5 November 2018Interviews, Photo Sessions

Ezra is on the cover of GQ Style! The new issue celebrates the Holiday 2018 season, and it features a new interview in which Ezra talks about art, style, his band Sons of an Illustrious Father and his upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridelwald. All of that while he delivers the babies of one of his goats, Noisette. You can read it all below, or on GQ Style’s official website.

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With his intense good looks and recurring roles in the Harry Potter and DC Comics universes, Ezra Miller seems primed for a familiar kind of Hollywood success. But it turns out he also plays in a “genre queer” rock band, has gender-blind taste in clothes, and lives not in Silver Lake but on a farm in Vermont. Please, God, tell us the next generation of movie stars is going to be more like this.

When Ezra Miller tells me he has a farm in Vermont, I think he’s probably exaggerating a little bit. A farm. Okay. “I live on a farm in Vermont” sounds like something a celebrity says when they really mean they own a charming cabin on three acres that they visit twice a year when they need to get away from their other vacation homes. But Miller, the 26-year-old actor who broke out in films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, says it’s really a farm, and that he really lives there.

“People think I’m someone who exaggerates,” he says. “I think people tend to associate me as somewhat hyperbolic in my tendencies. I’m actually not so.” He grins. “I try to be very honest.”

So I ask to come visit.

Days later, I’m standing in the middle of 100 acres of genuine Vermont farmland, observing Miller’s apple orchard and chicken coop and a tractor and the greenhouse where he grows whatever his heart desires, which, this month, is saffron. (Much cheaper to grow yourself, he says.) Oh, and good news: The goat is going to give birth today, and Miller is going to deliver the kids.

Miller actually has four goats, he explains on our walk over to the periwinkle blue barn. He’s holding a blue tin of American Spirit tobacco (which he never opens) and a mug of thick, brownish liquid that is “full of greens and adaptogens and plant-based proteins that fill one with energy and vivaciousness,” he says. “We would call it The Juice of the Biggest Boy.”

Miller himself is quite slender, with the high cheekbones and perfect jawline of a Victorian prince. For this long day of goat birth, he has chosen to wear a Bikini Kill T-shirt, black pants, light green winter boots from L.L. Bean, and a floor-length, paint-splattered Alexander McQueen coat. (“If I think about what [McQueen] would want me to do while wearing this coat—fucking be a midwife at a goat birth? Fuck yeah!” he says later. “Would he have been mad if some amniotic fluid got on this? No! He would have been delighted.”)

The goats are listening to NPR when Miller carefully opens the barn door. They love it, he says. Their names are Kathy, Betty, Patty, and Noisette, and they are wearing weather-appropriate pink and purple knit sweaters. “They’re all pregnant,” Miller says, matter-of-factly. “Every goat you’re near right now.” The air is thick with the promise of new life, and the hay floor is dotted with goat shit.

Noisette is the goat who is currently in labor. Miller has her set apart from the others in a small enclosure with a heat lamp. He can’t wait to deliver Noisette’s babies (she’s expecting three). He might get some help from his two bandmates, who stay with him on the property, or from a farmhand. His band, a “genre queer” ensemble called Sons of an Illustrious Father, has been working on a metal song to celebrate this fertile season. Miller sings—yells—a bit of it for me as we walk to check on Noisette.

“GOAT BIRTH, GOAT BIRTH, IT IS COMING, IT IS COMING,” he cries, pumping his right fist in the air. “GOAT BIRTH, GOAT BIRTH, YOU CANNOT RUN, YOU CANNOT HIDE, IT’S GOAT BIRTH, GOAT BIRTH, NO ESCAPING, NO ESCAPING, GOAT BIRTH!”

Noisette, who has pitch-black fur and a stomach the size of a keg, does not react to the song. “Hey boo, how you doin’ mama?” Miller coos to her. Her face is expressionless (normal for a goat, I think), but her midsection is undulating. Contractions, says Miller.

He looks around at the barn and me and realizes what I must be thinking. “Don’t call us fucking hippies,” he says. He considers himself to be, instead, a “lifelong living-with-the-earth freak.”

“Hippies,” Miller tells me and Noisette, “were white people who, you know, came from privilege at a time of a lot of important movements and took a lot of drugs and made a lot of noise, which drowned out the very valid sound that was being made by a lot of really important movements at that time.” He sighs. “And then they all sold out and became…our parents.”

So, okay, Ezra Miller is not a hippie. But who is he? Miller has been acting professionally since he was a teenager. He dropped out of high school when he was 16 and starred in his first big film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, when he was 17. Since then, he’s starred in several critically acclaimed indie films and two big franchises: He’s played The Flash in three DC Comics films in the past three years, and he has also starred in J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series. He could be a major celebrity right now, but instead he’s here, in Vermont, writing a song about goat birth. How did that happen?

