Miles Teller is hitting the big shots, attracting everyone with his attention from left to right and up and down. In a new recent interview for Esquire Magazine, Teller talks about his filming life and what we can all expect from him in the future. He gets in the emotional zone when he talks about his college life and why and how he got the scars in his (what I believe) beautiful face; his lost of friendships in college, and how that affected his filming carrier.
Read the article down below with the gallery showing some of his shots from the Esquire photoshoot:
You’re sitting across from Miles Teller at the Luminary restaurant in Atlanta and trying to figure out if he’s a dick.
You’ve just told him, by way of making conversation, that according to legend the champagne coupe in your hand is shaped like Marie Antoinette’s left breast, and he tells you the highball glass is modeled after his cock. Then he tells the waitress the same thing.
He is wearing a pool-blue V-neck that shows off the Roman-numeral tattoo on his arm, a reference to the thirty-two-ounce beers his high school friends were forced to buy because forties were not available in Florida. He explains that everyone in the “32 Crew” got this tattoo after a night at the High Octane Saloon from a man they bribed out of bed at 2:00 a.m. to needle crooked X’s and I’s onto their biceps.
He recounts a direct message he—a twenty-eight-year-old actor still trying to find his place in his profession—sent to five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant through Twitter: Kobe, watched your Showtime documentary. Really related to what you’re talking about and striving for greatness and how it can oftentimes be an isolated journey, and how relationships can be a weakness in a way, if you’re really kind of going after it.
He says he wants to contribute to the body of great acting in the world, to the . . . shit, he can’t find the term—cache? catalog? canon? Whatever, you know what he means. He thinks he has something to offer.
So yeah, he is kind of a dick. But the thing is, you agree with him: His admittedly limited body of work so far, his oeuvre—a word you define and spell for him, so who’s the dick now?—is pretty great. His first role, in 2010’s Rabbit Hole, was as a tremulous teenager who runs over and kills the son of a couple played by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. And his performance in last year’s Whiplash, the two-hander about the sexless S&M relationship between a music teacher and his student, won him a lot of attention and a couple tickets to the Oscars. Now he’s in the action game, with the Divergent series and this summer’s Fantastic Four. Of course, in between there was the stupid, easy, fun spate of movies in which Teller played characters who do things like tell the waitress that highball glasses are based on his dick: 21 & Over, Two Night Stand, Project X, That Awkward Moment. Not all of them were winners, but they allowed him to show his thing, his Tellerian essence, by talking faster and drinking more and seeming to give fewer shits and inhaling more of the oxygen in the room than anyone else.
After the waitress leaves, shrugging off his comment about the highball glass, you ask him about his hair. He’s brought up how nice it is in more than one interview. It’s a little defensive, like maybe he’s making up for not being the best-looking, or sometimes even the third-best-looking, guy in any given movie he’s in. “I was thinking about that today, how I probably think I’m better-looking than the public thinks I am,” he says with a laugh, like it’s funny that he’s willed himself into a higher tier of male beauty through limitless confidence. “I was in one of these forums about a film I did, and it’s like, ‘This dude is so ugly! How does he get fucking parts?’ ‘Well, he’s not, like, traditionally handsome, but . . .’ And that’s kind of what it is. Maybe it’s because I came from a small town, but I always did well for myself.”
You take stock. The nose is crooked, the eyelids fleshy, the chin soft, the cheeks mottled with flush. He’s right—he has good hair, thick and cowlicked and widow’s-peaked. He’s tall and solidly muscled, with a nice tan from filming Todd Phillips’s big-budget comedy Arms and the Dudes with Jonah Hill in Miami a few months ago. He’s appealingly attainable, a good-looking guy who shouldn’t know he’s good-looking, who should believe the commenters, except that he dates a twenty-two-year-old model/aspiring swimsuit designer/professional girlfriend who thinks Teller is attractive enough to have permanently monogrammed her perfect ass with his initials.
Then there are the scars—on his chin, his left cheek, incising his neck. He was in an accident in 2007, flung thirty feet from a speeding car on the way home from a jam-band festival. He says the scars are why he doesn’t have friends from college.
“My junior-year roommate from NYU was the guy driving my car when we got in the accident. And it was an accident. I never blamed him. I got a lot of laser surgery on my face, like what they use for getting rid of tattoos. Like, very painful. But I never wanted him to feel bad, so I never made anything out of it, ever.” He’s speaking a little louder and even faster now. The flush creeps up his neck, pinking it, showing the scars a little more. “But I mean, if I was in his position, I’d be like, ‘Hey, man, do you need a Gatorade or anything? I’m just running out. You need any meds?’ I didn’t hold that against him. No big deal. But I was racking up all these medical bills, so we had to sue his insurance because he was driving. It’s not like we’re suing him; we’re suing his insurance. He comes to me. He’s like, ‘Miles, I don’t know if we can be friends when my parents’ insurance premiums are going to go up.’ I just sat with it for, like, twenty-four hours, and after that I was like, ‘Man, fuck you. Like, I’ve never made you feel bad for this. For you to make me feel guilty and make me feel like you’re the victim here, that’s really fucked up.’
“And my other friends started living with this kid, and they were just go with the flow,” he says, shrugging to show he doesn’t give a shit about the conversation that finished his friendships, despite his narrowed eyes and those scars glowing pale against blood-darkened cheeks.
A year later, two of Teller’s best friends died in car accidents, five weeks apart. When he was shooting Rabbit Hole right after graduating from college, he had a scene with Kidman in which he apologizes for killing her child. “I was in the hospital when they pulled the plug on my one friend. I knew what it felt like to hug a mother the day she lost her son,” he says. Director John Cameron Mitchell told him to think about his friend when he talked to Kidman. Teller says Mitchell told him, “I want you to see your friend Beau.”
