Put through his paces, the ‘new recruit’ in David Ayer's WWII mindfuck Fury barely held it together
Through four months of boot camp and five months of hazing both on and off camera, Logan Lerman won't exactly look back on 2013 with giddy delight. "It was not a fun year," he deadpans. "It was very stressful. We were immersed in the experience." Immersed could be a bit of an understatement: myths abound about how director David Ayer and the cast nearly pushed Lerman past his breaking point for the exceedingly accurate portrayal of a novice soldier joining a tank crew in WWII drama Fury. The film will knock your socks off in the gore department, but break through the pungent machismo and you've got a WWII film about male bonding that has no intention of glamourising war. It tells it like it is.
To get to know each other better, the cast would physically fight each other as per Ayer's instruction. "We went through this whole process where we all became brothers and it was an incredible experience." Did he ever tire of fisticuffs with Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf? "Yeah, that happened a lot – but that’s a big part of the experience. But I never complained. I was the guy that never complained, not once. I really valued the sparring. I thought that was incredibly influential in our relationship and breaking physical barriers and being able to do anything with the other guys." So how did he harness the heavy emotion needed to make this real? "I want to tell you what happened, but I can’t tell you what happened," Lerman explains, dodging questions about Ayer's unorthodox methods. "It’s just fucked up." Would it really freak me out? "Yeah. I’m sure it would." One method was to use personal stories they had shared to get a reaction. But Ayer had some other weapons in his arsenal: "He'd be in Logan Lerman's face all the time with decapitation videos, just mind-fucking that kid," Shia LaBeouf recently told Interview. Here, Lerman looks back at the arduous process and his secret talent tinkling the ivories…
ON PISSING IN BOTTLES:
"Yeah, I mean it all happened – not shitting. I don’t think anybody did. I didn’t. But we peed in the tank for sure. We didn’t leave, you know? We met with tankers and bottom line is – tankers don’t leave their tank. They’re not safe, they don’t feel safe off the tank. They do everything in the tank. And back then, in World War II, they take their helmets off, they pee in their helmets and they throw it away and put the helmet back on with all that piss in there. They’d shit in their helmets and then throw their helmets out. We didn’t shit in our helmets nor pee in our helmets either – we peed in our water bottles. Drink them and then piss in them."
ON THE MOST DIFFICULT SCENE:
"I’d say the most daunting scene was Norman’s entry into battle, when he gets in a little fight with Wardaddy (Brad Pitt). He makes him shoot the guy. That sequence, from beginning to end. You know, just going up and being able to do it and yelling at him – those scenes are very different, by the way, this is very different from the script. There’s a lot more yelling, a lot more disrespect from Norman. He’s disrespectful, but there was more disrespect in the script. And then the tough love, yeah. All that stuff. That was the most daunting. Every day was challenging."
ON NEARLY COMING UNGLUED:
"I never broke down in front of the guys. That was always private. I just had moments where I was like, 'Fuck this, I don’t want to be here right now' – and that was perfect for Norman. That’s what I wanted. (There were) some tough experiences – things I can’t talk about really. Things that are not good for interviews. I’m not a very, I’m an emotionally closed off person (laughs). I’m kidding. I don’t remember. I have a great ability to forget things I don’t wish to remember. The most uncomfortable? It was the whole movie. I was really uncomfortable – they made me uncomfortable because I was the new guy. They treated me that way. I can’t say there was a moment that I felt the most uncomfortable."
ON SEDUCING THE GERMAN GIRL:
"That was kind of the easy bit. It was a sweet moment. Yeah. It wasn’t easy but it was sweet, and it wasn’t as intense. Then the guys came in and we did a whole dinner table scene and that was fucked up. But that was challenging. (Alicia von Rittberg) had the tough job, because she had to put herself in a vulnerable position as a young lady. I had to learn (the song I play on the piano) just by ear really. (It took) like a day or two. I got a lesson just to make sure I was playing it right – like tempo and things like that. I’m alright at the piano. I’m not bad. I got a bunch of go-to songs. I guess my go-to that my friends get annoyed with is “Take Me To The Pilot” by Elton John. They get really irritated with that, like, 'Stop playing that honky tonk shit!'"
ON WHAT THE SOLDIERS SAY:
"We visited Fort Benning (a United States Army post outside Columbus, Georgia), which was an incredible experience, and the most nerve-wracking experience because those are the opinions I care about the most. I care about everybody’s opinions but to hear it from the soldier’s perspective is really what it’s about. They were like, 'This is the most accurate depiction of war, the camaraderie, the horrors.' They were sick of movies about glorification and being heroic. They wanted to see more about the psychological damage of war, what it does to the human soul and spirit."
Fury is out in cinemas today