Miles Teller's Stunning Transformation

Miles Teller has been making waves in Hollywood for well over a decade. As an actor, Teller has avoided becoming pigeonholed by portraying a diverse array of characters in a variety of projects in numerous genres, ranging from sci-fi ("Divergent" and its sequels) to superhero ("Fantastic Four") to critically acclaimed indie dramas ("Whiplash"). He's also ventured into television, starring as movie producer Al Ruddy in the Paramount+ series "The Offer," which chronicled all the behind-the-scenes turmoil that went into making cinematic classic "The Godfather."

As he's gained more Hollywood experience, Teller has increasingly gravitated toward projects about which he's passionate, versus those that offer a hefty salary or opportunity to raise his profile. Interviewed by Vanity Fair in 2016, Teller offered his own take on the actor's mantra of "one for them, one for me," in which a big studio production is followed by taking a role in a small indie film. "F*** that," Teller said. "I don't want to do one for them. I don't want to do one for anybody other than myself."

It's that uncompromising attitude that has made Teller one of the most intriguing actors of his generation, but how did he get there? To find out, keep reading to experience Miles Teller's stunning transformation.

Miles Teller dreamed of playing professional baseball

Miles Teller was born in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, a small town situated about halfway between Philadelphia and Lancaster. As a youngster, Teller gravitated toward sports, taking a particular interest in baseball. A lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, Teller's childhood dream was to someday play for his favorite team. "When I was a young kid, I wasn't sharing stories of philosophy and this and that, it was baseball," Teller explained in an interview with People, recalling his all-consuming passion for the sport. "It seems like a simple game, but it's endless."

As he hit adolescence, Teller continued to follow his baseball dreams. Eventually, though, he was forced to confront reality. "I played [baseball] in high school, but I was pretty small." It was during high school, in fact, that Teller officially moved on from his dream of MLB glory. "I hit a lawn gnome full of ecstasy in 'Project X' with a baseball bat. So that was kind of the closest I think I'll get [to pro baseball]," he once joked to Rolling Stone.

During that interview, in fact, Teller revealed that he'd purchased the rights to a book about baseball, in hopes of adapting it into a film and portray a MLB star onscreen. "That's a perfect world if I can get paid to pretend to be a baseball player," he mused.

He was bitten by the acting bug while appearing in a high-school production of Footloose

Future star Miles Teller attended Lecanto High School in Florida, where he played baseball and envisioned a future career as a sportscaster. "I wanted to go to Syracuse [University], go into broadcasting, and hopefully make it to 'SportsCenter,'" Teller told Interview Magazine. That all went out the window when he joined the school's drama program in his sophomore year — largely because he had a crush on the program's attractive new teacher, Beth Bedee. He was cast in the role of country bumpkin Willard in a production of "Footloose," an experience that proved to be a defining one for him. 

"When I got on stage and got the first laugh, I was hooked," Teller told the Tampa Bay Times. "It absolutely felt like something had been missing from my life up to that point." That encouragement led him to pursue roles in further productions. Looking back on that seminal time, Teller credited Bedee and the lessons he'd learned for his future success as an actor. "Absolutely without her I don't think I would've ended up where I'm at," he declared.

In a strange full-circle coincidence, several years after portraying Willard onstage, Teller was cast in the exact same role in the 2011 remake of "Footloose." "It's a great part," Teller gushed in an interview with DA MAN. "I played the part seven years ago in high school and to play it in this film was awesome."

He got serious about studying acting in NYC

After graduating from high school, Miles Teller set his sights on becoming a working actor. He showed enough promise that he was accepted into the prestigious Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute within NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Students were taught Strasberg's version of so-called method acting, which, as Teller joked in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, resulted in some offbeat classroom moments. "At Strasberg, half the class was crying at any given time," he said. "We're just trying to feel a coffee mug. Trying to tap into an emotional memory."

Joking aside, Strasberg's technique impacted Teller profoundly, and he took his studies seriously. "That's what I aspired to do," Teller told Vulture. "The whole idea of working on acting in a small room, doing memory exercises where you're sitting in a chair for four hours trying to really feel a coffee cup — that's the experience I wanted. I really consider acting a high art."

Teller has remained connected with his alma mater; as he explained while interviewed for Vogue, whenever he's back in New York and his schedule allows, he offers to share his experience as a professional thespian via Q&A sessions with students. "Because I loved that when I was there," he said. "Seeing someone who was working, asking them questions. It kind of lets you know that it's possible."

A horrific car accident nearly took his life but wound up changing it

Miles Teller's love of the Grateful Dead nearly yielded tragic circumstances when he and some pals were driving home from a Deadhead festival in 2007 when the vehicles skidded and flipped eight times. "The guy driving, he was fine, my buddy he was sleeping in the back. I even had a bag of tomatoes that were fine. Everything was fine except for my face," he recalled while interviewed by The Guardian.

