Perhaps you missed Rabbit Hole, but between Footloose, 21 & Over, The Spectacular Now, all the buzz coming out of Sundance for Whiplash and the fact that he’s clearly earned himself a place in the incessant blockbuster rumor mill, it’s obvious that Miles Teller is one to watch.In his latest release, That Awkward Moment, Teller steps in as Daniel, a 20-something living in New York City who’s busy at work by day and picking up ladies at night. When Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) gets hit with a divorce, Daniel and Jason (Zac Efron) decide it’s time to embrace the single life together. However, it’s easier said than done because when Daniel starts to fall for his wing-woman, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), he’s genuinely thrilled to start the relationship, but just can’t build up the nerve to tell his friends.
With That Awkward Moment heading towards its January 31st wide release, Collider got the chance to sit down with Teller and discuss how the film has made him an honorary love guru. Check out Teller’s dating advice as well as what he told us about his preparation process, the challenge of establishing a comedic rhythm, his audition for Star Wars: Episode VII, potentially beefing up for Fantastic Four, his thoughts on the final book of the Divergent trilogy and much more in the interview below. Hit the jump for more.
MILES TELLER: Yeah, I think everybody should ask me advice before they get in a relationship.
So in that case, you said your thing is cutting off a relationship when you know it isn’t right and not wasting any time. That’s my problem, so help me out.
TELLER: My roommate has a problem with that and I think it’s hard, but I think you just have to understand that you’re gonna miss certain things about that person. That’s understandable, but the biggest factor in everything is time, and I think over time you get over missing that person and losing that person and whatever it is, but I think once you actually take time to think about it and you can do it intellectually, not just go with, ‘I miss him, so I’m gonna call him.’ That’s not good. You can understand if you’re right for somebody or not.
How about the guilt factor? What do you say to a person so they don’t feel too bad about it?
TELLER: People are gonna get feelings hurt. In most relationships, somebody cares about the other one more and that’s usually why you get out of a relationship because it’s not reciprocated. You are gonna feel bad, I’m just saying you have to be okay with feeling bad.
Now that you’ve set me straight, can you tell me about how you choose your roles? You’ve got some serious variation in terms of the type of material and the scale of your films, but is there anything that has to stay consistent from film to film before you sign on?
TELLER: The script, really. That’s the most important thing. I think George Clooney said, ‘You can make a bad movie out of a good script, but you can’t make a good movie out of a bad script,’ and really, that’s the outline. And I mean that it is an outline, it’s a very important outline, and then from there it’s the director. The movies that I’m most proud of, I can look and I can directly say that’s because this director is really incredible. So for me, getting to a point where I am starting to have more work come out, I am getting to a stage where I guess I can kind of attach myself to a project and right now I’m just searching out the best directors that I can.
How is that process for you? The luxury to choose like that is great, but it also opens the door to nonstop rumors. Does that frustrate you at all?
TELLER: No, I mean, you can’t control that and rumors, that’s how people get hits on their websites; that’s just them doing their job. As long as I’m not the one starting them. Then again, I’ll start a rumor. If I want a movie, like I put a rumor out there for me for Star Wars. It didn’t happen, but I think it got some people [to say], ‘Oh, yeah, maybe he would be right for that.’ I put out there that I want to play Evils, and I do want to play Elvis.
Who would you want to play in a Star Wars movie?
TELLER: I don’t know because I’ve never seen them. [Laughs]
You’ve never seen a Star Wars movie?
TELLER: [Laughs] No, I just love Harrison Ford, so I guess the Han Solo.
You know, you’ve got to change that.
TELLER: I know. I had an audition for Star Wars so I watched some of Return of the Jedi, but that’s about it.
Are you allowed to say what kind of character you went out for? Maybe good or evil?
TELLER: I think it was a good character, but at that time the script hadn’t come out so the sides they were using were very vague.
Good would make sense though because your characters always have vices, but they’re also genuinely funny, charming guys. Well, except Divergent.
Yes! Congratulations on that.
TELLER: Thank you. Did you see it?
TELLER: When you first are kind of coming up in this business it’s tough because you wanna show that you can be charming and charismatic and all those things and comedy, that’s what the studios are making. Studios aren’t really making interesting character study dramas anymore. Maybe it’ll come back, but I’m fortunate that I do have an appetite for comedy so when I do that, I really enjoy it, and also what’s great is that it gives me something to play against and that’s why I did Whiplash and that’s why I did Divergent to an extent because I knew that people kind of had an idea of me, like you said, as this funny, charming guy and then to just take that a little darker is fun.
I read in the press notes that Tom liked your style, sense of humor and timing, which I could certainly understand considering some of the roles you’ve taken, but he also highlighted that you’re especially prepared and maybe your characters have just gotten to my head, but I always pictured you as a more casual type of performer.
