Miles Teller on ‘The Spectacular Now’ and ‘Divergent’

Just Jared sat down with  Miles Teller and talked to him about ‘The Spectacular Now’ and ‘Divergent’! Miles is a really great guy and this is a great interview! miles-teller-jjj-interview

Just Jared: What about this script made you want to get involved?

Miles Teller: Everything. Without being too general. First of all I loved the character, I mean I just loved the story. I knew that I would be able to play the charismatic and do all that stuff, but I was so happy that it shows you the depth and you get the stuff like with his dad. Then once Shailene [Woodley] was attached I was just excited to work with her. Then I saw Smashed and so I was excited to work with James [Ponsoldt, director]. Then everything just kind of came together. As an entire script, it was probably the best script I’ve ever read. Usually you get like, there’s a version of this script that the first twenty minutes is the whole movie. So yeah, I was happy that I would get the opportunity. It also made me nervous because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. It was like a nice stretch.

JJ: So you were attached before Shailene Woodley was?

Miles: No, Shailene was attached, and then I auditioned for it a long time ago when it was a different director, I bombed the audition, they went with somebody else. That fell apart, and then James came along. Shailene was attached and another guy was attached, I think it was Nicholas Hoult. Then James wanted to meet with me in a bar for however long, I think thirty minutes. So we ended up staying there and drinking for two hours, just eating appetizers and just talking. At the end of that he was like ‘I want to offer it to you, I need to convince the producers and stuff but I think you’re perfect for this part.’ I was like, ‘Yes! I am! Don’t look at my audition tape, it’s really bad, but I am perfect for this part! I know I can do it!’

JJ: Did you read The Spectacular Now to prepare at all?

Miles: I read it, not necessarily, yeah I guess I did read it to prepare. My version of the character is from my own kind of understanding of him. In the book he’s a little different, but I absolutely read the book.

JJ: So James let you put your own spin on it?

Miles: For sure. I went shopping for some of my own wardrobe. James, Shailene, and I would just go through a scene and James would say if you don’t want to say this, if that doesn’t feel real to you, you don’t have to say it. So James gave us a lot of creative control.

JJ: You guys filmed in Georgia in August – what was that like?

Miles: Hot! I grew up in Florida, so that humid, sticky, like over a hundred heat sucks. Everybody is sweating, there’s a lot of sweat in the movie which is great, I love it!

JJ: Do you prefer shooting on location as opposed to in a studio?

Miles: Yes, I hate shooting in L.A. It’s just, I mean some stuff you have to shoot in a studio. But like for Spectacular Now the bedroom of my character, the house, the living room of Shailene’s character, that all felt very real and as an actor that helps you out. Plus I don’t like filming in L.A. because I come home and my roommates are playing house music at like 3AM and I’m like dude, I gotta go shoot a movie. It’s nice to be able to disappear and you only have to focus on, that’s why I like shooting on location, the only thing I have to do in my life is film this movie and make this movie as best that I can.

JJ: So being on location really helps you get into character?

Miles: It does, it allows you the freedom privacy. I’ll talk to my friends, I’ll talk to my family and stuff, but at the same time I’m not existing over there. We’re not talking about things that happened like a week ago. We’re staying in touch, but I don’t have to deal with anything.

JJ: Your chemistry with Shailene is very organic on screen. Did you spend a lot of time together beforehand?

Miles: Not really. We met for a lunch with James, that was pretty much it. Then we had one session where me, her and James sat down with the script, went through the scenes, and went beat-by-beat and said does this make sense, is this real? The first scene we shot was that cafeteria scene. I think we bonded because we filmed that scene and we both didn’t really like it. We wanted to film more but we had already moved on, so I think just as actors we kind of have similar techniques.

JJ: Do you think The Spectacular Now is more of a love story or more about Sutter’s coming of age story?

Miles: I think those are kind of synonymous. I would assume that you have that one relationship as you’re going through those times in high school that you feel is really important. Your first love lost is hard, and most people who are older still have feelings for that first true love. I think it’s all those things.