While Teller downplayed his injuries, they were severe, including a broken wrist and 20 staples in his shoulder. As for his face, he required numerous surgical procedures that left him scarred, and still has two pieces of gravel embedded beneath the skin. At the time, Teller was just launching his career as a professional actor. "When I first started auditioning, people were straight up just like, 'Yeah, Miles is a good actor, [but it] doesn't make sense for this character to have scars,'" Teller recalled in an interview with ABC News. "They [the scars] used to be really bad."

While Teller's scars have become less noticeable over the years, they were still quite apparent when he auditioned for the 2010 film "Rabbit Hole." According to Teller, his scars resonated with the film's director — so much so that they ultimately landed him the role. "And then 'Rabbit Hole' [director] John Cameron Mitchell was like, 'I love it. It tells a secret,'" he said.

He landed his breakout role opposite Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole

It's not hyperbole to state that being cast in "Rabbit Hole" was a game-changer for Miles Teller. The role — a teenager who accidentally kills the young son of a suburban couple, played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, and winds up forming an unexpected bond with the dead child's mother — garnered more attention than he'd ever received. 

Prior to "Rabbit Hole," Teller's roster of screen credits was slim, consisting of a few student films and a guest spot on a TV cop show; to suddenly be sharing scenes with Kidman and Eckhart, celebrities he'd watched in movies and seen pictured in magazines, proved to be a heady experience for the young actor. "They're at the top of their craft," he told Movieline. "But then you have to act like it's no big deal! It's very unnerving."

What proved to be even more unnerving was Kidman's commitment to method acting, mirroring their characters' evolving relationship by initially refusing to speak with Teller at the outset of filming. "Nicole had an idea that she wanted us to develop a kind of relationship as our characters did," Teller told Australia's The Daily Telegraph (via Digital Spy). "She said 'Oh Miles, you did such a wonderful job and I am sorry I had to do that to you, especially seeing as it was your first movie, but I thought it was important to go through that on camera,'" Teller recalled.

He earned critical acclaim in Whiplash

After his big-screen debut in "Rabbit Hole," Miles Teller's star was on the rise. He appeared in more movies — including "Project X," "The Spectacular Now," and the aforementioned "Footloose" remake — before being cast in "Whiplash." In the low-budget indie — shot in just 19 days — Teller plays an aspiring jazz drummer attending music school, pushed to his breaking point by a demanding professor (J.K. Simmons). 

The most challenging aspect of Teller's role was learning how to play the drums convincingly onscreen. He wasn't a complete neophyte — he'd taught himself to play drums at 15 and played in some teenage rock bands — but jazz drumming was a whole other level. "It's a very high form of percussion for the drummer ..." he said in an interview with IndieWire, revealing that nearly all of the drumming that viewers hear in the movie came from him. 

Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film won three, including a best supporting actor Oscar for Simmons. Interestingly, the first time Teller saw the film — on a TV screen in the office of one of the film's producers — he was too focused on his own performance to ascertain its quality. "So yes, I thought it was pretty good, but I was unsure," he recalled. It wasn't until watching it with an audience at the Sundance Film Festival that he realized how extraordinary "Whiplash" was. "The response was confirmation that it's a really great film that stays with people ..." he added. 

Miles Teller segued into superheroes and sci-fi

Just before "Whiplash," Miles Teller had completed filming "Divergent," the first film in a franchise based on a popular series of young adult novels, starring fellow rising star Shailene Woodley. Interviewed by W Magazine (via Entertainment Weekly), Teller explained his motivation for taking the role. "When I first read 'Whiplash,' I was feeling dead inside," he recalled. "I didn't have an interesting part [in 'Divergent'], and I'd taken the film for business reasons: It was the first movie I'd done that was going to have an international audience," he explained, implying that he was paid more for "Divergent" than the measly $8,000 he'd earned from "Whiplash." 

Meanwhile, the critical acclaim from an Oscar-winning film presented Miles Teller with other big Hollywood opportunities. Chief among these was the chance to become part of a Marvel movie when he was cast as Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards in 2015's "Fantastic Four." 

Sadly, Teller's experience with the superhero genre wound up being a big downer when the film was savaged by critics and tanked at the box office. Looking back at the debacle, Teller placed the blame squarely on the shoddy screenplay. "I think it was [George] Clooney who said you can make a bad movie out of a good script, you can't make a good movie out of a bad script, and that's very true," Teller said while appearing on the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast (via Digital Spy).

He married longtime love Keleigh Sperry

In 2013, Miles Teller was attending a Grammys after-party when he met Keleigh Sperry. "Keleigh had caught my eye early in the night, and we talked," he recalled when interviewed for Vogue. "After we met, I knew she was the one."

