Tuesday 8th Nov 2016
Ezra Miller talks to the Pottermore Correspondent about growing up as a Harry Potter superfan.
Ezra Miller walks across the café, towards me. He’s wearing a bright yellow T-shirt under a hooded maroon tartan blazer and jeans. The severe haircut he’s had since becoming Credence has started to grow out – almost, by the sounds of it, by sheer force of will.
Ezra sits down across from me at the long wooden table. He doesn’t touch the piping-hot tea he holds in a polystyrene cup while we talk. Who has time to pause for tea when we’ve got so much to cover? Life, death, magic, heroes, summer school, family, love, beatboxing and whether acting is a metaphor for human existence. That’s just what happens when you mention Harry Potter to Ezra Miller: things get deep.
Ezra was seven years old when he started reading Harry Potter, and it’s had an indelible effect on his life ever since.
‘I’d gone away to camp before I was ready. My sister had gone and I insisted on going too,’ he says. ‘I was homesick in that way that inhabits your whole being. As if your body knows you need to be close to a parent and I wasn’t. I was alone.
‘But I had Harry Potter: this boy who knew what it truly was to be alone. He kept me company. I’ve listened to the audiobooks 100 times – at least 100 times. I read the books and cried; I listened to the audiobooks and cried; I watched the movies and cried. But I kept listening. I was 17 years old when we got to the end of Harry Potter. I had them on repeat all those years of my life.’
So, I venture, you could say that Stephen Fry narrating J.K. Rowling’s work was the soundtrack to your early life?
‘Soundtrack is one of way of putting it,’ he says earnestly. ‘Scripture is another. I was raised secular but Harry Potter was spiritual to me. I mean, there you are as a kid, wondering how you will possibly understand mortality and life, and then you get this script for it. Here are three young people responsible for all that, and fighting to keep what’s good in the world against a force so dark.’
In a way, that’s what Ezra does too. You should see him on set; he exudes joy wherever he goes. When he filmed a scene with Colin Farrell, extras raved to me about Ezra’s presence between takes. The way he talks to them, makes funny faces in their direction right before the camera rolls and beatboxes...
‘Ah, the beatboxing,' he sighs. ‘We have a lot of time on set and we spend hours in our trailers, hours between takes. There’s so much time for us. But if you’re an electrician then you’re working the whole time. You’re doing 12-hour days on your feet. I’ve seen sparks [lighting technicians] eating lunch standing up while they’re trying to get something rigged. And it’s the same thing with the background performers: sometimes they’re standing outside for hours and hours at a time in the cold.’
They really do. I’ve seen them. I've been one. Background performers live and breathe movies. Ezra is the kind of actor that makes the job worth every cold moment waiting for the camera to find its place. He entertains people partly because he knows this, and partly because he is naturally and incorrigibly mischievous.
‘I don’t want to be always in character. I’d miss too much kindness and love and I want to experience all of that,’ he says. ‘Sometimes, sure, if I need to do a scene where I have to bring all of Credence’s life to it, then I’ll wake up, get dressed and come on to set in Credence’s mind. But I want to take in what’s happening. I want to notice when someone is kind to me. I think that’s part of my job: to be a morale booster. It’s part of what I do on set: to bring happiness and feel happiness, too.
‘Sometimes that even helps with a dark scene. Sometimes you have to feel that happiness to play someone who has never known what that was like.’
Ezra had to do this when playing his most prominent role to date, as Kevin in the chilling film We Need to Talk About Kevin, alongside Tilda Swinton.
‘In the past, I’ve gone so deep into a character. On Kevin, I dreamed as Kevin because I went so deep into who he was and what he did.
'Tilda Swinton said to me that if you’re truly present in a scene, it will come to you. If you concentrate, it will all be available to you: the range of emotions, the experience you need – it’s already there. I’ve remembered that and it’s true of life, too. If we’re truly here, it’s all available. We’ve got it already.’
Whatever ‘it’ is, Ezra Miller’s got it. He can’t help being a little bit magical in every gesture, even as he sticks a finger into his now-tepid tea and swirls it a little. ‘We should do a marathon chat about Harry Potter, you know? I could talk about it for hours.’
I believe him. There’s no end to Ezra’s own fandom, and that is perhaps the most endearing thing about him. He gets up from the table, we hug, and as he leaves the room, he yells, without needing an answer, ‘What did you think of the Weird Sisters’ third album?’
As only Ezra would.