The Verge: Logan Lerman
Logan Lerman may be the next Daniel Radcliffe, but unlike his predecessor, he won't have come out of nowhere. Lerman is the lead in February's fantasy adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two Harry Potter films), but he first gained notice five years ago as one of the titular brothers in the WB drama Jack & Bobby. Now, Lerman's got two different films hitting theaters: My One and Only, where he plays a young George Hamilton opposite Renée Zellweger, and Gamer, an action movie from Crank masterminds Neveldine/Taylor.
Movieline talked to the 17-year-old up-and-comer about The Goonies, the idea of casting Uma Thurman as Percy Jackson's hideous villain, and his plans for weathering potential Potter-like fame.
How crazy is it that it's taken a few years to shoot your last three movies, and yet Gamer and My One and Only are being released at the same time, with Percy Jackson soon to follow?
It's very fortunate, it's just good timing. It's great that Gamer's coming out now -- I think it was three years ago when we started that, almost.
Why did it take so long for it to come out?
I'm not sure. You probably will quote me on this, but...[laughs] I think it was because Mark [Neveldine] and Brian [Taylor] went off to do Crank 2, like, immediately after shooting Gamer. They just focused on that for a while, and finished post-production on Crank 2 first before they went into post for Gamer.
In Gamer, you're the player "controlling" Gerard Butler's avatar in an elaborate, futuristic video game. How did you sync up your performance with his?
The way we would do it is Gerard would do his crazy action scene, then I would watch them and kind of play off of what I saw in these edited scenes in my greenscreen world that I had in New Mexico. The hardest thing in making Gamer was figuring out the whole language, because it's not like there's real technology to do this. To figure out the hand movements and come up with all of it was a really big deal to me.
In a way, then, it's like Gerard was controlling you. He would lay down his movements, and you'd have to respond to them.
Yeah, it is like that. Gerard and I hung out a little bit before the movie started in pre-production, but we never actually had a scene together where we played off of each other, which is interesting.
In your career, you've often played the younger version of another character in the movie, and in My One and Only, you're playing a young George Hamilton. How do you prepare for your performance when you have those sort of roles? Do you craft your character jointly with your older counterparts?
It's kind of a mixture. The truth is, you do as much preparation as you can, and even if you're not going to use all the work you do beforehand, the little things help. In pre-production for My One and Only, I really wanted to meet George and I think he wanted to meet me, but we didn't have a chance to actually meet up and talk. I was kind of nervous, I was thinking, "OK, I'm playing this icon, he's a great actor, and this is his story." At the same time, though, not meeting him gave me a certain freedom from the written page to kind of make it my own.
Still, up until a week ago, I was really nervous about whether or not George was going to approve of the character. I met him at the premiere, at this junket beforehand, and I walked into his room and said hello and he sat me down and said he was really happy and so moved by it. He really seemed pleased, and that's the most an actor can ask for.
It took a little while for Gamer and My One and Only to be released, but Percy Jackson is a different story. There was a set release date and trailer out for that before you even finished shooting.
Yeah, we made it and just powered through it and they're releasing it really soon. But all I have to say about Percy Jackson is that, from what I've seen, is it's really one of the coolest movies ever. It's going to blow people away, and not many people know about it just yet. The official, full trailer hasn't come out yet, and people really haven't seen anything at all, but it's really going to take everyone by storm.
So what do you know about it that we don't? I know it's based on a book series, and that it essentially trades Hogwarts for Mt. Olympus. What else?
I'm gonna try to not give that much away, and I'm really bad at that. [Laughs] For me, the thing about this film is that it brings back the feeling of Back to the Future, for me. The feeling, the tone of that movie, is what this is for me. It's full of iconic action sequences, great actors, it has all the elements and technique put together to be an amazing film. I've seen a lot of cut-together footage and a lot of sample effects, and it's just mind-blowing, this movie. If you want something to look forward to, there's this insane aerial battle in New York City with Zeus's lightning bolts, pretty much end-of-the-world stuff, and it's just the coolest battle scene ever.
I'm more curious about the casting of Uma Thurman as Medusa. Are they playing her as beautiful or hideous?
You know, she came in and she was so excited to do this role, and I was dying to work with her. She gives such a chilling performance in this movie. The way she looks, she has this really long leathery outfit with crazy snakes coming out all over her head, hissing. I'm horrible at explaining it, but that's because it's like nothing I've seen before.
There's a very starry ensemble of actors playing the Greek gods in this film: Uma, Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson...
The most nerve-wracking thing about this movie was "Are we gonna get a great cast or not?" I was signed on before everybody else, and what really attracted me to the movie was getting to work with Chris Columbus, because he's one of the most awesome filmmakers ever. He made the first two Harry Potters, he wrote The Goonies...he's just contributed so much to what makes me want to be in this business.
See, I'm encouraged that you mention The Goonies. I grew up on that movie, but I'm 30. I didn't know if 17-year-olds today would even have seen it.
The Goonies is classic. That's like the movie I bring with me with if I go out of town for a long time, because it just makes me think of the best times I've seen it with my friends growing up. Dude, everybody knows that movie, everybody watches that film. Best family film ever made.
You were determined to become an actor when you were just a little kid. Did you know what you were getting into?
I started at a young age just because I wanted to get out of school. [Laughs] I just knew I wanted to do something else, and I was really young, so I don't know how I convinced my parents to let me do it. Really, though, I didn't have much of an interest in it when I started. It was when I was twelve years old that my mom sat me down and said, "Do you really want to be doing this?" And I thought about it for a little while and really started to express an interest in it, and it's kind of been my life ever since.
Did you have moments growing up where you felt like your knowledge of acting suddenly deepened?
Oh, sure. When I did [Jack & Bobby] I learned a lot, but after that I really wanted to learn more about acting as a craft -- how other people do it, how my heroes do it -- because I wasn't very good. [Laughs] I didn't know what the hell I was doing; I was just kind of feeling it, but I didn't know where I was gonna go. Then I heard they were making this Jim Carrey film, The Number 23, and I thought, "I really want to be part of this. Jim Carrey is one of my favorite actors and I want to learn from him, I'm obsessed with Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind], and I really want to see how he does his job." And I got the role and he found out that I was a huge fan of his. I'm not sure he knows how much it meaned to me to sit down and talk to him or even watch him do a scene, but he was definitely the person who impacted me the most.
I've talked to a lot of child actors who are professional bordering on mechanical: hit the mark, say the line, two takes and you're out.
That's totally not the way I like to do it. I'm more about playing around, figuring out what works for me in the scene.
Is there room to do that sort of thing when you're making something like Percy Jackson?
Oh yeah, and that's what I love about Chris. He really makes you feel comfortable, like you can do as many takes as you want or try everything you want. You can feel comfortable to screw up. He's a really collaborative director who makes you feel a part of everything.
If Percy Jackson does become the new Harry Potter, are you ready for that Daniel Radcliffe level of fame?
You know what? All I can say is that I love my job. I'm obsessed with movies, and there's nothing else I can see myself doing, so if that comes with the territory, then I'm totally prepared for it. I just want to make sure I'm contributing good films to movie history rather than being famous just to be famous. ♦