"Whiplash," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
last week and will compete in the U.S. drama competition, is an
enticing and heart-racing tale of young jazz drummer Andrew in a
devoted pursuit of perfection in his craft. Andrew comes under
the tutelage of a noted drummer, played by J.K. Simmons, who
challenges him to the very limits of his existence.
The film is the first feature from 28-year-old writer-director
Damien Chazelle, and is a new direction for rising star Teller,
who has gained prominence for raunchy young adult film "21 &
Over" and last year's coming-of-age Sundance hit, "The
Spectacular Now". "Whiplash" has already been snapped up by Sony
Pictures Classics for U.S. distribution.
Sitting on a sofa at a lounge in Park City during Sundance,
Teller, 26, spoke to Reuters about diving into jazz drumming,
being slapped by Simmons and the "gray area" of dating.
Q: "Whiplash" takes you away from the young adult films
you've become known for. What drew you in?
A: I play the drums so to have a movie about a drummer, I
had never read anything like that before. Music is a pretty big
passion of mine and I'd love to do a movie where I can play
guitar and sing. I play piano and I love musicals, so this
script, it was all there on the page, all the twists and turns.
Q: How good were you at the drums before doing the movie,
and much preparation did you have to do before filming?
A: I'm pretty good, I've played since I was 15. Out of
every instrument that I played, drums was probably the most
natural for me, but I had never taken a drum lesson before, so
once I started taking lessons, I felt much better than I ever
was. I did four-hour lessons, did those a couple of days a week
for four weeks.
Q: What did you connect with in your character Andrew and
his intense drive for his craft?
A: It was something that I could sync into because all my
character cares about is drumming and becoming the greatest
drummer. He can't really care about the relationship with his
girlfriend, it's really just about drumming and (his teacher)J.K.
Simmons. I have a lot of drive and ambition myself, I can
respect Andrew's determination.
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Q: How was it working with J.K. Simmons, and
what was the most challenging scene between you two?
A: J.K. Simmons is one of the best actors around, the guy is
phenomenal. I don't remember specifically, I feel like we just
focused on what we were going to do, and then did it. The scene
where he was slapping me was pretty funny.
Q: Were those real slaps? Did it sting?
A: (nods) I started laughing at one point, which was weird.
Q: You're also starring in buddy comedy "That Awkward
Moment," coming out later this month. What did you enjoy exploring
in that film?
A: It's all about dating in your 20s and what that's like.
It's not like you hold your girlfriend's hand on the school bus.
Just because you go on dates doesn't mean she's your girlfriend,
there's this whole gray area. So I think just to explore that with
my two buddies, Zac (Efron) and Mike (Michael B. Jordan), it was
Q: You've received attention for your recent
roles, so what type of films would you like to do in the future?
A: As you get older, as a man, you start getting some juicer
roles. I just want to do all the movies that Ryan Gosling can't do
because he's so busy, I'll do those.
Q: Is there one dream role?
A: I want to play Elvis. I'd also like to do a baseball
Q: Why Elvis?
A: A lot of people say I look like Elvis, and I love Elvis. I
play the guitar and sing, so it seems like a nice match.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by
Patricia Reaney and Rosalind Russell)
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