TELLER: Well, for me, I think an actor’s greatest gift to themselves is preparation. And there is a rhythm. There’s a rhythm to the way Tom writes. Now, I’m not based purely in the free form, adlibbing world that a lot of these Second City guys are or the Apatow guys. I don’t necessarily work like that, but I do know the script inside and out, I know your lines just as much as I know my lines, and so with comedy, because it is a rhythm, I know that the punch line is here so like a point guard, I wanna pass the ball off and I can try to get a scene in a certain rhythm. But yeah, one of the most embarrassing things I think for an actor is to come on set and not know your lines or to not be prepared. That is just such a slap in the face to everybody who’s there many hours before you. An actor, you show up when you’re ready to roll, but there’s a ton of people busting their ass, setting up the lights and doing everything before you get there, so then to come on and just be so frivolous with the material would just be disrespectful.
Do you think having gone to Tisch and having been part of the film school realm gave you an appreciation for all of that?
TELLER: Yeah. I was in the theater school, but the last two years I did do this Stonestreet film and television acting program. And yeah, I grew up doing student films and for those it is go, go, go, go and also it’s so collaborative. I would feel like a peer with my director because we’re the same age and I just love making films. I think it’s such a privileged profession to have and then coming from the theater world, I love the rehearsal aspect of it. I love the ensemble aspect of it.
Speaking of ensembles and also what you touched on before, about establishing a beat, how was it making that happen with Mike and Zac? Did that come naturally or did you have to work for it?
TELLER: Well, Mike, this was his first comedy. He kind of told me off the bat, ‘Man, I’ll follow your lead a little bit with this,’ or just, ‘Help me out.’ And that’s one thing I will say about Mike is that every night he was meeting with Tom pretty much to be like, ‘Alright, now what is the beat here? What is this joke? What’s supposed to be the funny part in this scene?’ Because Mike’s really funny, he just doesn’t know it. But acting comedy and being funny in your own life is two different things. And then with Zac, the biggest part with all the scenes was just to kind of like massage it and to make it flow and make it feel natural. Mike, Zac and I, by the time we started filming, were very comfortable with each other, so I think that plays on screen. I think you really see three guys that aren’t just pretending to be friends. It just seems very real and it is.
Was there any scene that was particularly tough to nail in that respect?
TELLER: I remember the one day, it was the scene with the dildos and we’re in the sex shop, and that was kind of troublesome because there was all these paparazzi taking photos, and out of context it’s just me and Zac holding giant strap ons, you know? But within the movie it makes sense! So I remember that day being kind of tricky.
Was that a constant issue for you guys? Because there was also that part in the end credit bloopers where you’re having coffee in a scene and, all of a sudden, Zac says, ‘Oh, look, there’s the paparazzi!’
TELLER: And I say, ‘But they’re not lookin’ at me so I can do whatever I want,’ because I’m just a clown. But yeah, it certainly was. That was the first time I filmed a movie that paparazzi were a part of the production because in LA, you’re in a studio. You can kind of block yourself off. In the indies, I’m filming in Athens, Georgia; it’s like nobody’s really there. But when you’re filming in New York and you have a star like Zac Efron, the kid’s literally The Lorax [laughs], so it’s like, you have paparazzi around you all the time. The rules and stuff in the city, technically, they can take pictures while you’re filming; you’re just thankful that they’re not and then when you say cut, they all – [mimics shutter sounds] – taking pictures and fans run up to Zac [laughs], or you, and they kind of herd you in a coffee shop. There was an awareness of that that obviously isn’t in the story we’re shooting so it does kind of take you out of it a little bit.
Fortunately they probably weren’t around when you had to do that planking scene.
TELLER: Yeah, but there was a lot of crew guys around for that! You almost want to apologize to the people in the room like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry! Here’s my butt,’ and the boom guy’s got a boom right by my butt and the camera’s there and there’s all these people. You’ve got to have thick skin.
What happens when you have to set up for something like that? Can you shut the door and say, ‘You guys wait outside while I pull my pants down and try to plank to this toilet?’
TELLER: No, especially not with this. I think the thing with this film that people will be surprised to know is this is an independent film, and we shot this film in 24 days, which is one less day than Spectacular Now, it’s one less day than a lot of indies that I’ve filmed. So really, you just got to kind of go, and as soon as you sign on to a movie, you’re pretty much agreeing to everything that would be required of you. But I didn’t take my shirt off because I just played a high school alcoholic who would not have been in shape. Divergent I got buff though! Divergent I’m pretty cut in that.
TELLER: Yeah, I think, you know, if that were to happen, I think the characters would be taken in a different direction than the kind of blue suits and stuff from the franchise that had previously been done, which you’d have to if you’re gonna reboot something, you really got to kind of put your own spin on it. But with that being said, all I need is like, a couple weeks to just get my body back in shape. So the answer to that is yes, I could get back in shape.
WARNING: Spoilers for the third book of the Divergent series, Allegiant, ahead!
To wrap up, have you read Allegiant yet?
TELLER: I haven’t read it, but I love the way Peter comes full circle and you really kind of can understand that beneath all that is somebody who really doesn’t like himself and who wants to go back to a place where he wasn’t mean to people. And I’m so glad that that’s in there because in the first book, he’s kind of one-dimensional and so I was happy for Veronica [Roth] to really explore that with Peter.