Miles Teller Interview: ’21 & Over’ Star Talks Real-Life Shenanigans, Getting Naked With Skylar Astin, and ‘The Spectacular Now’
From the minds of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who both brought us 'The Hangover,' the flick follows two buddies who surprise their high school bestie, Jeff Chang, with a crazy night out on the town for his 21st birthday, even though he's got the job interview of his life early the next morning. Expectedly, once Jeff gets too drunk to handle (and everything seems to fall into chaos), the night quickly becomes one of mayhem as the duo try to get him home and sobered up before morning.
We had the opportunity to briefly chat with Teller about, among other things, the making of '21 & Over,' the one scene with Skylar Astin he'll probably never forget, his Sundance hit 'The Spectacular Now,' and taking a break from acting. [WARNING: this interview contains minor spoilers.]
I was looking at the description of ‘Are We Officially Dating?’ [currently in post-production] and it reminded me a little of your character in ’21 & Over’ – that sort of “have as much fun as possible”-type of guy. And before ’21 & Over,’ you were in ‘Project X,’ so I was just wondering what it is about this type of character, this type of movie that appeals to you.
I legitimately thought this script [for '21 & Over'] was the funniest script I’d read in a really long time. I think Jon and Scott have a really good voice, they’re really tapped into the youth and what’s going on. ‘Are We Officially Dating?,’ that character is completely different. That’s somebody, you know, he’s got a full-time job, and this and that, and [‘Are We Officially Dating?'] is post college so he’s not really doing keg stands, and wearing Mardi Gras beads and playing beer pong with ethnic Serbs. It’s a little different.
And with ‘Project X,’ I don’t know, that was just a small little bit. And that was fun to shoot ‘cause that was just like 200 extras, go from 7 PM to 7 AM, and just like have a… there’s a midget running around, there’s a DJ, and it was a shit show. So, I don’t know, I mean I do like to party.
Your character in ’21 & Over’ is the quintessential party animal. Are there any crazy nights from your past that helped you play him?
I’ve had a bunch of ‘em. [laughs]
What’s the craziest one?
I don’t know, man, I can’t really remember. I started drinking young. I think that’s a Southern thing. So by the time I was 13 -- actually like 6th grade, like 12 or 13 -- we used to steal my buddy’s grandpa’s Old Milwaukee on like a Tuesday, hide it in the woods next to my house and then drink it on like Friday. So it was like four-day-old, warm Old Milwaukee. So we used to drink that, then bike on over to this girl’s house and just hangout.
What was the off-screen dynamic like between you and the rest of the cast? Was it easy to bond with Skylar [Astin], Justin [Chon] and Sarah [Wright]?
Yeah. Sarah's awesome. It's hard to come into that situation, I think, as the only girl and hang out with a bunch of guys, especially where we're doing this raunchier, college humor. But Sarah's a champ. And then Justin, I still kick it with him out in California. He's a bit of a boozer. He takes me out to K-Town, Korea Town, and we party over there. And Skylar's a cool dude, he does his thing. But yeah, when we were filming we had a great time.
What was your favorite scene to shoot in the movie?
The scene where I’m paddling the girls and watchin’ them make out. Jon and Scott said -- and I have sisters and stuff -- you want to make it comfortable especially because you’re working with other actors, you don’t want to just be a jackass. You don’t want to be too jokey, but at the same time you don’t want to be too serious. I just remember at one point I was like, “Hey, while they’re making out, can I be like eating chips?” So I was just sitting there eating snacks while these two pretty girls are making out. It was one of the most relaxing days on set I’ve ever had. Afterwards I felt like I had gotten a massage. It was just so nice, man.
And then my least favorite was when I had to kiss Skylar. [laughs]
Yeah. Speaking of that scene, you guys were butt naked, surrounded by a ton of girls. How did you get comfortable in your own skin doing something like that?
