Ezra Miller on ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ Being Bisexual & More

Ezra Miller on ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ Being Bisexual & More

Ezra Miller, who steals the show as a gay teen in the coming-of-age film ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ opens up to Marlow Stern about his own bisexuality and the bullying he experienced—plus myopic Republicans, marijuana, and more.

The plight of Patrick, the gay high school senior in The Perks of Being a Wallflower who is relentlessly bullied for his sexuality, hit close to home for 19-year-old Ezra Miller.

Ezra Miller

The actor, who earned critical raves for his performance as a disturbed, archery-obsessed teen in last year’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, steals the show in the new film, a beautifully acted Bildungsroman set in the early 1990s. Miller’s Patrick leads a gang of misfits that includes his stepsister Sam (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson) and their latest recruit, an introverted freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman).

“I’ve fallen prey to my fair share of moments of the phobias of others and the way that that can become an attack,” Miller, who recently described himself as “queer” in an interview with The Advocate, told The Daily Beast. “In my middle-school years, I was at a show for a band called Attack! Attack! I was wearing a green velvet jacket—not your common attire for the metal/hardcore scene—and was doing sort of vaudeville-reminiscent dance moves in the mosh pit. I was walking away from the mosh pit after having a wonderful time and the word ‘faggot’ resounded in my ear. I turned around just in time to see someone snapping their fist down on my left eyeball … I have a scar on my eyebrow from the incident.”

While many felt Miller’s comments to The Advocate meant that he’s gay, the garrulous young actor says that’s not entirely the case.
“The way I would choose to identify myself wouldn’t be gay. I’ve been attracted mostly to ‘shes’ but I’ve been with many people and I’m open to love wherever it can be found,” he says. “I think a lot of people are projecting their own troubles and fears concerning sexuality onto those around them, and it does result in the perpetuation of a lot of hateful notions. As long as I can remember, I’ve felt really horrified watching those dynamics play out. It really hurts and divides us all, and in the end, so much of the human experience is shared, so we only end up hating and fearing our own damn selves.”

Miller, it seems, has been overcoming hardships all his life.

Ezra Miller. (Guillame Baptiste, AFP / Getty Images)

Born with a debilitating stutter, he was inspired by his kindergarten teacher to enroll in opera training at her conservatory at the age of 6. After a year, his stutter was completely gone.

“I had been doing speech therapy, and it had been making me more aware of the stutter, which actually made it worse,” he says. “It was a breath-line stutter, so I wasn’t breathing in enough to complete a word, and opera training is all about control and manipulation of the breath.”

He attended the Hudson School, a prestigious private institution for “intellectually inquisitive students,” in Hoboken, N.J., but dropped out at 16 shortly after the release of his critically acclaimed debut film, Afterschool, in 2008. Working outside school allowed Miller to disengage from the usual high-school-college-employment track, he says, adding that he wasn’t a fan of the high-school formula of “completely unrelated courses for 45 minutes each.” Plus his status as a working actor made him a bit of an outcast among his classmates.

“There was a feeling of being inherently ostracized because I was missing school,” he says. “Also, I sensed a feeling of perceived betrayal, the feeling that they thought I was superior. It wasn’t true, but that feeling of resentment can make you feel far more alone because you’re surrounded by people who you can’t quite connect with because they perceive you to be ‘other.’”

Following Afterschool, Miller starred in two films that premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival: City Island, in which he played a wise-cracking teen; and as a gay teenager in Every Day, opposite Helen Hunt and Liev Schreiber. Both performances earned him high marks.

Next is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in theaters Sept. 21, based on the acclaimed epistolary novel of the same name and directed by the book’s author, Stephen Chbosky.

Since so much of Perks hinges on the chemistry of the three principal actors—Miller, Watson, and Lerman—the trio engaged in what Miller calls “one mischievous bonding trip” while filming, which included running around parking lots in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and screaming at the top of their lungs, as well as late-night music sessions at their hotel jamming out to ’90s tunes inspired by the film’s soundtrack.
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