Logan Lerman’s first directive: respect your audience. Do this by destroying the unnecessary.
I learn this when I mention that his character in Noah seemed to spend a lot of time silently emoting. Logan explains: “There’s so much that can be said with someone’s face that doesn’t need to be spoken, you know?”
That’s not just soft talk. He’s made a habit of asking directors to cut any of his lines that sledgehammer the obvious. “Exposition?” he says. “I can’t stand that. The thing is, a lot of actors stick to the script. They stick to what they think they’re supposed to do instead of contributing what they want, what they think could be better. Good actors are the ones that’ll stick up for their point of view and say hey, it’ll work better this way.”
Logan is only 22 years old, but he’s already puzzled out things that take some actors a lifetime to learn.
We’ve met at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, and Logan is dashing around the exhibit halls in an uncanny stop-motion, like a Harryhausen miniature. His energy is bright but calm, gently infectious. He’s fascinated first by a glass case full of scrimshaw pipes, and next by a diorama of Noah’s ark (“A floating coffin,” he says). I don’t remember this ark from my last visit to the museum, and, for a moment, it feels as if he’s summoning these exhibits into being, like the museum is shapeshifting itself, room by room, into exactly what he needs it to be.
After this hurricane tour, we head upstairs to the Tula Tea Room, where a stern-looking woman serves Georgian black tea out of an ornate samovar. The room is quiet, and Logan is still taken with the last exhibit we saw, a collection of microminiature sculptures that he scrutinized at length through the supplied microscopes, every detail blown up, frighteningly close.
Logan grew up under the microscope/macroscope of the motion picture camera, acting pretty much nonstop since the age of 5. He broke out in the Percy Jackson films and played the handsome-but-awkward-duckling lead in Perks of Being a Wallflower. Fresh from his role as the expositionless Ham in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, he’s preparing for the release of FURY, a World War II tank drama slated for November. Logan headlines alongside Brad Pitt. He tells me about this as he leans over in his chair to pet the expensive museum dog, a Borzoi.
Film is what Logan has lived and studied his entire life, becoming, as he puts it, “A little bit of a savant” when it comes to the medium (“Not an idiot, just a savant.”), and our conversation bears this out. He’s knowledgeable about the industry and deeply thoughtful about his craft. Above all else, Logan Lerman is a professional, full of gratitude for everything around him and possessing an eagerness that’s quiet, non-invasive.
One side effect of growing up as a teen idol is the glut of fanfiction that unspools itself across the Internet like orthographically deficient cling wrap (“In which Logan is a telepath, and Jake has interesting thoughts” “Before Harry realizes it, he has wandered into an all-male strip club where he meets a sexy stripper named Logan” “The one where Logan Lerman goes for one thing and achieves the opposite”). There are many such stories about this actor-turned-man, the simplest of them being tween wish-fulfillment (the most common metatag paired with Logan’s name on fanfiction sites is “Original Female Character”). I tell Logan about the young author who wrote about Logan surprising her with a visit to her hotel room, punching the bully who kicked her sandcastle, and subsequently being her friend forever. This story is out there—you can Google it.
While his smile doesn’t break (it rarely breaks), he looks suddenly jarred by this fanfiction, moderately disappointed, as if I’ve kicked his own sandcastle. He wasn’t aware that people were fabricating these stories about him, even as he’s lived a life transmitted in stories, public fiction about private facts.
“A guy once told me,” Logan says, “that his lifelong dream is to live in a house with me and the little boy from Where the Wild Things Are and Donny Osmond, and that’s his goal. He’s like, ‘I just had this dream of us living together, making a great life together…’ It was very specific and detailed, and that’s where it got creepy.”
“Where the Wild Things Are?” I ask, stuck on what is possibly the simplest detail of the story.
“Yeah, it’s like, that’s a young boy. That’s a very young boy.”
As our drinks cool and the Borzoi ambles into the Tea Room’s kitchen, Logan offers his (very humble) view on the role he plays in the filmmaking process: “A movie is all about the filmmaker. It’s their film and the actors are just catering to the director’s vision and to what he wants to do, or what she wants to do.” Directors are his heroes, and the ones he hasn’t worked with yet are, collectively, his loftiest goals: P.T. Anderson, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, and on and on, just like that.
As for current projects, Logan tells me, “It’s been a pretty slow year for people my age. A lot of the material hasn’t been challenging, you know? Formulaic shit. A lot of formulaic shit.” He massages one of his earlobes with two fingers, a poker tell that I just can’t read. “At my age, maybe my look and everything, I’ve been given the opportunity to play a lot of innocent characters, and that’s something that kind of bores me right now.”
When I point out that his characters’ faces, movie by movie, seem to be collecting progressively larger amounts of dirt and blood, he laughs.
“I feel like Hollywood’s afraid of grime, sometimes,” he says. “They’re afraid of getting dirty. They want to keep their actors pretty, so they can sell them.”
He pauses, and then adds: “Maybe at the end of the day I just like blood and dirt and all that stuff. I think it makes people look better.”
We finish up. Logan Lerman smiles, shakes my hand, and walks into the refracted light of the humid afternoon. I am alone now with the expensive dog as the museum seems to disassemble itself piece by piece, one Hagop Sandaldjian microminiature after another, all the Stink Ants of the Cameroon, the Coolidge Bust.
Logan Lerman is taking it all with him.
Photographer: Misha Taylor for AssignmentAgency.com.
Stylist: Jenny Ricker for starworksartists.com.
Groomer: Natalia Bruschi for thewallgroup.com.
Producer: Aras Baskauskas.
Retouching: Postmen at postmen.co.uk.
Photography Assistant: Christian Rinke.
Styling Assistant: Evan Simonitsch.