Building a reputation for tough and challenging roles, Logan Lerman is proving to be one of the most interesting actors to watch.
His new film “Indignation”sees Lerman take on the lead role of Marcus, a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey and his 1950s college journey…a little different than the college experiences of today, where he struggles with sexual repression and cultural disaffection, amid the ongoing Korean War.
Congratulations on the film! I thought your performance was incredible. I understand after “Fury” you took a bit of a break and you were turning down a lot of roles – much to the chagrin of your agent I’m sure. What was it about this particular film that drew you back in?
Logan: I think it was the strength of James Schamus’s adaptation. I just had a visceral reaction after reading the project – I knew this was the right next step.
I understand you really immersed yourself in preparation for the film – reading Bertrand Russell and researching the 1950s era – do you enjoy that side of the work?
Logan: Oh I love it. I mean it’s one of the best parts of the job is taking the time to fully immerse yourself in whatever world you’re trying to recreate and understand it better. We had the luxury of time for this shoot, or at least I did, I was on board six months before we started filming. So James and I did a lot of research together and he gave me a lot of reading materials and so many other things, but we had a lot of time to fully realise the movie that we were making.
The 1950s are an interesting era – coming after the Great War period but before the big sexual revolution of the 60s – that decade was sort of a lost, confused generation in a way that has a few similarities with the modern world in the sense of inequality and tough times on the economy. Did you find this was an era you could identify with?
Logan: Sure. Yeah I can identify with a lot of similarities between the world that you’re depicting in the 1950s and now, but most of my job, in terms of what I have to, is make sense of my character’s decision making, and really understand the intention behind every action in the film. That’s more where it became challenging at times to relate to some of his choices.
There’s a very long, 18 minute I think, scene you share with Tracy Letts. Was that something that excites you as an actor?
Logan: Yes, it’s a fascinating scene that just kind of slaps you in the face when you’re reading it for the first time. You don’t expect it and it doesn’t end after three pages, four pages, seven pages, nine pages – you’re reading it and you’re like ‘what the f&*k is this?’ It’s attractive because there’s nothing like it, and also it’s attractive because the conversation is good enough to sustain one’s attention. I would say that it’s attractive because of how unique a scene like that is and how beautifully written it was. But it’s also terrifying and a challenge. For me, I was looking for a challenge, something that I wanted to do that would separate myself from what other people were doing and try to find good original material. And this was it but I didn’t know that I could actually do it. I spent the six months worrying and stressing about it until I felt comfortable with it. Actually I never felt comfortable with it! I was thinking about it for half a year and just trusted that would be enough time to make sense of a beast of a scene.
I was talking to James yesterday and he said you filmed that whole scene in one day, and in single takes.
Logan: Yeah. It was great.
Did you sleep well that night?
Logan: Yeah I remember being exhausted afterwards. It was a really challenging day but the script was still with challenging moments to come so I had a few moments of release before it was back to the next day’s work, and trying to figure out how to make them as good as possible and provide James with the options that he needs for the editing room.
James is a first time director even though he has a rich history in film. He mentioned he has a ‘no asshole’ policy on set. Was it a nice environment to work in?
Logan: It was great. We had a wonderful group of people in every department. At the end of the day you’re surrounded by – or maybe you’re not surrounded by people [laughs] – but to speak for my own profession you’re surrounded by people that you have to spend sometimes 12 – 15 hours a day every day of the week with, and it’s just not worth the time. My passion for filmmaking doesn’t even add up to the experience of spending time with other human beings you like. This was a great group of people and I enjoyed every hour or work, every moment we spent together.
I heard there were no trailers so it was very much hanging out together.
Logan: Yeah. I mean look, on a film with such an intense schedule where we had to get so many shots a day, there’s no breaks. It’s not like a film where we needed trailers anyway with long set ups and breaks in between scenes, this was a pretty intense working experience.
Sarah Gadon – I was not familiar with her work – but I thought you guys played off so well together. What was it like working with her?
Logan: It was great. Sarah’s a brilliant person and brings a lot to the table and really challenged my work ethic and took the time to work with me and find our characters together and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. It was a lovely experience with her.
Looking at your film history you seem to be attracted to very challenging roles – is one way of looking at it – what’s coming up next for you?
Logan: That’s a good question I’m right now today trying to find my next project. I’ve just finished promoting this film. I spent about a year working on a movie that I just finished shooting about a month ago called “Sidney Hall” and I’m excited about that one, I like it a lot, I’m really passionate about it. So that’s in post-production, this movie is just being released, and I’m just looking for the next project to invest in.
Maybe there’ll be something in Australia that can get you back here.
Logan: Oh I spent a couple months there two years ago and any excuse to come back, there’s so much I haven’t seen.
Well we’ll have to up our game there to get a challenging enough role for you.
Logan: Oh yeah, I don’t need a challenging role, I’ll take something more relaxing on a beach there [laughs].
“Indignation’ is in cinemas 18 August.