10 Jun ‘Whiplash’ director, stars (Miles Teller, LSTFI Alumnus) march to a friendly beat — off-screen
Teller… has been eager to establish himself as a serious actor since graduating from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute at New York University in 2009. Though his first part out of college came opposite Nicole Kidman in the dramatic "Rabbit Hole"…
There were bongos and congas, pristine Ludwig kits, dusty vintage sets that used to belong to famous people. Miles Teller eyed his options inside the Professional Drum Shop in Hollywood and settled on a Jamaican steel pan, picking up some mallets and toying with the bouncy sound.
It seemed the right instrument for him — light, goofy, kind of offbeat. Nothing like the blood-splattered cymbals and snares he hammers away at in his new movie, “Whiplash,” trying to prove something.
In the intense film, out Friday, Teller plays a college conservatory student who aspires to be the next Buddy Rich. That jazz dream is tested to the limits and beyond by his inexorable band leader (J.K. Simmons), who believes that to bring out his pupils’ true talent, physical and mental abuse are required — imagine Bobby Knight as a music teacher.
On a quiet Saturday afternoon, Teller, Simmons and their director, Damien Chazelle, were gathered at the Vine Street shop to talk about the film. Seated on some drum thrones, they used the setting to riff on the themes of the movie — creativity, how to fuel artistic genius, the line between criticism and cruelty.
The men continually ribbed one another — about masculinity and looks, mostly — though their teasing was nowhere near as ruthless as it is in “Whiplash.”
Since the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, both actors have generated award chatter for their deeply committed performances. The praise seems particularly meaningful to Teller, 27, who has been eager to establish himself as a serious actor since graduating from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute at New York University in 2009. Though his first part out of college came opposite Nicole Kidman in the dramatic “Rabbit Hole,” Teller has since been cast numerous times as a boisterous party bro — the sarcastic guy teeming with so much cocky swagger that you almost hate him.
It’s clear, however, that — like his character in the movie — he wants more. To prepare for a coming boxing film, he shed 20 pounds this year. He still proudly wears the scars he got in a bad car wreck a few years back, but he looks more like a movie star now — angular, tanner, less boyish.
Miles Teller is an alumnus of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute’s program at New York University. Learn more about The Lee Strasberg Method Acting™ BFA program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.