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Exclusive Interview with Miles Teller on 'Footloose'

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Miles Teller at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Footloose' in LA.

Miles Teller at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Footloose' in LA.

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

March 6, 2012 - Miles Teller has been keeping very busy following his breakthrough performance in the independent drama Rabbit Hole opposite Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. Teller can currently be seen on screen in the R-rated party movie Project X, and one of his biggest projects to date - 2011's Footloose - is being released on Blu-ray and DVD today.

2011's Footloose hits stores in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with bonus features that include a commentary track by director Craig Brewer, deleted scenes, music videos, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes. And in support of the film's DVD release, Teller - who plays Willard in this Footloose - talked to us about how he's still never seen the original film, his own dancing skills, and why he connected with the story.

Exclusive Interview with Miles Teller:

At what point during filming did it really hit you that you were on a Footloose set?

Miles Teller: "It was probably when I put on the overalls and the cowboy hat and the cowboy boots, I think is when it kind of dawned on me that I was in Footloose. I did the play in high school and I wore overalls and a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, so for me it was more surreal just with everything coming full circle in that sense."

Did doing the play in high school make you more interested in being a part of the feature film remake or were you not sure you wanted to do the same story again?

Miles Teller: "When I did it, I did it in a really small town in Florida so I don't know if I really reached my peak with Footloose. You can always get more footloose. [laughing] But no, I was very excited by that. I loved the story; I loved the play. It's the first play that I ever did so I had such fond memories and nostalgia associated with it, so once it came out, I was super-jazzed. The fact that it was a remake and this and that, I didn't even start thinking about that until the movie was coming out and everybody kind of took to the internet to really trash it. But I had no second thoughts about doing a 'remake.'"

Did you try and avoid a lot of the forums that had negative comments, so you wouldn't have to deal with that?

Miles Teller: "It wasn't that I was seeking it out. Every once in a while somebody would send me something. Or when I was bored, sure, yeah, I'd go check it out. I think when you're confident in your movie and what you do, you can kind of look at those things with amusement and not really take it all to heart and be so sensitive about it. I think it's funny. It almost got religious. People are very serious about defending their Footloose. I mean, if someone told me they're remaking Indiana Jones or The Wizard of Oz or something, I would probably not want that to happen. [Laughing] But I wouldn't go on the internet and start making all these bad reports about it - I can tell you that."

Did you ever anonymously post a rebuttal?

Miles Teller: [Laughing] "No."

When you were talking about doing the play, you mentioned that you really like the story. What is it about the story that grabs you?

Miles Teller: "Well, first of all, it's a great story. You have somebody fighting for what they believe in. I love dancing so if somebody told me I couldn't dance and I was very passionate about it, I would speak up. But I just love the conflict of culture. You have this very small Southern town, which is what I grew up in in Southern Florida, so that part speaks to me. Then you have a city kid [who doesn't fit in]. I remember when I first moved to Florida to New Jersey, it was a huge culture shock. I saw a kid walking around my high school with Wranglers and cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and I just assumed he was doing some play or that there was something going on with cowboys and Indians. I had no idea that's how people actually lived. And then, you know, obviously, I lived there for a while and I really grew to appreciate that. I liked the slower pace and all that stuff."

"The story made a lot of sense to me growing up in a small town in Florida. I just like Willard because I was able to play the redneck that usually I hated and I got to make him more friendly - like a redneck I'd like to hang out with."

On the DVD commentary, director Craig Brewer calls you his 'secret weapon,' but you initially tried out for Ren. Were you fine with switching over to play Willard?

Miles Teller: "Well, I did audition for Ren and he said, 'I think you'd make a good Ren, but I think you'd make a perfect Willard.' And then I was very happy to hear them say that because that was the part that I wanted anyway. I mean, when I did the play in high school, I played Willard. That was the first character I've ever done, so I love Willard."

How tough is it to act like you can't dance? Choreographer Jamal Sims says you really retain choreography, so how difficult was it for you to act like you're not retaining it?

Miles Teller: "That was something I had a little bit of trouble with because I tried making it more cerebral. I tried thinking off-beat and that just wasn't really working for me, so then I made it more of a movement exercise. I've taken a couple of movement classes in college so I made it more just more about feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I know people who can't dance and you feel uncomfortable, you feel embarrassed, and there's nothing that feels right about it."

