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The Worst Things Miles Teller Has Done For His Roles

With films like 2014's "Whiplash" and 2022's "Top Gun: Maverick," Miles Teller has shown again and again that he's a force to be reckoned with. The actor has a long history of working with talented and intense thespians (take J.K. Simmons and Tom Cruise, for example) and matching their performances instead of getting overwhelmed by them.

This should come as no surprise, as Teller studied acting at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute before breaking into the indie movie scene with 2010's "Rabbit Hole." Since then, Teller has proven again and again that he can go to some pretty extreme lengths for the sake of his performances, whether it's a prestige drama or a controversial superhero flick. But just how extreme, you ask? Well, read on to see how Miles Teller takes his roles very seriously — no matter the personal cost and no matter how awful things get.

Getting ignored by co-stars

"Rabbit Hole" was Miles Teller's first feature film, and it got him attention from Hollywood studios. The movie stars Nicole Kidman as Rebecca and Aaron Eckhart as Howard, a couple who are dealing with the devastating loss of their 4-year-old son, Danny, due to a car accident. 

Teller plays the role of Jason, the teenage driver responsible for Danny's death. Naturally, the relationship between Jason and Rebecca and Howard is deeply fraught, and one of the major moments of the film is when the couple have to directly confront Jason and their resentment towards him. To help get into character, Kidman came up with a method of channeling that resentment in real life towards the young and inexperienced Teller. 

"Nicole had an idea that she wanted us to develop a kind of relationship as our characters did," Teller explained to The Daily Telegraph Australia (via Digital Spy). "So at the beginning she didn't talk to me at all." Although Kidman eventually started treating Teller normally on set, he described the overall experience as being pretty rough. Despite the experience on set being far from pleasant, Kidman's tactic worked, and all the main actors received critical appreciation for their performances in "Rabbit Hole." 

Making his fingers bleed

After a string of well-received roles in lesser-known films, Miles Teller experienced his first major breakout moment with the runaway success of 2014's "Whiplash." Directed by Damien Chazelle, "Whiplash" follows the journey of Teller's character, Andrew, a talented jazz drummer pushed to the very edge by his band's demanding conductor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).

Watching Fletcher harass and intimidate his band is a harrowing experience, and Andrew gets the full brunt of Fletcher's verbal and physical abuse. But due to his passion for jazz, Andrew sticks with the program and works relentlessly to get better as a drummer. In one scene, Andrew's fingers start bleeding due to long hours of practice, and that was something that really happened to Teller since that's really him drumming in most of the scenes

"I did have some blood [during the drumming scenes]," the actor admitted to IndieWire, adding, "Depending on where I was at, I'd have a band-aid on my index finger — but then it was like three band-aids, and this and that." Still, Teller soldiered through the pain of drumming with bleeding and damaged fingers, and his commitment adds a great deal of authenticity to the scenes in "Whiplash" where you can see Andrew pushing himself to the very limit.

Getting slapped for real

While Miles Teller received a great deal of acclaim for his starring role as Andrew in "Whiplash," the breakout performance from the movie is J.K. Simmons' demented turn as the cruel and vicious band conductor Fletcher. Simmons' character is the kind of guy who has no issues with invading his students' personal space in the most brutal manner, complete with physical and mental abuse. 

All through the movie, we see Fletcher harangue Andrew with words and actions regarding his drumming skills. In one of the film's most disturbing moments, Fletcher slaps Andrew repeatedly, claiming this will help him learn the tempo better. The scene is hard to watch, and it was also hard for Teller to film since he was actually getting slapped repeatedly by his co-star. 

"[Teller] was reluctant to be slapped really hard dozen of times," Simmons jokingly recalled of the experience in an interview with Rolling Stone. "And I couldn't understand why he wouldn't enjoy that, that level of acting and commitment." In an interview with HuffPost Live, Simmons again joked about Teller, saying, "He was near tears the entire time." Honestly, who wouldn't be?

Undergoing fireman training

There's long been a physical bent to the roles Miles Teller has played over his career. Sometimes, it's something as simple as learning how to be a jazz drummer. Other times, the physical challenges are much greater, bordering on deadly — like the time Teller played the role of a fireman in the 2017 biographical drama movie "Only the Brave."

