8 November 2018Magazine Scans, Photo Sessions

Ezra is on the new cover of ES Magazine! He talks about being gender neutral as a kid and not really identifying with the pronouns often attributed to him, the beginning of his career and his love for the earth and nature. Much like the article written about him for GQ Style, this one is so endearingly Ezra. The magazine also released a new photoshoot, which we’ve added to our photo gallery.

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We need to talk about Ezra Miller: rock ’n’ rolling with the Hollywood outlier
From the ghost of Bowie to sex, drugs and superheroes, nothing fazes Ezra Miller

Outside on the streets of De Beauvoir Town…

It’s a normal, crisp autumn afternoon in London. But inside, it’s as if I’ve slipped through a wormhole and ended up in a new dimension. Let’s call it Dimension Ezra Miller, because it’s as wildly peculiar as the film in which he stars this month, JK Rowling’s latest slice of cinematic wizardry, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Miller is lying on a sofa next to me, in an unbuttoned dress shirt, his legs lolling over his head like a chimpanzee, musing about who he’d like to meet. ‘I’d like to chill with Jesus. He seemed like a queer, radical, person of colour who was resisting an occupying empire,’ he drawls (Miller himself identifies as queer). Then he adds, rather oddly, ‘I don’t know how it’s gotten so twisted up, you know what I mean?’ He finishes with a madcap laugh.

It’s a fittingly bizarre moment, which may or may not have something to do with the superfood tinctures that he pipettes into my mouth after our photoshoot — ‘pine pollen’ and ‘deer antler velvet’, apparently. The bottles are kept in a black bag by Rubee, Miller’s six-foot-something ‘major-domo’, dressed in black robes, a fez hat and John Lennon-esque shades.

Miller, who reprises his role as Credence Barebone in Rowling’s franchise sequel, is himself a fantastical creature. A wild and cerebral 26-year-old, who effortlessly straddles arthouse material (like his bruised, menacing, star-making turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin) and commercial work (he’s The Flash in DC Comics’ mega-budget Justice League), he emits eloquent treatises on the future of ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘cosmic’ philosophies (‘I identify with every single faith in the world and none because they’re all f***ed-up. Quote me!’). He spouts Wildean aphorisms: ‘I don’t believe in belief and I don’t believe in people, but I think they’re pretty.’ And he is full of all the peace and love of a flower child: ‘There’s a tiny Buddha baby inside your belly who just wants to laugh, be free and be naked.’ This may sound painfully pretentious but, somehow, it isn’t. Really, it isn’t. Miller is too sweet, clever and authentically outré. In short, he’s a delightful throwback from the blandness of today’s Kardashian-o-sphere to the golden era when stars were larger-than-life.

Miller even looks as though he’s stepped out of the past. With the razor-sharp bone structure of a greyhound, he resembles a young Bob Dylan, albeit a Gothic version from a Tim Burton film. ‘There was a time when I identified with amphetamine-era Dylan,’ he tells me. ‘Not because I was taking amphetamines but just because of my natural relationship to my own body’s energy. The amazing thing about Dylan is that he was a person in the “fame matrix” who refused to be defined.’ Conventional categorization is also something Miller pushes against. ‘I struggle with “male”. I don’t mind people using “he, him, his” pronouns with me. Although more and more on my personal journey, “they, them, theirs” are starting to make sense. I struggle with “actor”. I definitely struggle with “celebrity”. The root of the word “celebration” is something everybody deserves.’

In 2012, he officially stated that he was queer in Out magazine. ‘There were people [in the industry] who gave me a rough time for coming out,’ he tells me. Still, the years of exploration since have been ‘a beautiful, ongoing and very sexy journey’.

This journey has included the sartorial. Miller experiments with clothing, sometimes wearing dresses, and he appeared at Comic-Con earlier this year as a 5ft 11in mushroom from the Super Mario franchise. Of course, this has not been universally celebrated. ‘I’ve been physically attacked in public for wearing short floral overalls. I’ve been attacked in New Jersey, New York City, Asheville, North Carolina at a Waffle House…’

Miller has played several victims of brutalization in the past, not least Credence Barebone in Fantastic Beasts. An orphan who is beaten by his adoptive mother, the leader of an anti-witchcraft group, Credence represses his magical powers and, as a result, is possessed by a dark parasitical force called the Obscurus. Miller agrees it’s the perfect metaphor for repressed sexuality, adding: ‘Credence is also a great metaphor for artists: how the power of the wound in early life can be expressed as a force of change.’

