Playing the tortured teen in Rabbit Hole alongside Australian bombshell Nicole Kidman, Miles Teller has passed his first big acting test and is set to become a big star. By Obed Napitupulu and A. Li Feng
Long on experience in school plays, productions and performances, but short on any real professional acting experience, it was a surprise to many insiders that Miles Teller won a prominent role in a major Hollywood production such as Rabbit Hole. But he proved that those who believed in him were accurate judges of talent.
Now, he is set to star in the remake of the 1980s classic Footloose, due out in October 2011. In Footloose, he’ll play the key character Willard Hewitt alongside Kenny Wormald (as Ren McCormack), Julianne Hough (as Ariel Moore), Dennis Quaid (as Rev. Shaw Moore) and Andie MacDowell (as Vi Moore).
DA MAN: How did you get into acting?
Miles Teller: When I was in second grade, the local high school needed young kids for their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and my sister and I auditioned and got cast. I don’t know if this was where the seed was planted because I remember being chased down the hall because I wouldn’t let them put makeup on me. I watched The Wizard of Oz two times a day for a solid portion of my youth so maybe that had something to do with it. Later on, in high school, my buddy convinced me at the end of my sophomore year to audition for our school’s production of Footloose, which I reluctantly did, because he was my ride home after school anyway. He got cast as Ren and I got Willard. The rest, as they say, is history. I went to NYU, then moved to L.A.
DA MAN: Congratulations on your feature-film debut in Rabbit Hole, how did you prepare for this role?
MILES TELLER: With Jason, he was younger than I was at the time, but not by much, so I didn’t have to do a lot of fact-checking in that regard. But he was a comic-book artist and that was something I had no knowledge of, so I met with Dash Shaw (the actual comic-book artist) and we chatted a few times. As far as the emotional preparation, it all goes back to [Russian actor Constantin] Stanislavski and the magic “if,” and if this were to actually happen, how would you respond. The emotional undercurrent is so strong in the material that it was more a matter of getting there and controlling it and not letting it run away from me.
DA MAN: This is your first movie and you got to work alongside acting greats Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. What was it like working with them?
MILES TELLER: Nicole and Aaron are incredible actors and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to film acting. I felt like I was taking a Master Class and just wanted to observe and retain as much as I could. With magnetic actors like Aaron and Nicole it’s hard to pinpoint what it is they’re doing in the scenes to try and take notes from, but it’s more a matter of how they control a space and own a scene.
DA MAN: You won a film festival award recently, how did that feel?
MILES TELLER: Yes I did, the Savannah Film Festival Discovery Award. It was a great honor and wonderful experience to be a part of. They’re really all about the film and the work and the process. And because it’s on a college campus, they’re able to really involve the students. Last year, when I was honored, there were posters of all the recipients outside the theater and so mine was next to Liam Neeson and Sir Ian McKellen and that was pretty surreal.
DA MAN: You’re initial dream was to become a sports presenter/commentator. Is that correct?
MILES TELLER: Yeah, well kind of. I always wanted to be a professional baseball player, but I didn’t hit my growth spurt until my senior year in high school and freshman year of college, so I kind of missed that boat. So after that, I was really looking into going to Syracuse to pursue broadcast journalism as I was a part of the television production program at my high school and hosted our morning show. But somewhere along the line, I realized acting was something more than getting on a stage and making people laugh, and I really focused on progressing my skills in my senior year.
DA MAN: How did that turn into an acting career?
MILES TELLER: My junior year I did a few shows, I played Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and the lead in an Actor’s Nightmare. At the end of the year, Florida has a great statewide competition known as the Florida State Thespian Festival. I believe it’s the biggest in the country actually, and it’s very well organized and very competitive. With my sports background, I enjoyed that aspect of it, where you can actually go from a district competition, to state and eventually to nationals. I did well in the competition and at the height of it, I performed a monologue in front of 2,500 people.
DA MAN: Tell us about Footloose and your role in the film.
MILES TELLER: In Footloose, I play the role of Willard. He’s the local country yokel, who befriends the city boy and shows him what small-town living is all about and teaches me how to dance. It’s a great part. I played the part seven years ago in high school and to play it in this film was awesome.
Left page: Shirt by Calvin Klein, jacket by John Varvatos, jeans by Emporio Armani, woven belt by Ben Sherman, shoes by John Varvatos for Converse. Right page: Shirt, pants and tie by Emporio Armani, jacket by Z Zegna.
DA MAN: Did you see the original in the 1980s with Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn (your role)?
MILES TELLER: I’ve seen bits and pieces of it, but honestly I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire film.
DA MAN: Since Rabbit Hole have you been inundated with new project offers?
MILES TELLER: I’m very close on a few projects, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully, more news to follow.
DA MAN: Was your acting success something you always sensed would happen, or are you surprised in any way?
MILES TELLER: I’ve had a very good idea of what I want to do in this business, how I want to approach the work and the impression I want to leave when it’s all said and done, and so far I’ve been following that plan. I haven’t had to compromise my integrity.
DA MAN: Now that you have had some success, what’s a typical day like?
MILES TELLER: Wake up, take a shower, maybe put on a little Deadpod [podcasts of past Grateful Dead concerts], go get a McDonald’s iced coffee and get ready for the day. Usually, it consists of some meetings or an audition or both, and if there’s neither I’m playing golf or just hanging out at the house playing music, maybe a little Xbox.
DA MAN: What are the biggest challenges of having a career as an actor?
MILES TELLER: The instability of it all. I’ve been fortunate enough where I haven’t experienced its pitfalls yet, but I know they’re never too far away. The hardest part for me has been the distance it has put between me and my family and friends.
Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
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