miles teller whiplashMiles Teller is on a roll. He broke out as Willard in "Footloose," charmed Shailene Woodley in "The Spectacular Now" and is taking over the role of Reed Richards in the upcoming "Fantastic Four."

In his new film, the Sundance Award-winning indie "Whiplash," he plays a talented jazz drummer whobecomes a student of one of the most gifted -- but also most brutal -- teachers (J.K. Simmons of "Oz," and "Spider-Man" fame) who pushes him to the breaking point.

Moviefone sat down with Teller to talk about how he pushed himself for the demanding role, how director Damien Chazelle wrote the part just for him, and why his dream is to play Elvis.

Moviefone: You did your own drumming for this. How long did you train?

Miles Teller: I started playing drums when I was 15. I played in some rock bands and stuff. I took my drums with me when I moved out to New York. And then when I moved out to L.A.... I've always had my drum kit on standby in case some of my friends who play guitar come over, we can jam. For the movie, I never played jazz before, so I started taking lessons for four hours a day, three days a week. I think we had about three weeks. Not a whole lot of time.

That's pretty intense.

Yeah, it was intense. I was pretty nervous about not being able to do it.

In several scenes in the film, you play until there's blood on the drums. Was any of that blood ever yours?

My hands started to get kind of gnarled up. I was getting blisters and bloody blisters and all that. Had you ever wanted to be a professional musician before this? I don't know. There were always people that were better than me, skill-wise, but I always felt like I could, like, feel it more. But whenever we'd have bonfires and stuff in high school parties, I'd usually be the guy playing the guitar and singing and stuff. Yeah, music was a big part of my life.

Have you ever wanted anything as badly as Andrew wants to be the next Buddy Rich?

No. I don't think so. I've wanted things and I do feel like if you want something, if you're putting it out there, it will come to you, a lot of the time. At least in my experience. So I've had that, there's certain things that I really want, certain movies certain projects where I just told myself, "This is gonna happen." Usually my agent can tell when I really want a script. The way I talk to her on the phone, she can tell if I'm really excited about it. For the most part, the movies that I get really excited about, I get an opportunity to work on.

Was this one of those?

Oh, for sure. This one was just offered to me, though. It just really came right to my doorstep. Was it written with you in mind? Yeah. Damien wrote it when "Rabbit Hole" [Teller's film debut] came out and he kinda had me in mind.

Did he know you had been a drummer?

No, he didn't, actually.

You have these scenes where J.K. Simmons is just screaming in your face. How hard is that?

Those were great. At the end of the day, you want to be doing a good scene, and I think every young actor wants to be in those scenes where there's yelling and intense drama. So, for me, those were great.

How tough is it to cry on command?

It was tough because, in the script, there's a very specific point where you're supposed to have, like, one tear. Never, ever does a director say, "I need you to cry on this line." Sometimes they will want it, but usually they know that's a bullsh*t thing to ask. But in this one, it was just a matter of getting upset, which was easy to do, because I understood where my character was coming from, he was making fun of me and all this shit, and I get it. Yeah, you just have to hold on to it and try and do it.

Have you ever had a teacher or director who was anywhere near as verbally abusive as Fletcher was to Andrew?

Not really. I had a baseball coach that was pretty tough on me. But I didn't really respect the guy, so it didn't matter what he was saying. I thought he was just yelling for the sake of yelling. I just didn't know where he was coming from with it.

Do you think Andrew, despite all the abuse, ends up better off because he met Fletcher?

I don't think he's better off, no.

But would he have gotten where he wanted to without Fletcher?

No. Skill-wise, he would not have gotten there by himself, because you do want someone to push you. Even with acting, I could come in, I could do takes and this and that, but usually I take that's in the movie is a collaboration between me and the director. I'm doing something but he's trying to bring me to a better place or a different place. So, yeah, I do think you need someone to push you.

Hopefully, not by crossing the line as much as Fletcher.

Oh, for sure, he f*ckin' throws a chair at me! He slaps me in the face. That's crossing a line.

What was the toughest scene to film? [SPOILER AHEAD]

The toughest scene was that car accident scene. If you do it in a certain way, it's almost too comedic. We know the fact that this kid gets in this car accident -- he's got blood all over him -- and he still goes to play. You can lose your audience right there. They can just be like, "You're really going to play after that?" Up to that point, you really believe that this kid would friggin' get in a car accident and still want to play. Because he's just that deluded; he's just that crazy. At this point, he's so obsessed about it. So, I just wanted to make sure that I could do the car accident, because you have to create the energy that happens after you get in a car accident and keep it believable.

You've actually been in a really bad car accident. [About five years ago, the car he was in flipped, ejecting him and giving him the facial scars he still has.]

Yeah, but I blacked out. I don't remember anything. I remember waking up in the hospital. I remember asking my buddy what happened, but I don't remember anything else.

You've said your dream project would be to play a young Elvis.

I would love to play Elvis. There's a director I've worked with in the past, Craig Brewer. He did "Footloose" and "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan." He's from Memphis and he's got this script that he gave me when we were filming "Footloose," because he saw me walking around with a guitar. It's a project I would love to do with him. I can see it. It's the only historical figure I've ever felt like I would want to play.

"Whiplash" hits theaters Friday, October 10.

categories Interviews, Movies