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Lerman & Schmaus Talk About “Indignation”

6 min read

On this edition of INTERVUE, I was part of a roundtable with Flo Dyek from Women in Film and Video talking to actor Logan Lerman and director James Schmaus about their new film “Indignation”. Based on the 2008 novel by Philip Roth, the movie tells the story of  Marcus Messnner, a young man who leaves his native Newark to attend a small college in Ohio. There, he experiences a sexual awakening after meeting the elegant and wealthy Olivia, and confronts the school’s dean over the role of religion in academic life.

All right, thank you very much for the interview, I mean for the intro.  All right, well let me start with you Logan, I would like to know what drew you to the role of Marcus Messner for this film?

LOGAN LERMAN:  Well, the strength of, of Schamus’ adaptation, I mean above all if anything else, that’s really what drew me to the role.  I mean, I guess initially, I guess the first thing that really sparked my interest was the fact that James was making a movie and I was a big fan of yours.  And that made me read it quickly, knowing that this was James’s project and read it right away and was amazed by the script, particularly the scene in the Dean’s office which I was just, you know, reading with, you know, in shock that this was, that this was happening, that this was a real scene in a script it was unusual.  And yeah, I was just excited about it, started working on it right away.

Amazing. James, I’d like to know whether you feel the themes of INDIGNATION are prevalent to today’s issues.

JAMES SCHAMUS:  Well, let me ask this question.  (I’ll ask a question of the question.)  So, it’s 1951 – and there are folks who actually had a burst of liberation during World War II out in the workplace. And now, this gigantic thumb of repression starts to come right back down on them in this weirdly hyper-sexualized culture. But along with this kind of weird shaming, you have this bizarre foreign policy that has us embroiled in these wars overseas that nobody can figure out why we’re in. And it just seems there’s no resolution in sight. And in fact, millions of young Americans are getting caught up in this, in a war in a place where people don’t even really confront on a map.

And you’ve got the rise of a paranoid, almost fascist political movement with the McCarthy era…so, obviously, this has nothing whatsoever to do with 2016. [Right?] I object to the assumption behind your question, quote, end quote.  It is where Philip Roth is towards the end of his career. He’s in his 70s and he knows he’s going into retirement, and he’s going to stop writing, and he goes back to his youth at this moment. And I think there is a reason why he calls the novel Indignation. I think that he is tapping into a kind of anger at where the world is returning and has something to say about it.

Logan, this is for you.  And this is related to the last interview we had four years ago.  I’d like to know how does the role of Marcus compare to the role of Charlie in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, were there any similarities or differences?

LL: Yeah, I mean it’s about two young men trying to find themselves in this world that they live in, and they discover who they are and, I guess, who they want to be.

Thanks! James, In the history of film, we’ve seen love stories, about two perfect people or two imperfect people, and this film focused on two outcasts.  So, I’d like to know was it important for you to tell this tragic tale of two outcasts?

JS:  I think that it’s really interesting. Love stories are very difficult to tell these days in a cinema.  I think we’ve become very cynical as a culture, and a lot of it is because most love stories, for a long time, tended be basically male, multi-national corporations who get $20 million plus gross per picture, pretending to enjoy kissing female medium-sized regional brand companies who get $7 million dollars a picture.  Right.  And it’s like there’s not really that much, shall we say, surprising about those narratives.

You know, going back to films like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, I think INDIGNATION, for me, bears some relationship to those – when you find that there really are impediments to people, not just falling in love, and being able to make that union work, but even the impediments within themselves – in this movie, for example, Marcus Messner has no real understanding of this young woman.

He has no understanding of the pain she’s gone through, or of her trauma, or what she’s dealing with – none, and yet she sees in him, rightfully, I think, somebody who shares her status as an outsider. And there is the potential, there is the possibility, maybe someday, for that communication to take place.  But this is not a meeting of lines; they’ve missed each other from the first day.  And so that, to me, is both very lovely and also very tragic.

Thank you Logan & James for the wonderful interview and special thanks to Flo Dyek and her team at WIFV for the transcription of the interview.

Indignation – Playing in theaters THIS FRIDAY