Oh, believe me, he’ll tell you.

Miller was born and raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey, with two older sisters, Saiya and Caitlin. His dad, Bob Miller, is a book publisher, and his mother, Marta Miller, is a modern dancer and—per Ezra—a “mystic and sage.” He was always going to be a performer.

This became abundantly clear in the first grade, when Miller was assigned a book report. The teacher let him pick any book, so long as it was a certain number of pages, so he picked Cujo, the Stephen King thriller about a rabid St. Bernard. He loved the novel so much that he created a special project about it to share with the class.

“I bought a big stuffed-animal dog, and I covered it in blood,” he says, grinning. “I made a tape recording, and I hooked up the play button of the tape recorder to the dog’s paw… The idea was that you’d push the paw and you’d hear, out of the voice of this bloody stuffed dog, my dramatic reading of Cujo.”

After he presented his work to the other 6- and 7-year-olds, his teacher gave him an A+. “I was really excited,” he says. “I thought it was going to be on the class wall of fame for the rest of the year, and then the teacher very politely said, ‘Ezra, we’re going to put this in the closet until the end of the day, and then you’re going to have to take it home.’ ” He pauses for a moment and smiles. “Welcome to elementary school, you terrifying freak.”

Around the same time, Marta started bringing Ezra up to Vermont, where she opened a dancers’ and artists’ residency. He dreamed of buying a similar piece of land one day. So he did.

He had been living in Brooklyn, in Bed-Stuy and then Crown Heights, and the city was getting to be too much for him. “For what I’m trying to do now, this is where I have to be,” he says. We’ve left Noisette to labor for a bit, and now we’re sitting on the front porch of Miller’s perfectly modest 1970s farmhouse. “On a city street, I’m sort of a messy Muppet,” he explains. “I’m like”—he mimes reaching out to people—” ‘Oh, are you okay?’ ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Oh, dear!’ You know what I mean?”

I’m not sure what he means. So he explains.

“I think for a lot of artists, [we’re] sensitive. Urban environments are grueling.”

Still, he has to return to the city often for work. I first met Miller a couple of weeks before my farm visit, when he was promoting his latest film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. He starred as a magical orphan named Credence Barebone in J. K. Rowling’s first Fantastic Beasts film, in 2016, and he’s reprising his role in the sequel.

So: promotion. On the day we met, Miller was making an appearance at a Fantastic Beasts fan event at a Midtown hotel, attended by just over a hundred rabid J. K. Rowling disciples eager to learn all they could about the forthcoming film and take pictures of Miller and his co-stars. This sort of environment is not great for Miller. “I find the presence of cell phones bad for my mood,” he said. “I can feel cell phones when they’re around.”

Still, surrounded by so many mood-dampening devices, Miller rose to the occasion. He posed—and I mean posed—for selfies with everyone who asked. He performed for each camera, telling one lucky videographer, “I am Ezra. But you can call me Lil Baby, or Sweet Bitch.” He shimmied and spun around.

There were three other actors from the film at the event, and most of them were wearing suits. Miller luxuriated in a cutoff black Queen T-shirt. He had coaxed his hair into some kind of reverse fashion mullet: short in the back, long in the front, and shaved on one side. His nails were painted black, and he smelled like cigarettes and not deodorant. There was some glitter of unknown origin nestled in the stubble on his perfect jaw.

I watched as the attendees—mostly early-20-somethings who grew up in thrall to J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series—took their selfies with Miller and exited the theater, beaming. “Oh, my God, I would marry him in a second,” said one petite woman in a red leather jacket to her friend as they walked out.

Afterward, sitting in the hotel’s restaurant, Miller said that he does like to meet fans, because he wants everyone to be on the same level. “It’s almost awkward, the position that I’m in, of being on the other side of some imaginary line,” he said, sipping a carrot juice. “That’s the line to dissolve, right? It’s an illusion that anyone is more involved in a world of fantasy than anyone else for worldly material reasons, like”—he rolled his eyes—”being employed to work on the project.”

Miller thinks it’s silly that actors try to take credit for their work. “To take credit, to say, ‘Oh, it’s mine?’ ” he scoffed, and then paused. “Are you going to take credit for the sunset?”

He waved his arms around, proclaiming, “Art makes art. We are but puppets for the great art puppeteer.”

This attitude sets him apart from many of his peers. Most 26-year-old actors are currently racking up followers on Instagram, accepting Teen Choice awards, or strolling in front of the paparazzi with whichever celebrity they are dating this week. Miller is…well, Miller is logging hours as a midwife for a goat in Vermont. When he rose to fame with We Need to Talk About Kevin, he did the Hollywood thing a little bit: He was rumored to be dating stars like Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz. But at the restaurant, he said he had no interest in the celebrity dating scene. “Maybe you can put together a list of celebrity couples who’d want to collectively date me,” he giggled.

