For “Whiplash,” Miles Teller learned to play the drums. That, debatably, is nothing compared to what he did for “Bleed for This.” The tale of Vinny Pazienza, a former boxer from Rhode Island who trained himself back to into a world champion after breaking his neck, it required the actor to not only become a believable pugilist but also spend half the movie with a heavy "halo" propping up his head. He must really love pushing himself: Up next he’s playing a soldier in “Thank You For Your Service” and a firefighter in “Granite Mountain.”
Teller, 29, talks to us about his (short) stint as a high school kickboxer, having to act with a massive thing on his head and (briefly) Philadelphia sports fans.
Were you already a boxing fan?
I’ve always liked it. I’ve always loved certain boxers: Tyson during his heyday, Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Sugar Ray. Boxing was at its peak when I was younger. It’s a little softer now. MFA has taken over, and I’m a huge MFA fan.
Still, it must be difficult to box.
I was excited about it. The footwork was something that took a long time to get. I’ve done dance training, I’ve always been pretty good with choreography. But boxing’s a tough skill to learn, let alone master, in only a couple weeks.
You really only had a couple weeks?
I’d say about five weeks. I had to film two movies in between getting cast and when we shot it. Once I got back to L.A. I had five weeks with my guy. I did it four hours a day, then another two hours of weight training, then work on the accent. I’d say nine or 10 hours a day were committed to prep.
And you’d never boxed before?
Never, though I did a bit of kickboxing in high school. I played sports growing up. A lot of the values sports teach you — never give up, keeping fighting, keep fighting and go forward — I relate to.
Did you kickbox for long?
I just did it for a year and a half. I grew up in a small town, so it was just something to do.
Why did you pick kickboxing?
I just felt it would be a good contact sport, and my buddy who drove me home every day from school was doing it.