Miles Teller will happily suffer for his art.
The “Whiplash” star endured more than a monstrous blister during the “boot camp” training for “Only the Brave.” The gig also required going on extended hikes hauling a 45 lb. pack at all times.
The worst part? Going blond for the role, if only thanks to all the Eminem jabs he read online.
In person, the 30-year-old actor proved as affable as you might expect from his gallery of film roles. Think the “Divergent” wisecracker or the soulful Sutter Keely from “The Spectacular Now.”
The movie casts him as Brendan McDonough, a troubled 20-something who joins a fire fighting squad to turn his life around. The film, based on a real-life tragedy, co-stars Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges and James Badge Dale.
Teller says the film’s mandatory boot camp prep was as brutal as promised. And equally as essential.
“You can’t slack off. It wasn’t the environment for it,” Teller says. “The collective suffering was very tough but that was also the best part.”
Other films might have the stars “bond” over beers or bowling. Here, that “collective suffering” trumped any manufactured on-set bromances.
That mattered, since this wasn’t any ordinary film project. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, a band of elite fire fighters, raced to the scene of the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona four years ago. It’s what they did for blazes large and small.
This particular fire didn’t pose a massive risk -- at first. It soon grew to frightening proportions. “Brave” is a testament to the Hotshots’ skill, their selfless acts and, at times, their bawdy sense of humor.
Miles Teller, Hotshot in Training
The boot camp prep was just part of an effort to capture the Hotshots with both accuracy and grace.
“We cared more about authenticity that ‘Hollywood-izing’ it,” Teller says. “From top to bottom everyone wanted to get it right.”
The actor hopes the cast and crew did just that.
The fire fighters and first responders attending the film’s L.A. premier apparently thought so. Teller shares how they shook the cast’s hands following the screening “for keeping their spirit alive,” he says.
Teller’s own life has had its share of life and death moments.
He nearly died a decade ago after being thrown from a car traveling at 80 miles an hour. He sports two vertical scars on his chin from the crash, which threw his body through the car window.
“We were only 15 minutes from a hospital in North Carolina, and an ambulance was there almost immediately,” he recalls. The following year he lost two close friends to separate car accidents.
An Audience with Duvall
The other drama in his life has been far more positive and career affirming. Like the time Robert Duvall himself spotted him at an event and asked to speak to the rising talent.
They talked about dancing, beef (“He’ a big fan of beef,” Teller shares) and career longevity. The meeting humbled the young star. So did a story from a pal who worked on a play with Al Pacino. The friend told Teller what he saw when visiting the “Godfather” legend’s office space.
“Al had all these books on acting spread across the table. Al Pacino still feels he needs to learn? Nobody has it figured out and everybody’s nervous before they show up that first day on a movie. I know I feel that,” he says. “There’s a real fear of failure that drives people to do this thing.”