News Column

'Spectacular Now' star surprised by film's R rating

September 3, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 03--Actor Miles Teller says, modestly, that he was "pretty well-rounded" in high school.

At Lecanto High School in Florida, about an hour north of Tampa, he was a popular kid with a lot of friends who played sports, especially baseball, participated in the drama club and graduated with a 4.0 average. Oh, and he was homecoming king, too.

All of that is a far cry from his character, Sutter Keely, in the movie "The Spectacular Now," co-starring Shailene Woodley. It opened last week.

Here's how Mr. Teller sums up Sutter: "Very charismatic, charming, fun guy to be around on the outside. On the inside, obviously, he's dealing with a lot of larger issues I think he doesn't really want to deal with," such as missing his father who split from his mother.

"He doesn't really want to deal with anything past high school. So he does just try to live in the moment as he says. But underneath all that, he's a bit of a sad clown."

He helps others feel good but tries to make himself feel better by drinking, and his cocktail of choice is a 7Up from the convenience store spiked with whiskey.

That's straight from the Tim Tharp novel, but the actor says, "I grew up in a small town in Florida, which is pretty similar to where we shot at, and I would say kids are drinking by middle school -- 13 or 12."

Director James Ponsoldt didn't want to judge the characters, Mr. Teller says, or make a version of the movie where Sutter is constantly lectured.

"There's the version we shot where he thinks it's going unnoticed until his boss brings it up in that one scene, and that's a really touching scene. Kids are drinking in high school more than they're being vampires or singing in the hallways. I think it's pretty honest."

Sutter has an afterschool job at a men's clothing store, where the owner is a patient and kind man but increasingly uncomfortable with his employee's not-so-secret drinking. It makes for a tender, truthful moment in the film written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.

The movie ends on a different note than the book, a decision that often splits the audience judging by in-person and Twitter responses. Mr. Teller suggests 60 percent don't want Ms. Woodley's character, Aimee, to give Sutter another chance and 40 percent do.

He is not alone in comparing "Spectacular Now" to "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," although the former is rated R and the latter, PG-13. "Perks" initially was R, but Summit Entertainment appealed and successfully won a PG-13.

"I think we thought it would be PG-13. I mean, you have a movie where the kid's molested by his aunt and that's rated PG-13, and then we have a movie where kids drink alcohol and there's a sex scene where no one's showing nudity or anything, and that's rated R. I know there were some people surprised by that."

Mr. Teller, 26, made his feature-film debut in an adaptation of the play "Rabbit Hole" opposite Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. He portrayed a teenage boy who accidentally strikes and kills a 4-year-old who chases his dog into the street.

At the time, Mr. Teller said he was "certainly intimidated" on day one of filming. The director had told Mr. Eckhart to scare the nerves out of his inexperienced co-star for camera and camaraderie purposes.

"Aaron just kind of goes off on me, and that was the first time I'd met Aaron. So it was surreal, and it was this out-of-body experience, and the intimidation worked for me. After that, he gave me a pat on the back," the actor told a press conference at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

He moved on to lighter material with the remake of "Footloose," in which he was farm boy Willard who becomes the best friend of the town newcomer. He walked off with some new dance moves along with keepsakes of his cowboy hat, bolo tie and the "Smokin' Pig" T-shirt he wears while learning to dance.

His cowboy boots ended up on eBay, and his mom -- who likes to collect souvenirs from his movie wardrobes -- didn't know how to use the site at the time. However, she tracked down and bought his overalls, although she realizes some of his costume collectibles are getting pricey.

As for "Spectacular Now," he kept Sutter's flask along with some of the clothes he had picked out.

He will be reunited on screen with his "Spectacular" co-star in "Divergent," based on the novel by Veronica Roth and set for a March 21 release. It's being compared to "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," thanks to its origin, anticipation and ability to launch a franchise.

Yes, he stays in touch with Ms. Woodley, now in Pittsburgh filming "The Fault in Our Stars" in which she plays a teen with cancer. She told him: "It feels very homey."

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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(c)2013 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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