He survived a car crash, lost two friends then found fame in the Oscar-winning Whiplash. Tim Lewis meets Miles Teller, whose success is shadowed by reports of dickishness
There are a few ways you might know Miles Teller, a 29-year-old actor who is pretty universally thought to be the future of Hollywood. For chin-stroking cineastes, he is the Whiplash kid. That film, which tells the story of a virtuoso jazz drummer and his sadistic orchestra leader, was so out-of-the-blue brilliant that, after seeing it, it was hard not to become its personal publicist, imploring friends, even strangers to see it. Made in 19 days, for just $3 million, it won three Oscars, though not for Teller.
And then, for cruisers of the Mail Onlines Sidebar of Shame, Teller is clickbait notorious as a dick. This suggestion came from an American Esquire cover story that went viral last August. The article mocked his swaggering confidence and the way he talked about the actors he had in his sights: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix. It was a savage, career-jarring take-down and the modern world for you was forwarded around to many more people than have ever seen Whiplash.
The question is: is Miles Teller the new Ryan Gosling or even the next De Niro or Pacino? Or is he, excuse the bluntness, a dick? On a Saturday afternoon in August, Teller strides into a swanky hotel suite on the 39th floor thats just about eye level with the clouds. He is in town to promote his new movie, War Dogs, directed by The Hangovers Todd Phillips, but he has shazzy blond hair from a film hes currently shooting with Josh Brolin and Jennifer Connelly, about firefighters tackling a wildfire that raged through Arizona in 2013.
The Teller story really begins in the summer of 2007, when, as a 20-year-old Grateful Dead fan, he was travelling home to Florida from a Deadhead festival called Gathering of the Vibes. His friend was behind the wheel, another was in the back seat, every inch of space was jammed with camping equipment. Then, at 80mph, the car skidded, jumped three lanes of traffic and flipped eight times. Teller was knocked unconscious and woke up 30ft from the vehicle, his face covered in blood.
The guy driving, he was fine, my buddy he was sleeping in the back, Teller recalls. I even had a bag of tomatoes that were fine. Everything was fine except for my face.
He laughs, though not with much enthusiasm. At the hospital he was told he was actually pretty lucky: 99.9% of people ejected from a car at that speed would be dead. They fixed his broken wrist and put 20 staples in his shoulder; his face would require numerous laser surgeries, the kind also used for removing tattoos, to make the cuts, he says, mitigated in a certain way. The scars on his throat and chin still catch the eye and two rocks remain in his face, embedded deep in scar tissue.
When Teller first went to acting school, he used to joke that if his dog died, that would be the most emotionally wrenching experience hed had to endure in his life. He comes from a stable, well-to-do family: his father was an engineer on a nuclear-power plant; his mother sold real estate. He grew up mostly in a small town in Florida with a modest claim to fame as the manatee capital of the world. He was effortlessly strong academically, and excelled at sports, especially baseball. He started acting because his drama teacher was pretty hot, and landed a place at New York Universitys prestigious Tisch School. Then the crash.