JJ: Did you relate to the story at all from when you were a teenager?

Miles: I relate to Sutter very much so. I think that we both had it pretty bad. I was friends with everybody, and I think Sutter was friends with everybody but very few people knew Sutter. I don’t think he ever really had anyone over his house, I think he was the guy always going around. I had that, and I was a pretty popular kid in high school, but also I had straight A’s. I played drums in a rock band but I also played saxophone in jazz. My buddies that I have today are still my buddies from high school. None of those guys were in any of my academic classes, those were just guys that we used to throw parties and stuff. But at the same time I was president of the drama club. Yeah, well rounded. I played baseball, I played sports.

JJ: In the film, Sutter tells his best friend that he’s not really attacted to Aimee, he’s just doing her a favor. Do you think that’s legit or is he actually attracted to her from the get go?

Miles: No, I definitely think he’s attracted to her from the get go. Shailene’s a cute girl, and as Aimee Finnicky she’s still cute. I think maybe he’s trying to, a bit of him does want to help her out. Like when they’re first having that talk and he’s like, ‘Who do you just want to tell to like, whatever?’ So I do think he’s trying to help her out, but at the same time he’s obviously attracted to her. And she’s different, she sees through him a little bit. She wants him to be better.

JJ: This role is a lot different than other roles you’ve done. Was it important to you to branch out?

Miles: Yeah, I mean, some of these guys are like, ‘Are you worried about being typecast as the party guy?’ because I did 21 and Over and now The Spectacular Now. I mean yeah it’s important for sure, I think as an actor you get very few opportunities to really show your skills. Bottom line is there are only a certain amount of movies that get made and there are only a certain amount of actors that get to do it. So if you can have enough range to where you can do different stuff and get a project that will be a nice showcase for it, then yeah. But I was just happy to do the movie because I put so much into it. But for my career wise, yes it is nice to show people that I can carry a movie and that I can, yeah, do that.

JJ: When you’re reading a script what’s something that you look for?

Miles: I think relationships. In a movie you see who a person is by their relationships to other people. Like what’s their relationship with their best friend, who are they in front of this girl? It’s just gotta read honestly to me. I’ve got such a high bullshit meter that I’m not gonna do anything that seems a little to, that doesn’t make sense. You need a full script. If it’s comedy I just have to think it’s funny, it needs to be my sense of humor.

JJ: Do you prefer doing comedy over drama?

Miles: No, not really. I like all of it, but. Before Divergent I did like, two romantic comedies. So, I didn’t really do that. Comedy is hard, man. People don’t understand that it’s hard to be “on” for twelve hours a day, every day. Especially when that’s your character, when you’re like the comedic pulse of something. You wake up some days and you’re just like, I don’t, I don’t really, can’t I just hang out in the corner? I don’t really want to bring everyone up and make everyone laugh. When I was in high school everyone thought I was like the class clown, and in my drama program I remember I was doing something that was supposed to be very serious, and everyone just started cracking up and that frustrated me, that annoyed me. I went to my drama teacher and said find me some serious stuff, I want to sharpen those tools, it’s important to me. I didn’t want to just be a joke.

JJ: From your experience, what is the main difference between making an independent film and making a studio film?

Miles: Freedom. If you do a studio film you’ll have twenty people agreeing on a wardrobe. Your character is going through a lot more filters, there’s a lot more hands on and touching. Where with an independent film you really get a lot more creative control. I mean for Sutter, like I said, they let me go to a thrift store and pick out my own clothes. James was like if you don’t want to say this, you don’t have to say this. It’s more personalized, I think.

JJ: Do you prefer that?

Miles: Yeah, I think I do. Studios don’t really make dramas any more. They really don’t.

JJ: Alright, tell us about Divergent – Have you read all of the books?

Miles: I read Divergent, but I didn’t read it in it’s entirety because I didn’t feel personally that I needed to know what’s going on with Tris and Four. I didn’t think Peter really had to know that stuff, or that Miles really needed to know that stuff. But in Insurgent I save her life at one point, in the first book Peter’s a bit superficial on the page.

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