Ben Platt is many things: a Tony-winning actor who perfected the art of snot-crying on stage and a songwriter whose talents extend to catchy Yom Kippur jingles. What Platt is not, as many on Twitter were quick to point out after the trailer for “Dear Evan Hansen” debuted, is a high school student.
And yet, the 27-year-old revisits his adolescent years in the “Dear Evan Hansen” film adaptation as an anxiety-riddled teen who gets tangled in a lie that spirals out of control. He originated the character on Broadway in 2017 to massive acclaim, so it’s understandable that Universal Pictures, the studio behind the movie, wanted to Platt to reprise the role that made him a star. Given the 10 years or so that separate Platt from the SATs, that upset some people.
After the trailer launched, Platt took to social media on Wednesday to respond to criticism about his casting. As one Twitter user puts it: “That dude looks like he’s the principal.”
“thank u from the bottom of my [heart] for the outpouring of trailer love yesterday,” Platt wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “the film required me to revisit areas of personal pain, so seeing ppl excited & moved makes it so deeply worth it. PS to the randos being jerks about age, read this great article and/or watch grease.”
Platt is referring to an article that ran in Vanity Fair with the headline “Dear Evan Hansen Trailer: Ben Platt on Going Back to High School, One Last Time.” In the piece, Platt acknowledges he’s gotten older since he first donned his character’s signature blue-striped polo and white arm cast. With that in mind, Universal moved fast to capture Platt’s performance on camera before he could age a single day more. (Why anyone thought his curious, untrimmed haircut would make Platt appear younger is open to interpretation.)
“I think everybody obviously had in their minds that I wasn’t going to stay teen-adjacent forever,” Platt told Vanity Fair. “The need to get it done was a little urgent. Then of course the pandemic happened, and I kind of assumed that was that — it would be a no-go, and by the time the pandemic was over, I’d have outgrown it.”
Director Stephen Chbosky says Platt’s age matters less than his vocal prowess. “You just have to hear him sing the songs,” said Chbosky, the filmmaker behind “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Wonder.” “His understanding of the character is so complete and so profound. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing it. It’s his part. I felt very strongly about it. And to me it was never even a consideration.”
Though Platt is hardly the first adult to play much younger on screen (see the casts of “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Glee” or Platt in “The Politician”), he wants to eventually portray a character that’s at least old enough to be in college.
“[I] grew my hair out, and was shaving to make sure that I didn’t look like I had five o’clock shadow all the time, you know,” he said. “I was just stripping myself into being a teenager for the last time. For what is hopefully the last time.”