Miles Teller puts on the gloves for ‘Bleed for This’
It’s likely that when different segments of today’s movie audiences think of Miles Teller, they conjure up very different movies. There are the hip fans of “Whiplash,” the teen dystopia fans of the “Divergent” series, and the art house fans of his first film “Rabbit Hole.” His newest, “Bleed for This,” is a truly inspirational look at a successful man whose world fell apart, but who then got back up and in the face of incredible adversity, again stood tall. Teller plays pro boxer Vinny Pazienza, the former champ who was so severely injured in a car accident, he was told he might never walk again. But his idea was that not only would he walk, he would also climb back into the ring. Teller, 29, visited Pazienza’s home town of Providence, Rhode Island, to talk about preparing for and taking on the grueling role.
Q: Were you thinking of acting when you were growing up in Florida?
A: No, I was playing a lot of baseball. But at the end of my sophomore year at Lecanto High School, one of my best friends said he was going to audition for a play there. I went along, and he introduced me to Beth Bedee, who taught drama there and was very passionate about it. So I auditioned, did my first play, and loved it. From there Beth kind of started basing plays around me, and gave me a lot of good reading material. She saw something in me, and because of her I got really excited about drama at an early age, and I ended up studying acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Q: You acted opposite Aaron Eckhart in “Rabbit Hole” in 2010, and now you’re back together with him playing your trainer. Was there a different feeling to it this time?
A: Aaron and I share the same agent, and over the years we’ve bumped into each other and gotten to know each other a little. So by the time we came to film this, there were no walls. We knew that for the trainer-fighter relationship it had to be like it would be in real life: completely intimate and personal. You know, your trainer is sometimes your father figure, your coach, your nutritionist, your strategist. You have to have so much trust in this guy. So to be able to do this with Aaron all these years later was very comfortable.
Q: When you play a boxer in a film, you have to actually look like a boxer. What did you do to get in the right shape?
A: I got cast in March and we filmed in November, and I made two movies in between. But for those eight months I was on a special diet and I was at the gym. By the time I got back to L.A. for this, I had only four or five weeks to work with my boxing coach. I had to lose 20 pounds for it, to get down to six percent body fat. And because Vinny goes up in weight in the movie, we had to show that. So I actually gained 15 pounds while we were filming.
Q: Before this film, did you ever have thoughts about what it would feel like to get hit in the face?
A: I don’t shy away from contact sports. I think you either have that dog mentality in you or you don’t. I can certainly tap into it. I got hit by a bunch of guys; for the first couple of weeks it was my boxing coach, Darrell Foster, who was the boxing consultant on the film. If I didn’t have my hands up, he’d give me a good one! (laughs)
Q: You also worked against real boxers in the film, Peter Quillan and Edwin Rodriguez. Did they take it easy on you?
A: It was funny with Peter, because if we were doing the choreographed things and I accidentally hit him, I would say, “My bad,” and he would go, “Dude, I want you to try and hit me in the face!” These guys were wonderful because they realized they were serving the story. So Peter took some pretty good head shots from me because he was selfless and just wanted to contribute to the movie.
Q: Did you learn enough about boxing to be able to hold your own now for a round or two?
A: Maybe with other actors. I’m not going all Mickey Rourke with it.
Q: You did some stellar drumming in “Whiplash.” Are you still finding time to play music?
A: Oh, yeah, I’ll always have a couple guitars and a drum set and a piano around. And someday I’d love to play drums or guitar in a band.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.