“I want to talk about the [Philadelphia] Eagles and the [Dallas] Cowboys,” I say, forcing the issue.
“Well, you’re in an Eagles household, know that,” Teller rebuffs.
“I could probably jump over the fence…probably.”
“That’s a pretty high fence, dude. My dog would get you.”
“You have a dog?”
“I don’t. I mean…my girlfriend does, but she runs really fast.”
I’m not sure if he means his girlfriend or her dog. But I nonetheless conclude: “Okay, I probably wouldn’t make it.”
Thirty minutes earlier I was knocking on his front door, no doubt waking him from a sweet slumber. He’s bleary-eyed when he opens the door to greet me, and immediately recoils at the sight of the six-pack of beer in my left hand. [Editor’s note: Never show up at someone’s house without bringing something.] Teller had gone out the night before; he remarks that he’d forgotten the effects of such a jaunt, “first time in awhile.”
Lately the 28-year-old actor only has his eyes on work, logging 16-hour days on the set of Arms and the Dudes where he stars opposite Jonah Hill. They play a duo of young Jewish arms dealers, supplying weapons to America’s allies in Afghanistan.
“You have one, two, three, four, five, six films that you’ve just completed or that are in post-production, and you’re working on Arms and the Dudes, right now?”
“Working on Arms and the Dudes,” Teller confirms.
“With the director of Old School?”
“Todd Phillips, yes.”
“I always think of the scene: ‘I’m here for the gangbang.’”
“He’s also the guy sucking toes in Roadtrip, on the bus.”
“How much of a comedy is it, or is it a change of direction for Phillips [from the Hangover series]?”
“Todd started out with Taxi Cab Confessions. That’s Todd. He also did this documentary called Frat House, which not a lot of people have seen, because it was banned and because all the parents were trying to sue him. But that was a documentary on hazing. Todd has been a true filmmaker in every sense. The Hangover, that was a huge thing, that became much bigger then anybody anticipated. He spent a lot of time making three of those. This one is more like Goodfellas.”
“Yeah, just a little more. It’s not just straight comedy. It’s a true story of these two kids that became the biggest international arms dealers at age 24. They were just these two Jewish kids from Miami that realized that there was a loophole in the system on winning bids and getting these numbers to go through.”
I open a beer; Teller opts for green juice and a cup of coffee. He seems relaxed—of course he is, he’s home—but notably relaxed with a strange man of the media drinking beer in his house 10-minutes after meeting him. There’s no veil and Miles Teller lacks the robotic demeanor of many young actors being interviewed.
I assume Teller is just generally relaxed—a far cry from the intensity of his character in Whiplash. That film, made for a mere $3.3 million, stars Teller as a young drumming prodigy who is pushed to his limits under the abusive tutelage of J.K. Simmons’ jazz school professor, “Fletcher”—a performance which won Simmons an Academy Award.
It’s widely noted that Teller actually played his own drums for the role, save for a few editing touches and musician doubles. A lot of the sweat, blood and anger was authentically his.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he’s also been in the first two Divergent films, the second of which, Insurgent, made $52 million on its opening weekend in March. He’s also starring as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the upcoming reincarnation of Marvel’s The Fantastic Four in August.
Teller’s acting credits are made in broad, sweeping strokes across the canon of modern cinema, with characters differing in personality and artistic burden. So, I’m curious about his views on acting as a craft: How easy is it to turn off a character after a scene? Does he view acting as an art form?
“I kind of come from the Anthony Hopkins school—Hopkins says ‘Don’t bring your work home with you, for God’s sake, don’t even bring it to the makeup trailer.’ You want to go through your day and not think about as much as you can—at least for me. You want to be able to sit and have your breakfast... And the more that you’ve done it, I think the more comfortable you are with that.
“You realize, on a film set, how much time is spent sitting around. The more you film, the more you understand when energy is really needed, so you can keep it on reserve.”
Acting is by nature a physical effort, an actor’s body is the painter’s brush but also the canvas. Teller is currently changing his body for a role—going from a phenom drummer to a world-class boxer within a year. The film is Bleed Like This, a biopic highlighting the distinguished career of Vinnie Paz. He’d been a drummer before Whiplash, but I wonder:
“Have you even boxed before, Miles?”
“I’d never boxed before. I remember reading the script, and thinking: ‘This is awesome.’ And my agent said, ‘well, you’re going to meet the director for it,’ and I was like, ‘oh, cool.’ When I read it, I didn’t think that I was even up for the part of the boxer. At the time, I was more of a kid in terms of size and physique. I was surprised that he even wanted to meet me.
“When I started working out, I was 188 pounds and 19% body fat, and I had to film two movies in between… I had two weeks worth of boxing lessons to train… [It] was like an eight-month pregnancy and I ended up getting to 168 pounds and 6% body fat. I was doing boxing four hours a day, and weights for two hours; an hour of cardio; an hour and a half of accent dialect; and then an hour of physical therapy. I had a nine-to-five job.”
Our conversation moves past boxing, acting, wellness, age, yet continues to shift topics toward the end of my time with Miles Teller. In spite of the hifalutin, culturally refined scenario of a magazine editor and a distinguished actor discussing the nature of drama, in spite of our nametags: interviewer and interviewee; east-coaster and southerner; our conversation keeps finding its way back to a simpler platform. To more primitive ramblings—just two dudes talking about football.
Photographer: Tomo Brejc for LGAManagement.com.
Stylist: Warren Alfie Baker for theonly.agency.
Groomer: Marissa Machado for Art-Dept.com.
Photography Assistants: Kevin McHugh and Bob Hutt.