When you invite your friends and family to see the movie in which you play a Columbine-style teen mass murderer, you’ve got to be prepared for some awkwardness afterward.
“One friend told me very politely that he couldn’t spend time around me for, like, a few hours. He said, ‘I love you, but your face is terrifying me right now,’?” Ezra Miller says. The 19-year-old actor plays the title role in “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” the indie horror movie based on Lionel Shriver’s novel about a mother (Tilda Swinton) living in the aftermath of her son’s horrendous crime.
While Miller’s face might more accurately be described as striking, there’s a certain intensity to his look that does seem to lend itself to complicated roles. In 2008’s “Afterschool” he was a prep-school student who captures two fellow students’ deaths on video, and in last year’s “Another Happy Day” he played a teen drug-rehab veteran.
But in real life, the young actor — who freely admits to being arrested this summer for pot possession — seems to have his stuff pretty well together. The hyper-articulate New Jersey native, son of a dancer (his mom) and a publisher (his dad), started acting at 8 in an uber-New York intellectual way: with a part in a Philip Glass opera at Lincoln Center.
“I was really fascinated by opera from the age of 6,” Miller says. His unconventional childhood continued into his teen years, when he dropped out of the Hudson private school in Hoboken.
Like a true child of Montessori, Miller is a big proponent of life being the ultimate teacher. “I got a lot of my education from my own investigation, my own reading,” he says. “I started in a school that taught me that I should learn for myself.”
He also plays the drums and sings in a band called Sons of an Illustrious Father. “Every member of the band has various other things happening in their lives,” says Miller, who currently lives in Chelsea, “so we’ll get together for a month or two at a time, and then we’ll go our separate ways.”
The band just played a gig at the Bait and Tackle bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and will perform at the Delancey on Wednesday.
He also just finished another teen movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” adapted from Stephen Chbosky’s cult novel about Charlie, an introverted high school freshman.
“It was very interesting to get that script four years after reading the book,” says the actor, who was a fan when he read it as a freshman. His older character, Patrick, is a mentor to Charlie. He’s also involved with a member of the football team.
Miller says playing a gay character seems, to him, “very commonplace, to the degree that it’s almost sort of nothing to write home about. But I think it can vary for a lot of different actors. For the actor who plays my boyfriend, it was challenging. There were barriers he had to cross in the making of the film.”
One of his other “Wallflower” co-stars, Emma Watson, is best known as the heroine of the movie versions of the Harry Potter books — which Miller adored growing up, but, he says, “the films were never the Harry Potter experience for me; it was the books and the the audio recordings.
“That proved fortunate, because Emma wasn’t, in my mind, Hermione Granger. Which would have perhaps been,” he jokes, “confusing to me.”
Being a bookworm, and having a dad in publishing, does he ever think about writing? Miller seems a bit wary about wearing several professional hats at once (note to James Franco).
“I do,” he says, “but realistically I think that might happen later in life, when my mind and my actions are a little less frantic and fast-moving. I have some work to do on, like, settling my conscious experience before I can sit down and write.”