
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.