Miller mostly hangs out with his sisters and his bandmates. They “have been the greatest blessing for me and have enabled me to even attempt to paddle out into this misty lake.”

Please…elaborate.

The misty lake, Miller explained, is the “fame matrix.” In this metaphor, when you start out in Hollywood, you get in a little boat. “You paddle out and you’re excited!” he said, miming the action. “You’re going down a river, you’re paddling your boat, you’ve got a bag of sandwiches. You hear about this magical lake. And then you get out there and just”—he paused dramatically—”picture the mist. The impenetrable fog and cold. All you see, then, are the lanterns of the other boatmen passing through the fog, and you call out to them, maybe you hear a word back, but you hardly see their faces. They’re all just out there.”

So it’s scary? I asked. To be in your position?

“It’s beautiful,” he said.

Back at the farm, Miller leads me to a small enclosure near his apple orchard. “I wanted to show you my seraphim,” he says. He means his chickens.

We squeeze into the coop and say hello to about a dozen of them: mostly females, though there are two roosters. “Hiii, babies,” Miller says. The chickens are too young now, but when they get a bit older, Miller will let them out of the coop to be “free range.”

“What’s good is the rooster rounds them up at night and brings them back in here,” Miller explains. “That’s how free range works. The rooster will die for any of the chickens.”

Really?

“We have a lot of eagles out here, and if an eagle starts dive-bombing the crew, the rooster will go out separate from the herd and pretend to be injured, so that the eagle will come and kill the rooster instead of hurting any of his babies,” Miller says, pointing out the two lucky men who may one day perform this task.

“That’s masculinity,” he says. “That’s what it’s supposed to look like, you know what I mean? I’m going to pretend to be weak, I’m going to pretend to be vulnerable so that you attack me before you’d attack one of the women in my posse. You feel me?”

We’re lacking this kind of masculinity in the human world, Miller says. “I’m looking for a man like that.” He grins. “I don’t know about you. I’m looking for a rooster-type man.”

Miller has been thinking a lot lately about his own masculinity and gender expression. He was nervous about posing for GQ Style, because he wasn’t sure if he could fit the mold. But the experience turned out to be just what he wanted. “I was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed by how much room there was for my very strange and fluid expressions,” he says. Miller publicly came out as queer in 2012, and today he tells me his gender identity is fluid. “I’m comfortable with all the pronouns,” he says. “I let he/his/him ride, and that’s fine.”

He pulls out the second half of what appears to be a joint and lights it as we walk into the woods behind the goat barn. Sitting on a hefty rock in the middle of some towering oaks, he starts talking about—well, too much for me to record here. He’s worried about climate change and the patriarchy and how we are going to save humanity. “Let’s rehabilitate men,” Miller says, bringing up the #MeToo movement in Hollywood. “Let’s drop men like flies. I’m with it. And then let’s rehabilitate them when they’re on the ground. This is some Wonder Woman shit right here. What’s the Amazonian solution to this?”

I wish I knew. Maybe this is why Miller is in Vermont: Only 100 acres of woods and farmland can contain all he has to say about everything.

We decide to check on Noisette one last time before I leave. When we walk into her enclosure, she’s lying down, but then she gets up to nuzzle into Miller’s side. Then she ambles away to the corner of the enclosure, and something happens, which I will let Miller describe.

“Mucus!” he cries. “Man, that is a dangle of mucus. We are definitely getting there. Sorry, not to be vivid with you.”

It is what it is.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Life itself!” He turns to the goat. “Oh, baby, I am feeling for you. I can only imagine how it feels to be you, Noisette.”

He tells me he’ll sleep in here with her tonight. He already had a vet look at her, but he feels prepared to deal with any complications that may arise. One of his sisters is a midwife—for people—and she “talked me through some of the scariest, weirdest contingencies,” Miller says. “So I’m ready to do a bunch of fucked-up shit.”

He skips out of the goat barn and spots a fluffy orange caterpillar in the grass. “Where are you going, where are you going, where are you going?” he sings, meditatively, as he picks up the little thing. “Such a hurry, such a hurry, such a hurry.” Soon Miller will have to embark on a worldwide tour with his co-stars to promote Fantastic Beasts, but for now he will do this.

I say goodbye to Miller and the caterpillar and the goats and the chickens and the saffron. A couple days later, I check back in to see what happened with Noisette. She’s still laboring, Miller says. Sometimes this happens—what can you do? He’ll stay with her as long as he can.

Allie Jones is a writer based in Brooklyn. This is her first story for GQ Style.

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