One of the best things about the new 'Footloose?' That funny guy who plays Willard. Miles Teller ably fills the cowboy boots of the original Willard, Chris Penn, and still manages to make the part his own. He's also drawing comparisons to a young John Cusack and Vince Vaughn and has just wrapped a movie either could have starred in back in the day: '21 and Over.' Not too shabby. Turns out Teller never saw the original 'Footloose' -- "I'm not a big movie buff," he admits -- but he did happen to see some of co-star Andie MacDowell's movies and told her while filming that she was his first crush.
You first played Willard in a high school play.
Yeah, that was the first play that I ever did.

So was it an advantage going into this?
Absolutely. I had a whole run with it. I knew the story of 'Footloose,' not through some other actor performing it, but from the text. So I came into it with a strong foundation of what I wanted to do with the character. But now I was more physically right for the character. When I did it in high school, I was like 5' 2" and 115 lbs or something.

But you had the attitude?
Yeah, I had the big boy attitude.

I'm sure you've already heard a million times how much you resemble Chris Penn, the original Willard.
Yeah, that's what I've been hearing, which is fantastic. That's a great compliment. I actually haven't seen the original. I've seen some scenes from it, so I kind of know Penn's take on it. But I was just excited to revisit this character because I had so much nostalgia associated with it.

So are you the only one in the cast who hadn't seen the original movie?
Yeah, I think so. Probably one of the only people in the world. [Laughs.] Honestly, I'm not a big movie buff in general. The only movies I own is probably the Indiana Jones trilogy.

What was the most different about making the movie, versus doing it as a stage play?
Well, in high school, I was singing, because it's a musical, so that's different. And when I did it in high school, I was the little guy and Ren was my buddy who was, like, way bigger than me. And when I would be like, "Hey man, you want to fight?" I'm sure it was more comedic because I was just this little bulldog with a mouth. But in this one, obviously my understanding of acting was a little more in-depth, so I guess that's what I brought to it, a better brain.

What kind of dancer are you in real life?
If there's a live band playing, then I'm in my element.

And you're a musician as well.
Yeah, I've played drums in bands since I was 16.

What's your take on the way the songs were revamped... wait, do you even know the original songs?
Yeah, because I did the musical.

But do you know the songs on the '84 movie soundtrack?
I've heard some of the new versions. I've heard the Blake Shelton. I've heard Victoria Justice's 'Almost Paradise,' which I think is great. 'Let's Hear it for the Boy' is fantastic. Best song in the movie. [Grins widely.]

Because it's Willard's big moment.
That song is always a good time. Honestly, I could hear that song for the rest of my life and I'll always smile.

You will always be associated with it from now on.
Yeah, I hope so. [Laughs.]

This is the first thing I've seen you in and I thought that your accent had to be real.
I grew up in a southern town in Florida, so that's legitimate how some of my buddies talk. And the original accent that I did was too southern and they said, "We can't understand a thing you're saying." And then Laray Mayfield, the casting director, she's from Tennessee, and [director] Craig [Brewer] is from Memphis, so they wanted me to make it a little more twangy.

Andie MacDowell told me you remind her of John Cusack.
Is she here today?

Yes, she is.
Oh, I haven't seen her. Andie, that's cool. Has she seen the movie yet?

Yes, she said she was really impressed with your scenes, so you've got a fan right there.
She was my first crush in 'Groundhog Day' and 'Multiplicity.'

Does she know?
Yeah, I told her. She said if she was much younger, she would have reciprocated. That's interesting that she said that about John Cusack. I get that all the time. And then this last film I worked on, they said I was somewhere between John Cusack and Vince Vaughn. Todd Phillips [whom Teller just worked with on 'Projext X'] actually compared me to a young Vince Vaughn at one point. That's awesome coming from him.

What are you doing next? Have you been getting all kinds of offers?
Yeah, I am getting some. I just wrapped a movie yesterday called '21 and Over.' That's from the guys who wrote 'The Hangover.' It's their first movie they've directed. It's a comedy about our buddy's 21st birthday party. It's really funny.

Who do you play in it?
I play one of Justin Chon's buddies. It's his 21st birthday and we go up to surprise him and he says he can't go out because he's got this big medical school interview the next day. And I say, "Well, that's not gonna happen."

You're that guy.
Right, I tell him, that's bullsh-t, let's have go out for a beer and one beer leads to ... and then it's about us trying to get back. It was a ton of fun.

[Photos: Getty, Paramount]

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July 28, 2016
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categories Interviews, Movies