August 2015 was not Miles Teller’s best month. He front-lined that Fantastic 4 reboot, which was not only franchise-stopping terrible, but tanked badly at the box office – though nobody really blamed Teller for that. What he took heat for was an Esquire cover story to promote that film, in which a series of photos of the young star in a variety of undershirts and leather jackets illustrated a narrative best summarized by the first sentence of its sixth graf: “So yeah, he is kind of a dick.” It’s an entertaining and not terribly flattering Portrait of the Artist as Young Dudebro, explaining his rivalries with Christian Bale and “Joaq” Phoenix, name-dropping Kobe Bryant, and hitting on waitresses. It quickly became the common conception of who Mr. Teller is — which is all a little silly, considering how little it has to do with how well he does his job, but here we are.
Now, a year later, the Whiplash star would like to set the record straight. In a Guardian interview to promote his new film War Dogs, writer Tim Lewis carefully notes, “He’s clearly self-confident about his work, which could be interpreted as dickishness, but then he is an ambitious and versatile performer, as gifted as anyone in his age range. I’d also note that quotes that can read a little bald in print are often more archly and winningly expressed in person.”
This is true! And it’s tough not to feel bad as Teller says of the Esquire piece, “Oh, I felt frickin’ helpless, I felt extremely misrepresented, I felt a little angry… For the average person, they are reading this article, they haven’t met you, they’re like, ‘Oh Miles is an asshole. You didn’t hear it? You didn’t read that Esquire? Yeah, she said he was an asshole – he must be!’
“Certain times I’ll choose my words very carefully and maybe come off a little more boring,” he continues. “But I also think that’s why people – certain people – do relate to me: because there is no agenda, honestly. I was raised middle-class in a small town. I have all my same friends from high school. I’m close with my family. I’m dating a normal girl. So I want to feel people think I’m a man of the people. Because I feel that way.”
Man. He had me back until that “I’m a man of the people” part.