Miles Teller on 'Insurgent' and What's in Store for 'Fantastic Four' (EXCLUSIVE)
It's one thing to be a part of a huge franchise, spanning several films and carrying the weight of untold box office expectations, but it's an entirely separate thing to be involved in two huge franchises. And that's the position that Miles Teller has found himself in, with the second chapter in the "Divergent" series, "Insurgent," opening this week, and a brand new reboot of Marvel's "Fantastic Four" hitting theaters later this summer. But if he's feeling the pressure, he's certainly not showing it.
I sat down with Teller in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Film Festival, a weeklong celebration of mostly independent films, to talk about "Insurgent," a towering behemoth of a movie whose production budget is probably equal to most of the independents screening at South by Southwest combined. (We also talked about Teller's "Whiplash," the indie movie that seduced Sundance last year and went on to be nominated for a gaggle of Academy Awards.)
Teller was open and honest, talking about how he was able to film "Insurgent" and "Fantastic Four" at the same time, what was on the mix tapes the director would make for him, how he chooses his projects, what's in store for "Fantastic Four," and all about that bank robbing movie he just signed on for.
Moviefone: When we spoke for "That Awkward Moment," it was interesting because you were angling...
Miles Teller: Was I angling? Here's the thing about me: I'm always angling. I just don't show it.
...But you were very clinical about why you did "Divergent" -- that you wanted to broaden your appeal and make yourself known to international audiences. Did that work out like you had planned?
Yeah, absolutely. It's been great to be a part of a franchise that continues to grow and the fact that they're making "Insurgent" and prepping for "Allegiant," they feel like they have a nice franchise on their hands. As much as you can angle and try to be a part of something that does well, you never know how anything is going to do, and the fact that I can be a part of this world with these actors and producers and a new director who I really get along with so well; I look forward to filming these movies every summer and will be upset when they're done. You just get so accustomed to working with these people.
And Robert Schwentke is coming back?
Yes. We all love Robert. He works on what's called French hours -- it's 7 to 5 every day. You don't break for lunch you kind of work through lunch, but you get done at 5 every day. Also, Robert is an aficionado in mix CDs, cigars, and meat. And he was going to this one store in Atlanta and he'd give Shailene a big hunk of meat that we'd grill up and usually had a cigar for me and he made me like six mix CDs.
What was on these CDs?
His taste is all over the map. He gets into some very industrial German techno, early house stuff, and he loves this Icelandic folk escapist stuff. It's hit or miss. But when it's good, it's really good.
You seem to be in this one less than the first movie.
I feel like I'm in it more. Zoe Kravitz was so upset because I was filming "Fantastic Four" at the same time. So I went over for two weeks, then left and came back for a month. And I'm in the whole movie, whereas Zoe was like, "What the hell man? I was there for the whole summer and I'm barely in it." I just said, "I have a better lawyer than you. I don't know." But I feel like I'm in it more.
Is it like summer camp?
Yeah, I love being in Atlanta. I grew up in Florida, so if I can get back to the southeast I feel pretty comfortable there. When I look around, I say "I know these kinds of people." And it's fun to come back with this world and mess with Theo. He's always very serious, and it's fun to play a character where the stakes aren't as big and you can be a little looser.
What was it like going from "Whiplash" to this giant studio thing?
As an actor it should feel the same, in the sense that you prepare for it the same way, there really isn't any difference there. It's just on set you get a lot more downtime. With "Whiplash," you're getting to film four or five scenes because you're literally getting a quarter of the days. And this one, it's all about timing. So you do a take and then you get 30 minutes and have to do it from another angle, you have to be comfortable with turning it off, turning it on. But me and Shailene were still talking to each other like "Spectacular Now." It is pretty funny when you're in these big action movies because it's funny to take yourself that seriously.
Are you going to continue to oscillate between the giant movies and the tiny movies?
For sure. And what people don't understand is that if acting is your job, your life is these movies. So if you're doing a big movie that films in Utah for nine months, that's where you're at. And you might not want to, even if there are two scripts that you really like and one films in Hawaii and the other films in Canada, you very well make the one that shoots in Hawaii. It's all about where you're at in your life. If I'm in a dark place and want to explore that, I'm going to choose a movie that lets me go there. And if I'm feeling like I just did a bunch of dark stuff and I want to smile and be happy, then you're going to choose something that's a little lighter. It takes a while to get to that place, where you can choose a movie that suits your life and what you want to do.
Does getting locked in, well, not locked in...
You can say it! Locked in!
But does getting involved in these big franchises make it harder to do these smaller projects?
