A Minute With: Miles Teller on 'Whiplash', being 'Awkward' and Elvis

Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:55am EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Actor Miles Teller has become the poster boy for the average American teenage male in film, but in a new indie drama, the actor flips into a distinctly unique character - a teen driven to become one of the world's greatest jazz drummers.

"Whiplash," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week and will compete in the U.S. drama competition, is an enticing and heart-racing tale of young jazz drummer Andrew in a devoted pursuit of perfection in his craft. Andrew comes under the tutelage of a noted drummer, played by J.K. Simmons, who challenges him to the very limits of his existence.

The film is the first feature from 28-year-old writer-director Damien Chazelle, and is a new direction for rising star Teller, who has gained prominence for raunchy young adult film "21 & Over" and last year's coming-of-age Sundance hit, "The Spectacular Now". "Whiplash" has already been snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics for U.S. distribution.

Sitting on a sofa at a lounge in Park City during Sundance, Teller, 26, spoke to Reuters about diving into jazz drumming, being slapped by Simmons and the "gray area" of dating.

Q: "Whiplash" takes you away from the young adult films you've become known for. What drew you in?

A: I play the drums so to have a movie about a drummer, I had never read anything like that before. Music is a pretty big passion of mine and I'd love to do a movie where I can play guitar and sing. I play piano and I love musicals, so this script, it was all there on the page, all the twists and turns.

Q: How good were you at the drums before doing the movie, and much preparation did you have to do before filming?

A: I'm pretty good, I've played since I was 15. Out of every instrument that I played, drums was probably the most natural for me, but I had never taken a drum lesson before, so once I started taking lessons, I felt much better than I ever was. I did four-hour lessons, did those a couple of days a week for four weeks.   Continued...

Cast member Miles Teller attends the premiere of "Whiplash" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart