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J.K. Simmons on Why Miles Teller is ‘Such a Slappable Little Bastard’

J.K. Simmons on Why Miles Teller is ‘Such a Slappable Little Bastard’

Months after becoming the sensation of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it netted the Grand Jury Prize, Damien Chazelle’s jazz music drama “Whiplash” finally made its way to New York today.

READ MORE: Sundance Review: J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller Impress With a Ferocious Student-Teacher Dynamic in ‘Whiplash’

“Whiplash” stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neyman, an aspiring jazz legend who attends the most prestigious music school in the country. There he meets sadistic and sociopathic music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who pushes him past his physical and mental limits.

Teller was a no show (no surprise there following his “Divergent” remarks earlier this week), so it was up to Chazelle and Simmons to discuss the making of the film, which opens in October via Sony Pictures Classics. Here are the highlights from the wide-ranging discussion.

“Whiplash” was made in only 19 days. While answering a question about his character’s sociopathic and homophobic tendencies, Simmons — who arrived before Chazelle — began by making a couple quips about the director’s age (calling him “kid” and “an adolescent”) before sharing how “Whiplash” was impressively shot in just 19 days. 

Before acting, J.K. Simmons was a studied and paid musician. The actor joked about getting paid “tens of dollars” while studying to be a classical musician in college. Although having no prior conductorial experience, his musical background made learning techniques for the film easier. He also joked about his mediocre piano-playing abilities, which was something he had to work on for a short scene. 

Simmons became involved with the help of Jason Reitman. Reitman worked on “Juno” with Simmons (Juno’s dad!) and was the one to send the actor Chazelle’s script. Simmons saw two scripts, one for the short film, which was made to prelude and build up hype for the full length. In the short, actor Johnny Simmons (“The To-Do List” ) plays the role of Andrew. 

The film has autobiographical elements. Chazelle was a drummer in high school and was part of an extremely intense class with a very tough professor. Moderator Amy Taubin mentioned how before band practice Chazelle would throw up out of nerves. 

Miles Teller also has a musical background. Simmons revealed that Teller had experience as a rock band drummer before coming onboard. Teller was always Chazelle’s first choice, but his challenge was adjusting to the different playing style.

“Full Metal Jacket” An audience member made a comparison between R. Lee Ermey’s character in “Full Metal Jacket” and Simmons’ Terence Fletcher. Simmons acknowledged the validity in the comparison and mentioned that references to the Kubrick film were made on set. 

Miles Teller helped Simmons deliver such a powerhouse performance. Although Simmons cited well known maniacal jazz legends and Chazelle’s script as inspirations for his character, he also gave a shoutout to Teller: “I would look at Miles — he’s such a slappable little bastard.” There you have it. 

READ MORE: Watch: Miles Teller Got Very Familiar with J.K. Simmons’ Wrinkles and More from ‘Whiplash’ TIFF Talks

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