The film deals with the on-the-job realities of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of firefighters in Prescott, Arizona, and their battle to contain the tragic Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. In order to get under the skin of their characters, the main cast, including Teller, had to undergo extensive fireman training with a pronounced element of danger in the form of actual fires. 

"I've worked with some pretty intense stuff," Teller's co-star in the film, Taylor Kitsch, told GQ about what training for their roles involved, "but 20- or 30- or 40-foot fires, that's no joke. That gets hot, man. Real quick." The actor went on to explain that the training camp lasted for 10 days, during which the lead actors were taken through their paces by actual firefighters, and the cast was able to form a real-life bond that's mirrored in the film.  

A bad kissing experience

While Miles Teller has gained a distinguished reputation as a dramatic actor, he's also dipped his toes in the romance genre with interesting results. In 2013, Teller starred in "The Spectacular Now," an adaptation of the 2008 novel of the same name by Tim Tharp, opposite Teller's "Divergent" co-star Shailene Woodley.

Teller and Woodley play two high school students who don't know each other very well despite growing up around one another. A chance encounter in their final year brings the two characters together, and they begin a tumultuous relationship marred by lies, alcohol, and their difficult dynamic with their respective parents. Some of the scenes in the movie involve Teller and Woodley making out, and the experience was far from pleasant for Teller.

"Before our first kissing scene, Shailene took these Chinese dirt supplements and shoved them in her mouth," the actor explained in an interview with Variety. "It's like a dirt pouch, and it smells like crap." The strong aroma was far from pleasant so close to his mouth, but Teller soldiered on with the kissing assignment for the sake of his character. Despite the challenges, he and Woodley did manage to create a compelling on-screen romance together. 

Feeling dead inside

In the wake of "The Hunger Game's" success, dystopian fiction fans were treated to the "Divergent" series, based on the 2011 novel by Veronica Roth and starring Shailene Woodley in the lead role. The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world divided into factions, all held together by a shadowy government order. Miles Teller plays the role of Peter Hayes, one of the main characters in the series. "Divergent" and its sequels were some of the most popular movies Teller had done until that point, but the actor once confessed that playing Peter was far from a satisfying or interesting job. 

"When I first read 'Whiplash,' I was feeling dead inside," Teller told W Magazine. "I didn't have an interesting part [in 'Divergent'], and I'd taken the film for business reasons." Naturally fans of the "Divergent" series and the studio were less than thrilled with Teller's honesty, and the actor later tried to reframe his words later to put them in a better light.

An intense boxing regimen

In 2016's "Bleed for This," Miles Teller stars as real-life former world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, aka Vinny Paz. The film tells the story of Vinny's time as one of the world's top boxers before a car accident leaves him with severe neck injuries. Against his doctor's advice, Vinny endures a painful recovery process, overcomes his injury, and finally gets back into the boxing ring. 

As you might imagine, the film required a great deal of physical work from Teller to convincingly play the role of a champion boxer. The actor embarked on a brutal training regimen that, according to Men's Journal, reshaped his body into peak physique, with the magazine saying, "The results of Teller's efforts showed in his physicality, weighing in at a lean 168 pounds and only 6 percent body fat."

To add to the realism of the boxing scenes, Teller faced off against actual professional fighters. "Sometimes I'd get hit," the actor explained in the same Men's Journal piece. "It would happen, because the guys I was in there with were actual boxers, not actors." In order to keep going, Teller would remind himself of the real Vinny Pazienza and all the painful injuries he had suffered in the ring over his career. 

Feeling he was about to die

In the past, Miles Teller had made a name for himself for taking on all kinds of physically challenging roles in smaller movies. But the actor entered into a whole different ballgame after he accepted the role of ace pilot Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw in "Top Gun: Maverick" opposite action superstar Tom Cruise.  

Cruise is well-known for doing practical stunts instead of relying on green screens and CGI, and the cast of the movie knew the hair-raising scenes of fighter pilot action would as real as possible. For Teller, this meant undergoing intensive flight training and then sitting in the cockpit of an actual F-18 fighter jet just behind the actual pilot. Needless to say, the experience was a tough one to endure. In an interview with TechRadar, Teller explained that the actors underwent flight training for four months before ever stepping on the film set. 

