Miles Teller may have auditioned for the role of Ren in Footloose, the role made famous by Kevin Bacon and now being played by Kenny Wormald. But he didn't have to look too far for background to his character when he was cast as Ren’s best friend Willard. “I’m a fan of the story because I did the play in high school and played Willard. I instantly fell in love with it,” Teller said to Movie Fanatic in our exclusive interview. After his audition, producers gave him the news.
“They said, ‘I think you’re the perfect Willard.’ And I said, ‘Perfect.’ So I came into this with a pretty good foundation for what I wanted to do with the character.”
It was right after Teller played Willard in high school that a string of leads in school plays followed. Hard to ignore what fate was telling him: You must be an actor.
Teller tells us about making Footloose 2011, working with his friend Wormald and how on earth does one dance badly when deep inside, you are a fantastic dancer!
Movie Fanatic: How was it working with Kenny? You two seemed to hit it off on screen, had you met him before?
Miles Teller: I met Kenny at the screen test. Originally, when I first latched onto this project, it was me and Thomas Dekker and then they kind of went in a different direction. I was supposed to read with these two guys, Kenny and this other dude. And pretty much from the moment I met him, we were busting each other’s balls and we started talking sports. He’s a big Boston guy and I’m a big Phillies guy. Now we hang out, we golf. He’s one of my best friends out in California.
Movie Fanatic: How was the rest of the cast around you, especially since they know you can dance and you’re playing someone who can’t?
Miles Teller: Well, Julianne (Hough), she’s a phenomenal dancer but I didn’t really have any scenes with her where she was dancing too much. But Kenny (Wormald), he and I busted each other’s balls. He’d do a dance and I’d say, “How do you do that? I wish I could do that?” And he’d say, “How do you cry? Teach me how to cry.” So it was like, “You teach me how to act and I’ll teach you how to dance [laughs],” which I was okay with.
Movie Fanatic: Your character has to learn to dance in the movie, how would you rate yourself as a dancer?
Miles Teller: 10 out of 10.
Movie Fanatic: So was it really hard to pretend that you couldn’t?
Miles Teller: Yeah, actually it was. It’s hard to dance off rhythm… and to make it look like you’re not winking at the audience, “Yeah, I can actually dance.” [Laughs]
Movie Fanatic: How did you do that, because you sort of have to unlearn something?
Miles Teller: That was a problem that I had was that I was trying to do it intellectually to where I was trying to count off rhythm as opposed to making it a more physical thing, just making certain movements that looked uncomfortable. I just tried to make myself feel as uncomfortable in my skin as I could because people that can’t dance are not comfortable. It’s always very awkward for them so I tried to put myself in that kind of mindset.
Movie Fanatic: After pouring your heart and soul into a movie like this, how do you feel as it’s about to be released out into the world?
Miles Teller: I’m very excited. It’s always interesting because the experience of filming that’s what you take away in this business because you never know how the audience is going to receive a film. But it’s very exciting and I’m curious to see how people react, knowing how well people love the original. People are very defensive and protective of the original and they did not want us to remake it at all. That’s what I’m curious to see how people who love the original what they think.
Movie Fanatic: What about this character did you most personally identify with?
Miles Teller: Willard is a good ol’ boy and growing up in a small town in Florida for half my life, my town is only like 6,000 people in Florida, very small town. And you do meet those good ol’ boys, always seem to have a smile on their face, but that doesn’t mean they won’t defend physically their girlfriend. I actually really admire that about Willard, just how protective he is of Rusty. And then the vulnerability of him not being able to dance, and feeling ashamed and embarrassed to say it. But I would just say day-to-day, he doesn’t have too many cares. He’s pretty simple, a simple pleasures kind of guy. So that was fun to go on set every day and have that kind of care-free attitude.
Movie Fanatic: What was the Footloose shoot like? Was it tough or more like summer camp?
Miles Teller: The summer camp aspect of it was just the fact that we were on these locations and away from home with people that you end up building very strong relationships with, and friendships. But the shoots were pretty good; the days weren’t super, super long. The toughest part was we were shooting outside a lot in late fall and it’s still pretty hot there [laughs]. When we did that figure eight scene at the dirt track, that was pretty hot and uncomfortable because we were covered in dirt for a week. But other than that, it was fine.
Movie Fanatic: What was the most challenging part of making Footloose for you?
Miles Teller: The not knowing how to dance thing was tough for a while. But I honestly had such an enjoyable time shooting this movie that any opposition isn’t coming to mind. I had a lot of fun.
Movie Fanatic: Your director’s (Craig Brewer) passion for this project is intense. Was that something that you picked up on right away when you met him?
Miles Teller: Yeah. Craig’s an incredible storyteller. So after he talked about why he wanted to do the project, his energy, it was contagious.
Movie Fanatic: Did you have much time with Dennis Quaid at all?
Miles Teller: A little bit. He’s an interesting dude. It’s always interesting to watch how different actors work, like with Rabbit Hole, Nicole (Kidman), Aaron (Eckhart), Dianne (Wiest). Everyone’s got their own process but Dennis has been around for a long time and it’s obviously because of his work ethic. It’s cool being in the same space as someone. And he really doesn’t need very many takes. He pretty much comes in prepared and does it.
Movie Fanatic: And lastly, was it kind of nice to be finally able to dance on film the way you know you can?
Miles Teller: Yeah, that’s what I was waiting for. I was waiting to show the world I could actually dance. So that would be the dance finale scene and Kenny and I are having so much fun. As we were filming it, I remember talking to him, saying, “How cool is it when you go to a movie and people are doing a dance in sequence?” Two guys doing the same moves. That was fun. That was awesome.