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Originally published March 16, 2014 at 6:05 AM | Page modified March 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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Miles Teller does not need weed, is not ready for marriage

With a slate of movies — from franchise blockbuster to a Sundance darling — Miles Teller is poised to be one of Hollywood’s next big things. Just ask the legions of screaming girls at the Seattle premiere of his latest movie, “Divergent.”


/ Seattle Times columnist

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That’s one marriage proposal. That’s two. That’s three — this one put to poster board, above a phone number in the 650 area code.

“It had an actual phone number on it!” Miles Teller said the next day, reflecting on the hormone-heavy red carpet crowd that came out to Seattle’s Pacific Place the night before for the screening of his new film, “Divergent.”

“Also, this dude came up to me and asked me if I needed any weed.”

You take Teller in, and the comparisons to actor John Cusack are spot on: The flat, deep voice, the small mouth at the bottom of a long face. The eyes. But there is a brightness to Teller, a comedic energy that Cusack never had when he was 27. Maybe ever.

“I said ‘No.’ ” said Teller of the weed guy at the movie. “Then he asked me to sign his dollar bill, and then he took a picture of me signing his dollar bill.

“So maybe that buck with my signature is worth two bucks.”

And getting more valuable all the time.

Teller is in the running for The Next Big Thing, as the film roles and industry recognition that started with his first role opposite Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” are stacking up like, well, marriage proposals.

He plays the small but notable role of Peter in “Divergent,” a movie based on the young-adult book series that is expected to hit as hard as “The Hunger Games.”

Last month, he was named to the cast of “The Fantastic Four,” portraying Reed Richards, otherwise known as Mr. Fantastic.

And after his upcoming film “Whiplash” opened the Sundance Film Festival — Teller co-stars with J.K. Simmons as a drum prodigy being browbeaten to greatness — Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote that “Festivalgoers practically hoisted him on their shoulders.”

Wrote Travers: “Teller has always been a promising actor, but with ‘Whiplash,’ it’s star-is-born time.”

Teller was the class clown at his Hernando, Fla., high school, which ignited his interest in performing.

But then one day he was doing a skit that was supposed to be serious — and his classmates laughed anyway.

“And I thought, ‘I don’t want to be thought of as a joke’. And that’s when I started doing dramatic stuff.”

He attended New York University, and then landed the role opposite Kidman in “Rabbit Hole.”

The class clown was now playing a young man who had killed a little boy. Nobody was laughing; rather, they were noticing Teller’s burgeoning skill.

He did two boys-are-dumb movies (“21 and Over” and “That Awkward Moment”) and then joined his friend Shailene Woodley in 2013’s “The Spectacular Now,” an intelligent, tender film about a partier who matures in love with a classmate. It marked his first love scene.

“It was very honest, it was very natural,” Teller said. “There was no timetable on it. We did four or five takes, and you’re doing the sex — doin’ the sex — and then you just hear, ‘Cut!’ and you realize there’s a bunch of people in the room.

“What was weird was doing the voice-overs to that,” he said. “We had to both, at separate times, go into a sound booth in New York and do moans and breath, the sounds that you didn’t get clean audio on that day. Pretty weird.”

Teller isn’t just tumbling through scripts. He is choosing film roles with a sense of his own Big Picture. Mainstream comic fare. A franchise. A starring role in an independent film. A comic-book film.

After the “Fantastic Four,” Teller has signed on to star in “Bleed for This,” a film based on the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza, which is executive-produced by Martin Scorsese.

“For me, I have a wide palate and as an actor, I want to feel like I can do everything,” Teller said. “But at the end of the day, you can’t. You can’t be an action star or a comedy guy and do the dramatic stuff. It just doesn’t work like that.

“I did ‘Divergent’ and I wanted something small and dramatic and that’s when ‘Whiplash’ came about.”

Teller is surprisingly levelheaded and grounded, thanks in part to his family. He grew up in Downingtown, Pa., with his parents — Merry, a real estate agent, and Mike, a nuclear-plant engineer — and his two older sisters. The family moved to Florida when he was 13 and, after taking an acting class in high school, he attended summer acting programs and was accepted to New York University’s Tisch School.

He keeps his friends close, living in Los Angeles with two guys from high school, and drives a 14-year-old BMW. He spent his first big paycheck on a 42-inch LG television, and has since bought a handicapped van for his uncle and a van for his sister. He’d like to pay off his parents’ mortgage.

“I was always surrounded by love and support and all that,” he said. “So I’m not doing this for therapy. I love it.

“They say that once you hit 27, you’ve kind of got it figured out. I think I’ll be all right.”

As for his career arc moving forward, he looks to the versatility of actors like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Friggin’ ... that’s so sad”), Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman. And he keeps an eye on Ryan Gosling.

“I’ll take any movie that he’s not doing.”

Nicole Brodeur: nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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