Miller was born and raised with two older sisters in Wyckoff, New Jersey, by Marta, a modern dancer and choreographer and Robert, a publisher. ‘I was a very fastidious, specific kid. I was really into Edgar Allan Poe. My father read me all the Harry Potter books.’ Those stories became a kind of totemic force for good that helped Miller through a painful childhood. ‘I was repeatedly assaulted as a young teenager, for being weird and gender ambiguous. They couldn’t figure out if I was a boy or a girl, and they thought that was hilarious and also despicable,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘There were also [boys] who wanted to make out with me because they thought I was a girl. And when they found out I wasn’t, they were very angry, as if I’d been deceptive.’

From the ages of 10 to 17 he would come home after school and wait for his parents to walk through the door. ‘I’d listen to Harry Potter books on tape while I ate ramen and tried to self-soothe.’ But he was blessed with open-minded parents and teachers who encouraged creative expression as an outlet, a talent for which he discovered while ‘playing dress up’ as a child with his sister Saiya (three years older). After standing out in a school musical, Miller was asked to join the Rockland Conservatory Choir where he found singing naturally cured his stutter, and subsequently performed with the Metropolitan Opera. He once saw Patti Smith at a production of The Threepenny Opera. ‘I ran up to her and told she was a “bodhisattva”.’ (For the uninitiated, in Mahayana Buddhism that’s a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings.)

After two childhood television appearances, he was cast at 16 as the lead in Antonio Campos’s dark teen thriller, Afterschool, as a voyeuristic and sadistic schoolboy — Miller left his own school following the film’s release. Casting directors appear to have seen something dark in him. After ‘Kevin Face’ was unleashed on the world, the general public reacted to him badly. ‘People thought I was really scary. I remember being at the Hamptons International Film Festival doing a Q&A and this woman got up and screamed, “It was all your fault! It was all your fault!”

Miller has been heralded as the first openly LGBTQ actor cast in a superhero film, but he cites Thor’s Tessa Thompson, who is queer, as a precedent to him. In the spirit of tolerance, he refuses to lambast closeted actors in Hollywood. ‘It is everyone’s choice how they want to handle that delicate and complicated matter.’ And he is cautious about celebrating the gains made on LGBTQ issues in the West. ‘We celebrate progress in very privileged pockets of the world. We get together in halls and present each other with awards for minuscule bits of crawling progress, when we are killing the whole earth and we’re killing ourselves.’ I can’t exactly picture him engaging in mutual backslapping after an awards ceremony at West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont. Does he go there? ‘What? And burn it to the ground?’ he says, laughing maniacally. ‘Don’t worry, climate change will handle that!’ He screams this in his best mad Muppet voice.

He will claim another pioneering title, however. ‘I am the first person to smoke a spliff on the North Pole and do a disco dance there.’ He skied to the Pole in 2013 on a Greenpeace campaign expedition. He sits bolt upright on the subject of the environment and delivers an impassioned monologue which ends: ‘Earth is a body. We can’t ultimately save humanity forever, right? We’re all gonna die. But should we work our asses off to secure a little more time, for another 10 generations to be able to fully express and do what humans are meant to do on this planet? We absolutely have to.’

He has recently moved closer to nature, to rural Vermont, were he keeps 25 chickens. ‘I feed the chickens in my dresses. I walk around in all manners of strange articles of clothing. It’s actually where I go hardest on my fashion game.’ He also dabbles in a little taxidermy, but only on subjects that have died natural or accidental deaths. ‘I have a weasel in my freezer right now.’ It is also in Vermont that he has been writing more solo music. This summer, Miller released ‘Sadtown’, a ballad about ecological disaster, as a side project from his Brooklyn music trio Sons of an Illustrious Father (who are playing South London’s Omeara on 8 December).

London is Miller’s second home, having filmed the majority of the Fantastic Beasts and DC films at Warner Bros Studios in Hertfordshire. More sequels are slated for both franchises, including a solo Flash film. He is also to play the younger Salvador Dalí to Ben Kingsley’s elder in Dali Land. ‘Dali is the s***,’ he says, rolling up a ‘very mild’ joint for the end of the interview.

There’s also a secret motion-capture project in the pipeline which explains his earlier posture. ‘I have plans to play a chimpanzee very soon. Andy Serkis [who was motion-captured as Gollum, King Kong and Caesar in The Planet of the Apes reboot] is one of the best living actors.’ He is gravitating, he says, towards playing non-humans. Because he doesn’t believe in our species? ‘I don’t believe in believing,’ he reminds me, singing, ‘don’t believe in yourself / don’t deceive with belief…’ It’s ‘Quicksand’ by David Bowie and of course he feels an affinity with the pioneering gender-bending creative. ‘I saw Bowie’s spirit above his vigil in Brixton when he died.’ He lights up his post-interview joint and smiles. ‘It was gold.’

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