I was going to say — there's something almost incidentally symbolic about them, particularly with characters like Sutter. But casting directors were tough on you about them?
When I first started auditioning, they would tell my manager, "Oh, we really like him but we can't submit him for this with all those scars on his face." There was a time in the beginning where I thought, "Am I only going to be able to play characters where this has been explained, where you know why he has these scars?" So I was pretty upset, because I just didn't know if this was going to really be a dead end to this career that I wanted to have so badly, and that I had been training for. Now I don't give a shit. Now I like ‘em.
On that note, in addition being part of an introspective character study, the role of Sutter is a romantic lead. Do you get offered this kind of role a lot?
Last year was the first time. Last year was my first foray into leads, so I did this movie to get a job, and then right after "The Spectacular Now," I shot two romantic comedies: "Two Night Stand" and then "Are We Officially Dating?" So in terms of the romance stuff, I've done a couple of those now, and I'm excited to have some lead parts. I don't think anyone comes to this business being like, "I just want to support, like, four people in front of me." I mean, I come from the theater, so I love the ensemble and the collaboration of that. But in high school you're always the lead, and in college you play the main person in a scene, so it's nice to get some good scripts and do that.
What do you think makes you different from other rising male stars in your age bracket?
I don't know! I feel that I do things differently, but I don't know. Everyone does different things, and there's things that certain actors do where I'm like, "Man I wish I could do that." You think you can do everything, but, realistically, you can't. I think I have a pretty eclectic taste. I love a lot of different things, and different things interest me. I don't know — I'll just say my genes!
Well, you have your own look. You're not cookie-cutter.
Yeah, that's why I'm in film. If I was more attractive I'd be in TV. [Laughs] All the pretty people are in TV.
But you also seem to have a lot of raw talent — the kind that's inherent and not simply taught.
I respect acting as a craft immensely. I did some training, but I just really, really respect actors and what they do. People think it just comes naturally, and there is natural ability for sure, but the amount of preparation that actors do — you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who works harder. Like Meryl Streep — she always talks about how much she prepares. I like to think that I prepare more than most. I guess maybe that helps.
We didn't discuss Shailene yet. The two of you obviously have a great deal of chemistry, and I want to know how much of that is developed on set. Because you're working with the guys who wrote "(500) Days of Summer," which was another film with good couple chemistry.
Scott Neustadter and Mike Weber. They also did the screenplay for "The Fault in Our Stars," Shailene's next one.
Yeah, which is causing this kind of triumvirate, since you and Shailene are starring in "Divergent" together too.
It's awful. This whole business is incestuous.
But the chemistry clicked?
You know, a lot of that is in the writing. [Neustadter and Weber] are weaving the arc for these characters, so we already know where we're going and where we're coming from and all that. But as actors, Shailene and I match up well together because we have similar styles in that we do everything very honestly. We're not very showy actors, and I think our technique is just to be very present. So if she does something very different in the scene, I'm going to respond to that and vice versa, which is nice, because you don't have to force somebody to come along with you. It's just very natural.
And with "Divergent" coming up, it must feel good to have this collaborative foundation set. I'm not sure what the chronology is — did the first partnership influence the second partnership?
We did this first, and then Shailene found out about "Divergent" a couple months after we finished. I auditioned for the lead in "Divergent" a while ago, and that didn't go anywhere. I don't know if the fact that we worked together helped or hurt that, but the producers actually had seen "The Spectacular Now," and they were just like, "Hey, Miles, do you want to play this guy who's sort of at odds with Shailene?" And I was like "Who's involved?" They said, "Kate Winslet," and I just said ,"Yes." In the second book, me and Kate have a lot of interaction. I'm excited about that, man. The director's good — Neil Burger, who did "Limitless" and "The Illusionist." You gotta have these big ones. At some point I gotta get some box office. I don't really care, but...everybody else in the business does. You have to have movies that do well.
Do you feel like you're being pressured into that?
No, I just think that if you have some hits, it helps you do the movies if you want. You factor in everything. When I was at NYU, Joe Pantoliano came to our school and somebody was like, "How do you pick your movies?" and he was like "Do three movies a year. Do one for the money, one for the location, and then do one for the art." If a movie was like, "Yo, we're shooting in Hawaii, and it's very low budget and you're not going to get paid anything, but the script's pretty good," I would do it. Just because I would like a vacation.
So you would go for "The Descendants 2" with Shailene in Hawaii?
That would probably end up happening.
I'm assuming you won't be dancing in "Divergent," but thanks to "Footloose," we all certainly know that you can.
Haha! I don't know, I think my character in "Divergent" is an incredible dancer. He may never dance in these movies, but he's very good!
That's just part of how the character exists for you?
That's just part of him. He's a really, really good dancer. People just never invite him out.