Was it tough when you were dancing around two amazing dancers - Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough - not to want to be up at their level and show off your own moves more?

Miles Teller: "Julianne does like ballroom, she does all this stuff and she's awesome, but she's not as hip-hop-ish as Kenny. When Kenny was doing all his hip-hop sh*t, yeah, I was really jealous. But that was kind of me and Kenny's agreement. Kenny's like, 'You teach me how to cry, I'll teach you how to do some Michael Jackson stuff.' In between takes, Kenny was always teaching me how to dance and I loved it."

You and Kenny have really great buddy chemistry onscreen. How quickly did the two of you hit it off?

Miles Teller: "Honestly, from our first chemistry reading when we did it in front of the studio and all that stuff, we just clicked. I did grow up in Florida but I spent a lot of my time in the Northeast, like in South Jersey and Pennsylvania. All my family's from there and he's from Massachusetts. Whenever I meet people from the Northeast, I click with them. Kenny and I both watch a lot of sports. We're actually both ballbusters and we both are kind of comfortable making fun of the other one. Kenny's still one of my closest friends."

When you were doing the press rounds for the theatrical release you said you'd never watched the original Footloose. Have you watched it since this film's come out?

Miles Teller: "No. I've only seen clips of it, because it's on TV all the time, which I'm hoping ours also gets to play all the time because that's good."

Were you ever tempted as you were shooting this to check it out?

Miles Teller: "No, not at all. I did the play and once I was cast in the play I never watched it. And once I was doing the movie, I damn sure wasn't going to watch it. As an actor, I think you absorb things all the time; you're just taking note of people. So I think when there's somebody else playing this character that you're going to be playing, something might slip in there, seep through the cracks a little bit. Plus, I know Chris Penn's a helluva actor. I didn't want to be intimidated. But, I don't watch a whole lot of movies in general so it wasn't something that I was actively doing. I would have had to try to seek out the movie to watch it and I had no desire."

How much more difficult is dance choreography than fight scene choreography, or is it more difficult?

Miles Teller: "Well, if I mess up dancing, I'm only going to hurt myself. But if I mess up with the fight choreography, I'm going to hurt somebody else. [Laughing] And at one point I think I did hit my buddy in the junk on accident, so that's always a danger. But the fight choreography, you have to be extremely focused and it's tough because your adrenaline's going and you want to make it look like a real fight so you want to be really engaged, but a lot of time you just have to check your emotions. You still have to be in control. That was one thing that was tough because you're all jacked-up, it's 3 o'clock in the morning, they've been feeding you coffee and espresso, and you're fighting, and if you're not really focused and you don't have eye contact with the person you're throwing a punch at, you might actually hurt them - and that's not good. At one point I fell into the cameraman. I was going through some stuff and I wasn't watching my footing and fell into him."

What was director Craig Brewer like to work with? He's known as a real actor's director.

Miles Teller: "Yeah, he is. He came from the theatre. He used to stage manage and direct theatre, and whenever you do theatre the rehearsal process is just so much more intimate. You rehearse something for two months to do it for a couple of weeks. But, yeah, I mean Craig's not one of those directors who's going to sit behind the monitor and if it's not working yell things out at you that don't make sense. He's going to come over and he's actually going to talk to you. A lot of time he ended up just sitting just off camera, just to kind of be in the scene and get a feel of what's going on. He had a tough job because, you know, I'm a trained actor...I went to college for acting and I have a different technique...and then you have two people who are pretty much dancers mostly. And then you have Dennis Quaid who's got an incredible resume - and Andie MacDowell. You've got to be able to micromanage."

Was Craig really open to any changes you wanted to make? Did you have any suggestions for your character that were a little different from the script?

Miles Teller: "Yeah. There were a couple of wardrobe things - like, I put the fishhook in my hat. I was like, 'Craig, where I come from, rednecks got to have a fishhook in your hat.' That's my little touch, wardrobe-wise. But in terms of dialogue, Craig was really open. I grew up in a small town so me and Craig kind of had that link of the South and the terminology that comes along with it. I'd have a line and I'd say, 'What if I say this?,' and he's like, 'Yep, that's funnier. Do that.' That was kind of our relationship with the lines was I'd have a recommendation and he'd say, 'Yep, try it.' He pretty much always let me try it. I like to ad-lib."

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