“I didn’t wanna do it,” he says. “And I still think you shouldn’t use acting as therapy. That was the closest I ever got to that.”
Right then a woman comes up to the table. “I’m sorry. I have a really annoying question,” she says. “You’re Miles Teller?” He nods. “Do you mind if I take a picture with you?”
The waitress delivers the entrées, scallops for him and pork belly for you. The pork looks great and you offer him some. “I’ll take a little bit,” he says, sawing at it. Then: “I can’t cut this.” You have to cut his meat for him, a man who ten minutes earlier showed you an iPhone photo of his back muscles to prove how strong he is. He wants you to cut it small. “I don’t have back teeth. I literally have four teeth.” Not true. He’s right, though, this pork belly is really hard to cut. But still. “What are you, bullying me now?” he says. His goading is a habit, compulsive, almost athletic. “I didn’t know they fucking put marble on top of their pork belly.”
Then it’s back to his oeuvre. Or rather a dissertation on other people’s oeuvres and how they might affect the oeuvre of Miles Teller.
He has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the careers of other actors. He goes into an animated rant about Leo and Bradley and Jake Gyllenhaal and Vince Vaughn, and how it’s almost impossible to win an Academy Award as a man under thirty, and Tom Hanks, and Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeff Bridges, Dustin Hoffman. “But if I’m really homing in on the dramatic performance right now, it’s probably Christian Bale or it’s Joaq.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Joaq?
“I just said Joaq. Joaquin Phoenix. I don’t know him, but my publicist has repped him since he was, like, seventeen. She repped River, too. So I just hear his name.”
Okay, the work’s important. He says he earned $5,000 for Rabbit Hole, $7,000 for The Spectacular Now, $8,000 for Whiplash—all small independent films. If he wanted to make any kind of living on those movies, he says, he’d have to do ten a year.
Turns out no need. He’s in a different realm now. “Reed Richards in Fantastic Four, to me, was a huge character departure from, like, That Awkward Moment or anything that I’d just done before that,” he says, waving off the notion that the appeal of the role was purely financial. “So was Divergent.”
Of course, he knows that what’s next is not always up to him. He was supposed to play the lead in the Whiplash follow-up, La La Land. He says director Damien Chazelle offered him the part when they were filming Whiplash, way before it became an Oscar-winning hit. Teller gets a little nervous telling the story, tearing his dinner roll to shreds and claiming he doesn’t know what happened before deciding, whatever, “These are just facts.” He explains that he almost passed up the chance to be in Arms and the Dudes because it would have conflicted with La La Land. “And I got a call from my agent, saying, ‘Hey, I just got a call from Lionsgate. Damien told them that he no longer thinks you’re creatively right for the project. He’s moving on without you.’ ” So he sent him a text: What the fuck, bro?
Is Miles Teller going to let that get him down? Fuck no. He’s going to produce his own movies, movies he’s not going to get kicked out of, movies like the bank-robbery ensemble piece The Life and Times of the Stopwatch Gang and a family drama, Home Is Burning. And now he’s going to order another beer. Something local.
“I used to get this milk tea in college at the Asian market M2M when I was high,” he says, as if you’re supposed to know what milk tea is. “It was five bucks. Me and my buddies prided ourselves. We were like, ‘Nobody smokes this much pot. I guarantee you can ask anyone in this dorm, man . . . we smoke a lot.’ I didn’t do a single play when I was in college, because all I wanted to do was smoke pot. I did zero extracurricular activities so I could get high. I stopped when I started doing movies and went to L. A. because I was like, I can’t get a phone call and not answer it.”
And also because, well, now he’s famous. Despite his penchant for light confrontation, he knows he’s always being watched now. A bunch of people in the restaurant looked a second longer than normal when he walked in. He’s recognized every day, he says. Like that woman who interrupted the story of the death of his friend with a photo request. A widely circulated TMZ clip from earlier this summer shows Teller at the BottleRock Napa Valley music and wine festival. In the video, he seems to be performing a solo line dance with intricate footwork and purposeful, lawn-crossing, Mick Jagger strutting. There’s a shirt toss-and-catch. It’s hard not to assume powerful hallucinogens were involved in its choreography.
“I don’t give a shit,” he says, tough guy. “I can either censor myself or not, and you’re always trying to figure it out. It’s how you deal with the paparazzi. Do you not do what you would do? Do you live your life with all these filters and censors because everyone has a camera? Or do you fucking dance how you would dance and have people say, ‘Oh, he’s on drugs’? I was drinking and was at a fucking Brett Dennen fucking concert.”
You wonder how much he really doesn’t give a shit. Because it kind of seems like no one gives more of a shit about what he does. Enough that, yeah, he has to be kind of a dick about it. How can you not like that?
He orders you an Uber. You tell him about some recent sexual-assault accusations leveled at the company’s drivers, so he tells you he’s requesting “Do not rape” service, before he parses yet another career that isn’t the one he wants. Aaron Eckhart was one of the leads in Rabbit Hole, and Teller was so intimidated he could barely get through his first scene with him. But recently, he worked with him again, in the boxing movie Bleed for This. “Now in Bleed for This he’s my trainer, the overweight, kind of supporting character actor. He idolizes actors like Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson, but he’s just very antipaparazzi,” Teller says. “It’s hard to get to the right position, to be somebody who is commercially successful and critically acclaimed. That’s the sweet spot.”
He gives you a hug and goes off to contribute to the cache or catalog or canon or whatever the fuck you call it and charm the world with his dickishness.