Teller and Sperry began dating, and in 2017 Teller popped the question while the two were on safari in South Africa. As Sperry told Vogue, the proposal came as a complete surprise, revealed when she spotted an out-of-place rose on a tree. When she inspected the rose, she realized it had a note attached, featuring the date that they'd started dating. "I turned around, and he read it and said, 'That was the first day you became my girlfriend and today is the last,' and he got down on one knee," she recalled. "It was really romantic."

In 2019, the couple tied the knot in a destination wedding in Maui; Sperry's family spent their summers there, and Teller had come to fall in love with the Hawaiian island after accompanying her and her family on multiple vacations over the years. "We both felt happiest there and wanted it to be a big part of our lives forever," added Sperry, who changed her name to Keleigh Teller after their wedding.

He ventured into the booze business

The same year that Miles Teller got married, he also entered into a new business venture that had nothing to do with Hollywood: The Finnish Long Drink, a gin-based alcoholic beverage, sold in cans, has gained popularity in its native Finland. According to Forbes, Teller sampled it at a liquor store, and before long he'd become part-owner by making a sizeable investment in the brand. "I drink it all time just because it's so refreshing," he told the outlet. 

A few years later, Forbes subsequently reported that Teller and his co-owners lured some other investors — including Norwegian EDM star DJ Kygo and pro golfer Rickie Fowler — and compiled $25 million to put toward strengthening American distribution. That push yielded big results when sales grew by more than 100% in a single year, propelling The Finnish Long Drink to become America's fourth-largest RTD (ready to drink) booze brand. 

As Teller told Forbes, his ability to promote the product is made easier by the fact that he's a true believer. "I think it's similar in that people can smell phoniness," he said. "And I'm not a salesperson. I don't want to sell people something that I don't care about it ... I enjoy getting out there and talking to people about Long Drink."

He and his wife became besties with Taylor Swift

In November 2021, global music superstar Taylor Swift unveiled her music video for "I Bet You Think About Me," which featured Miles Teller and wife Keleigh Teller. "So grateful to Miles for being the greatest dance partner and friend to me. And @keleighteller, who is the coolest living human on planet earth," Swift wrote on Instagram, thanking them for appearing in the video.

As it turned out, the Tellers had been friends with Swift for years, with Swift sending flowers and a sweet note to the couple on the occasion of their 2019 wedding. Their friendship continued, and in December 2023 they accompanied Swift in New York City while she celebrated her 34th birthday, with other celebrants including Blake Lively and Selena Gomez. The following month, Swift brought Keleigh as her plus-one to the Golden Globe Awards. Miles and Keleigh Teller remained close with Swift after she began dating Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce, and the couple joined Swift to watch him win the Super Bowl in February 2024. 

Interviewed by Australia's "The Project," Teller jokingly admitted he was fearful of Swift's notoriously loyal fans and had no intention of ever doing anything that would rile up the Swifties. "They'll find you at, like, a Starbucks or something," he joked. 

Top Gun: Maverick catapulted him to a whole other level

Over the course of his career, Miles Teller has appeared in small indies and big-budget blockbusters, yet it's arguable that the biggest project in which he'd ever been involved was "Top Gun: Maverick," the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 classic starring movie icon Tom Cruise

Teller portrayed Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw, a fighter pilot whose late father, Goose, was the best friend of Cruise's titular Maverick. Accepting the role, however, didn't come without trepidation. "I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but there was a part of me that didn't know if I wanted to be a part of something that could bring that much attention and success to me," Teller explained in an interview with Men's Health. "Everybody views success differently. For me, it didn't necessarily mean being a part of the biggest movie." The film was a huge success, and plans were soon underway for a third "Top Gun" movie, with Teller set to return alongside Cruise. However, work on the sequel progressed slowly. "We had preliminary stuff," producer Jerry Bruckheimer told Games Radar in May 2024. "We're not there yet. [There's] ways to go."

A long delay between movies is perfectly fine with Teller, who doesn't feel driven to make multiple movies per year. "I'm not one of those people who worry about if people don't see me every six months," he told Men's Health. "I don't feel like my career is dying."

He addressed controversy over his casting in a Michael Jackson biopic

In early 2024, Deadline reported that Miles Teller had joined the cast of "Michael," a big-budget biopic about late King of Pop Michael Jackson to be directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"). Teller was set to play attorney John Branca — who is one of the film's producers, Jackson's manager at the time of his death in 2009, and co-executor of Jackson's estate.

The project's announcement, however, generated controversy after reports that the screenplay would sidestep the lingering allegations of child sexual abuse that cast a pall over Jackson's final years. 

When asked about the controversy by Variety, Teller insisted that he considered all aspects about every project he takes on, and that was certainly the case with this one. "Before I choose any role, I consider everything about it," he said. "Regardless of what you know or what your opinion may be, Michael is one of the greatest to ever do it, if not the greatest. He deserves a movie, and I'm excited to be a part of it."