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Miles Teller on a 'Whiplash' tour to the top

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher and Miles Teller as

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher and Miles Teller as Andrew in "Whiplash." Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden

This is how you work your way onto the Hollywood A-list.

Attach yourself to big movies like "Divergent." Star in a well-received teenage indie romance, "The Spectacular Now," follow it up with a two-hander that opens the Sundance Film Festival, about an aspiring drummer and his intense music school instructor ("Whiplash") and jump at the chance to participate in next year's "Fantastic Four" reboot.

Miles Teller made his big-screen debut in "Rabbit Hole," directed by John Cameron Mitchell and starring Nicole Kidman, right out of NYU in 2010. The 27-year-old has risen steadily through the ranks, following the aforementioned career path, ever since.

amNewYork spoke with him about "Whiplash," in which he plays the drummer opposite J.K. Simmons as the crazed instructor. The film opens Friday.



This is one heck of a part.

[Writer-Director] Damien [Chazelle], when he was writing the script, he said that he saw "Rabbit Hole." As he was writing the script he had me in mind and thought that. He had me in mind and had no idea that I played the drums or anything. And then four years later, I guess the script came into my hands, and by the time I got it, it was offered to me. They said, "This director really likes you for the part." I said, "OK, when does it film?" They were like, "It films in September." I was already filming a movie, it was June, and I was like, "It's not a lot of time. I kind of want to relax." Because the year before that I did four films in one year, it was literally a film every season. I was burned out. I was done. I wanted to take some time off. But once I read the script it was one of those things where, I had to do it, because I didn't want somebody else to do it.



Does the intensity come across on the page?

It's all there on the page, everything that you're seeing on the screen, all the twists and turns. ? What grew out of that was casting. When you have an actor like J.K., yeah he can get a lot of laughs from his ability to put vulgarities together in the way that he can deliver them, he does have a knack for comedy as he's shown in his work, but he just grounds it. You don't feel like he's just a guy yelling expletives, because if that's the case you check out and don't really care.



The movie is centered on the notion that greatness requires a certain degree of suffering. What do you make of that?

Each person's different. There're plenty of people that really do suffer for their art. There're people that have to stay in character all the time for them to be able to do it. That is exhausting man. I'm so glad I don't. There's certain scenes, absolutely, that I'll be in for a couple hours and I don't want crafts service and shoot the [expletive]. I do want to kind of sit in it.



Do you feel that you were meant to act?

I got into it in high school. It wasn't like when I was a kid I wanted to be an actor. I did not want to be an actor at all. I played sports, I played music, I played video games. I had no idea. But it was one of those things that it came naturally to me. At first I thought it was about entertaining. I thought if I was on a stage, if I got a laugh, if people clapped, it was like I was doing a good job. As you get older, you start to understand the psychology of it and you realize how much internally needs to be done.



J.K.'s character is a pretty scary guy. What was it like to be subjected to that up close and personal?

At the end of the day, even though I'm not afraid of J.K. because he just got done telling me some funny story about this TV show he worked on 15 years ago, my character is very infatuated and he is very mesmerized by this guy, and at times, yes, very intimated by him. So yeah, it's just that suspension of disbelief, those moments that every actor craves the high from it. It doesn't come from watching your own movie; it doesn't come from any of that stuff. It comes from being in a scene and forgetting that you're filming a movie. J.K. does make that a little bit easier.



How did the extremely brief 19-day shoot heighten things?

You're not resting between takes. And because of that you're working a lot more of instinct and impulse. That's what I like. It was the first movie I did where I shut myself off from anything socially. I wasn't going out on weekends because I was just so tired. It would feel weird if I was hung over on Sunday, then having to go play Andrew on Monday, because he wasn't somebody going out doing that.



Is there a certain extra degree of gratification when a film is received this well?

Jason Reitman has told me, "Really enjoy this moment, because it doesn't come along often." Right now, people are really praising your work and telling you what a good job you did. But there will be moments where they think you're washed up, they think you're a hack and they're not talking about you. It's such a business where people love to tear you down. ? When you have a movie that literally every person you talk to is such a fan of, that's great and I realize that's a rare moment.

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