But even all that training didn't stop the actual stunts from overwhelming the actor's body with the rapid changes in gravity. "I definitely had a moment where I thought I was going to die," Teller told LADbible. "There was a sequence where we were heading straight towards the ground, and you do what's called a max G pull-up." According to the actor, the moment was so terrifying that he completely stopped acting and saw his life flash before his eyes. 

Ingesting jet fuel

"Top Gun: Maverick" had long been a passion project for its lead actor, Tom Cruise, and he had big plans for making the movie larger than life but also realistic. This meant that the film's story about a group of fighter pilots was shot on location, with real fighter jets, and the main cast actually went up in the air to shoot the aerial scenes.

For Cruise's co-star Miles Teller, the experience was unlike anything he'd attempted in his career before, and so was the toll taken on his body. After a particularly grueling flight session, the actor got back to the ground feeling highly unwell. "I was really hot and I just started itching like crazy," Teller told Seth Meyers in an interview. "So I got out of the jet. I'm just covered in hives. Head to toe."

The alarmed actor went to a doctor and got his blood tests done, which confirmed the presence of "flame-retardant, pesticide, and jet fuel" in his veins. After getting treated for his condition, Teller was back on set, where Cruise asked him what the blood test had revealed. When Teller told Cruise that the doctors had found jet fuel in his blood, the A-lister replied, "Yeah, I was born with it, kid." 

Almost getting physical with his director

There are few big-budget films that have gained as notorious a reputation as Josh Trank's 2015 gritty reimagining of "Fantastic Four." The film itself is less entertaining than the behind-the-scenes stories, with then-newbie director Trank fighting the studio at every turn to make the film he wanted in the way he wanted.

Miles Teller plays the role of Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, in the movie. While Teller didn't have any problems embodying the character, he did struggle with the studio's demands to change the tone of the movie and the allegedly erratic behavior of Trank during filming. Things got so bad that it was reported by EW (via Yahoo!) that Teller and Trank almost got into a physical brawl on the set of their movie, with the two allegedly getting up close and personal and daring each other to start throwing blows.

For his part, Teller has been carefully reserved when referencing his dynamic with Trank. "I think that's a pretty personal relationship," the actor told Newsweek, adding, "The people you made [the movie] with know what happened, and that's fine for me."   

Laughing for hours at a time

In 2022, Miles Teller starred opposite Chris Hemsworth and Jurnee Smollett in the Netflix sci-fi horror flick "Spiderhead," adapted from the short story "Escape from Spiderhead" by George Saunders. The film put Teller in a new genre from his past films and paired him up with director Joseph Kosinski, who also directed Teller in "Top Gun: Maverick." 

The film explores a state-of-the-art penitentiary where convicted criminals are offered the chance to test new drugs in exchange for avoiding jail time. Teller's character, Jeff, is given N-40, described as a "love drug" that alters his brain chemistry and makes him get intimate with his fellow inmates. In one scene in the film, Jeff is induced to laugh for a long time, and that's the scene Teller identifies as the hardest to shoot for him.

After all, as the actor explained in an interview with Tudum, laughing for hours certainly isn't easy. Teller also had a hard time following his character's emotional journey from incredible highs to incredible lows depending on the drugs Jeff is given. "It was just tough," the actor told ComingSoon, going on to explain, "I think, just having to kind of shift back and forth constantly, there were a couple of days where I just felt like a crazy person."

Training to play a soldier with PTSD

Miles Teller is no stranger to tackling heavy subject matter in his roles. But there was something very different and hard-hitting about his 2017 feature "Thank You for Your Service." The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by David Finkel, which deals with the world of veteran soldiers grappling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Naturally, the heavy subject matter entailed a deep dive into the depressing world of underfunded military rehabilitation programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once again, Teller underwent intense training to get into the frame of mind of a soldier. This time, he was playing a real-life person, veteran Adam Schumann, who was involved in the making of the film, and the actor had to engage with the psychological side of playing a soldier suffering from PTSD in addition to the physical aspects of the role.  

Teller notes that apart from undergoing boot camp, which he described in an interview with TCU 360 as "five days of really intense training and mentally exhausting," he read a lot of books on PTSD, which brought up some trauma from his own past. "A lot of my friends are [in the] military, and I felt like this was something I'm really getting to," the actor stated in an interview with The Georgetown Voice. "I've been through some stuff in my own life that was pretty tough and traumatizing, and I felt a connection to Adam's character."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.