19-year-old Ezra Miller will star in the upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
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Ezra Miller is not exactly Jack Nicholson or Robert DeNiro, but getting him to agree to an interview feels like an achievement just the same.
That’s not because Miller, 19, is off-the-charts busy. He is not yet consumed by the inevitable promo blitz for the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, to be released this fall, in which he plays a corrupting influence on a tortured high school freshman. (The film also stars Paul Rudd and Emma Watson.) And his last two films, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Another Happy Day, both 2011 releases, are well behind him.
But Miller, who lived in Wyckoff until moving to Hoboken at 14 with his parents, has his reasons for being a reluctant subject. Foremost among them is the way the media has portrayed him so far.
“This article made me dislike Ezra Miller,” reads a comment posted about a New York Observer profile published in December (headline: “The Most Misunderstood Kid in Showbiz?”). And in January, a New York magazine article titled “We Need to Talk About Ezra” described Miller as having “a habit of spewing half-baked musings.” The article rendered the following judgment: “He can’t have been easy to raise.”
But Miller, who now lives in Manhattan’s Chelsea section (his parents still reside in Hoboken), can also come across as a regular kid from New Jersey.
“All of my early experiences playing make-believe in my backyard in Wyckoff and playing drums in my basement and in my friends’ basements—that’s where my artistry comes from,” he says during a phone interview.
Further inspiration can be traced to his kindergarten classroom at the Village School, now in Waldwick, where his teacher, “who maybe had a more profound effect on my life than anyone,” accepted him into the choir. That spawned his love of opera. At six, he landed a role in the U.S. premiere of the Philip Glass opera White Raven at Lincoln Center. Later, he joined the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. By the time he was 14, Hollywood came calling; his first role was as a boarding-school outcast in Afterschool.
Not all of Hoboken was thrilled for him, especially at the Hudson School, where he was a freshman. “A lot of resentment started coming my way because I was absent so much,” he says.
Miller quit school at 16. One day, he may finish. “I think I have only three credits to fulfill,” he says. For now, he contends that his home state provides a top-notch education, even to those who don’t get diplomas.
“There’s a lot of really wonderful learning happening outside of schools all over New Jersey,” he says. “It’s in the garages and basements and back alleys. It’s art.”
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A five-course Cakebread Cellars wine dinner will be held at Highlawn Pavilion, Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange. 6:30 PM; $150, includes tax and service. Reservations: 973-731-3463.
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