You work out before the movie starts and you hope that you’re in good enough shape to where you mind looking at yourself ass naked on screen, pretty much. That scene where we’re chained up and all these girls are surrounding us, because we’re shackled up, at one point the shackle broke, so the only way to fix it was to bend down and fix. And I turned around to the girls behind me, I said, “I’m so sorry for what’s about to happen,” and basically had to bend over in front of them and fix this thing.
How did you and Skylar get comfortable doing a scene like that?
You don’t, man. You just tell the camera guys, make sure you’re in focus, let’s just do one take and let’s go.
A lot of the types of jokes in this seem similar to ‘Project X’ and ‘The Hangover.’ Do you think this kind of humor goes too far at any point?
Well, I would respectfully disagree with the comparison to ‘Project X.’ In ‘Project X’ there’s really not a strong narrative and it's shot very much in the vain of a music video with all the handhelds, and this and that. That’s really not style-ly comparable. I wouldn’t call ‘Project X’ a comedy. I really thought it was like this phantasmagoria, like overload of the senses, very much like a music video. So I can’t really comment on that.
I thought that really for a rated R it was pretty soft. There’s not a whole lot of stuff in there that I think is overly edgier or pushing the boundaries.
You finished wrapping up ‘The Spectacular Now’ a while ago, and I haven’t seen it, but a couple of my colleagues have and they were very impressed with your performance. So congratulations on that.
I’ve been reading that it’s going to SXSW.
Yeah, I think it’s playing March 11 at SXSW.
What’s the current plan to bring this film to the masses more?
Yeah, it was picked up by A24. A24 is a distribution company, they’re doing ‘Bling Ring,’ Sofia Coppola’s movie. They’re also doing ‘Spring Breakers.’ I think the goal for this is August 2 it’ll start out in select cities and then platform.
I think ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ and the fact that movie did so well and really found a big audience, I think that kind of opened the door probably a little bit for this.
How did that part come about for you?
I just finished ‘Footloose’ and I auditioned for it for, there was a different guy for it, this guy name Lee Toland Krieger – he did ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ and some other stuff. First of all, that script ['Spectacular Now'] is so good, man, so good. And I read that. I did an audition for him, it wasn’t that good, they said it’s not going to go further. I said, well let me do it again, let me get a little more time. I did it again, and the second time they said, well it’s better but you’re still not what we’re looking for. So I said, okay, disappointed.
And then Lee fell out, and then like a year and a half later it came back, and Nicholas Hoult was attached to it and then he fell out because he had to do some movie. And I met with James Ponsoldt, the director, and we just met at a bar and just legitimately had drinks, some food, and talked for two or three hours. Afterwards he said he had to talk to some producers but he really wanted to do the movie with me. That’s pretty much how it happened. I never had to audition for James, he just trusted me.
What about your future plans? What do you have coming up?
’21 & Over’ is one of five films, literally, that I have coming out. ‘The Spectacular Now’ just did Sundance. That’ll come out August 2. I did a film called ‘Get a Job’ last year with Anna Kendrick and Bryan Cranston. That’ll come out… I’m not sure. I’m doing some voice over stuff and we’re messing with that. And then I did a film called ‘Two Night Stand,’ which I shot last fall, and then I think the goal for that is Toronto [Film Festival], but we’ll see. And then ‘Are We Officially Dating?’ with Zac [Efron] and Michael B. [Jordan] and Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis is in that. I literally just finished that two or three weeks ago. I think they want that to go to Toronto too.
So a bunch of stuff coming out, and I’m just gonna hold off on filming for a little bit until there’s something that is literally like, I have, have to do this. You gotta be careful when you have a lot of stuff coming out.
A lot of actors are branching off into production and directing work. Is that something you'd like to do?
Yeah, absolutely. The next project that I work on... I kinda have some downtime, and producing is absolutely something that I plan on getting into. At this point I know a decent amount of writers and would love to sit down with them. And I am going to sit down and and just try and craft something. And directing, for sure. The one thing about directing is that it's so fricken time consuming... So it's a lot of stuff, but I love actors, and I think that I've always had a good idea of how to give them a nice environment to work out of.