Actually, it makes it easier. I know that every summer I'm doing either "Divergent" or I'm doing "Fantastic Four." And "Fantastic Four" shoots every other year, this is shooting every summer and it's always good to have your next job -- so I know that I have that; I know that I have some income coming in, which is great. And then you can choose around there. So you say, "For this movie I'm going to be busy from June to September and let's try and figure out what I'm going to do after that." So that's your main course. I know I'm having turkey.
And it'll allow you to do the other stuff?
Yeah, something that you'll get paid $6,000 for and will be freezing on the side of the road because you gave away your trailer to give a little more money to the budget and it's 20 degrees outside.
Looking back on the whole "Whiplash" experience, did you ever think it would get so big?
No, never. When we were at Sundance, it was the second year in a row that I had a film that people seemed to enjoy and got some attention. And I saw my good friend Michael B. with "Fruitvale" and I saw that film win the Audience and Jury Awards. And he was around all year campaigning and doing the whole thing of shaking hands, which they tell you you have to do. And then the film just falls off, which a lot of independent films do. Even though everybody was telling me and the Sony Pictures Classics guys were telling me, "Oh, it's going to get nominated," I didn't think so. Because once it finally did, it was revealed that "Whiplash" is the second least financially successful movie of any movie nominated. But I wear that with a badge of honor. Because it's like, it doesn't matter that you didn't see it and you didn't see it, because it's good. You want to do a movie that people respond to but getting any kind of award attention is such a different game. But I was happy where it seemed like people had spoken, in a way, for a film that was just so well-reviewed actually did make it the whole year.
And you're going from "Insurgent" to "Fantastic Four." How is that shaping up?
When I saw the sizzle trailer, that was the first I had seen of it. I saw that at the same time as everyone else, literally. I was excited about it. Because when you're shooting a movie you can kind of get a sense of the tone of it from the director and how they're directing it, but in terms of how you shoot it, the lighting and everything, you're not aware of it. Because I'm just in a scene and I'm talking to another actor but the way he's seeing it in his head, where it's grittier or darker, I'm not acting grittier or darker. All that stuff comes in with the edit. So I'm excited by it. All the actors are really interesting in those parts and it should be fun. I hope people go on that ride with us. Because we're making it our own, we're taking a lot from the "Ultimate Fantastic Four" but I think we're humanizing these characters in a way that's never been done.
Are you excited to do the sequel? I'm assuming this is an origin story, so for the sequel you'll be Mr. Fantastic from the get-go.
I mean, the more superhero stuff you get to do, the cooler it is. We'll see what happens, but yes, absolutely, as the thing evolves they should start to materialize to the Fantastic Four people more readily associate with.
Did you read the comics growing up?
I didn't read the comics growing up, but it was my dad's favorite comic. I played a lot of video games, and comic books I collected just because I thought they'd be a cool thing to collect, but I didn't engage with them narratively.
Did you read them after you got the part?
I did a lot of research, yes.
So they're kind of the Beatles of the superhero world.
Who's Ringo? Who's Ringo?
Maybe The Thing.
But everybody knows who they are. Do you play with that in this one, or is it more in the sequel? Is someone going to come in and take us out for talking about this?
Yeah, you've got a red dot on your jacket. I think there are going to be little things and Josh and those guys put some little nuggets in the trailer. There are a few things that hint at what we're going for. I'm excited to see it, man. And so much of what you're doing, like I'm obviously not stretching for however long, so I'm really looking forward to seeing the effects.
Like Jamie's character?
Well, Jamie was there, he was doing this thing, and Jamie has done a lot of motion capture performances before. He was Tin-Tin, so he's great. I love watching that kid act.
Does it seem like Josh is going to come back?
I don't know. I'm assuming [writer/producer Simon] Kinberg is going to be back because he is so good at creating those worlds. He's invaluable to Fox. He's really smart and seems to have a good handle on these worlds and what he was able to do with "X-Men" and being able to re-energize that with the younger cast.
And your heist movie is getting off the ground.
Yes! "The Stopwatch Gang"! It's this really cool story that I was able to adapt. I read it as soon as it came out, as this 35-page short story hosted on this website. And from there, once people knew I was interested in it, started to attach themselves to it. And Ruben Fleischer, who I worked with on "Two Night Stand" as a producer, he said he wanted to direct it, and with me and him together people got interested in it. I'm really looking forward to it because it's the first movie I'm producing. I saw this movie "The Newton Boys" that I loved and these guys became these huge mythological characters. It's an incredible true story and it spans over 40 years and right now we're getting writers to come in and pitch their ideas for it. I've been wanting to produce something for a while.
Tonally, what are you thinking of?
I think it would have to be rated R. It would be an action adventure like "Newton Boys," like "Tombstone" with a little bit of "Maverick." It's got to be fun. You want to be rooting for these guys. And Ruben really wants me to watch this movie "Straight Time" with Dustin Hoffman.
"Insurgent" is in theaters now.