Thursday, October 18, 2018
Things To Do

Snoopy? How rising star Miles Teller, a Lecanto High grad, found acting (w/video)

Maybe if Beth Bedee weren't so pretty, Miles Teller wouldn't be a movie star.

Teller, earning Oscar buzz for his new movie Whiplash, would've kept playing baseball at Citrus County's Lecanto High School, with sportscasting in mind after graduating in 2005.

But boys will be boys, and Mrs. Bedee was a blond, young incoming teacher taking over the Panther Players drama program. Like other smitten students, Teller joined in his sophomore year, debuting as "Willard" in a production of Footloose.

"When I got on stage and got the first laugh, I was hooked," Teller said in a telephone interview. "It absolutely felt like something had been missing from my life up to that point."

Just eight years later, he reprised the role in a Hollywood remake.

Then and now, Teller credits Bedee for his success nearly as often as his Tisch School of the Arts instructors in New York.

"Had she not come to Lecanto, I'm sure I would've found acting at some point," Teller, 27, said. "Without her energy, her professionalism, I don't think it would've happened nearly as fast."

These are heady days for Teller who has a Gotham Award nomination for Whiplash (opening locally Friday), a Sundance acting prize shared with co-star Shailene Woodley for The Spectacular Now, two blockbuster franchises in the can, and is filming a biopic of champion boxer Vinny Pazienza.

Bedee, now Citrus County's social studies supervisor, is proud of, yet modest, about her role in Teller's rise since his 2010 screen debut opposite Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

"You could see it right away, that he just had a special talent, had that 'it' factor," she said. "And he always fed off the audience. If he got that applause, or whatever reaction he wanted, that really drove him."

Ironically, not getting a desired response in a classroom exercise is what shaped Teller's future.

Bedee assigned her students to write and perform a skit. Teller and a friend developed a serious piece that nonetheless drew classmates' laughter. His joking reputation got in the way.

"That upset me a little bit," he said. "I felt like I was one with the people, man, in control of the message. But at that point I realized that anything I wanted to do, they would assume it was supposed to be funny.

"I didn't want to be a standup comedian, or just a comedic actor by any means. So, that was a clear moment for me to start engaging in more dramatic material."

Teller and Bedee found the monologue About Sally, which involves a father grieving his infant daughter's death, to polish for entry in high school acting competitions. As a junior, Teller earned a superior rating at the annual Florida State Thespian Festival in Tampa.

"This kid who's 15 or 16 is playing a father who lost a child, and he had everybody in tears," Bedee said. "He was like a minor celebrity walking around Tampa at the convention: 'There's that About Sally kid.' "

Teller's father, Mike, said: "It was at that point in time that we thought, okay, there's something special going on here."

Looking back, Mike Teller should've seen stardom coming. His household was musical "controlled chaos" with Miles, sisters Erin and Dana, and mother Merry. Each played piano and sang, Miles took saxophone lessons and taught himself to play guitar and drums (a handy talent for Whiplash, in which he plays a driven jazz drummer).

"Friends coming over would always know there was a mini-circus going on," the actor said. "I never had a house where my parents would say turn it down."

Mike Teller thinks his son's acting ambitions were rooted at preschool age, when he visited backstage at a community theater production of The Wizard of Oz: "He was 2 feet high, looking up at all these people in costume and he wasn't intimidated. He was taking it all in."

Soon after, Miles surprised his parents at a souvenir stand, with a pair of Dick Tracy and Breathless Mahoney figurines, from the movie starring Warren Beatty and Madonna.

"He puts them on the counter, one in each hand, and proceeds to sing the song verbatim: 'Sooner or later, you're gonna be mine,' from the movie," Mike Teller said. "And he's playing with them like they're toy soldiers.

"Merry and I looked at each other like, oh my god. From that point on, Miles had a unique ability to capture movies that he would remember and start play acting. Home Alone came out not too long after that; he was booby trapping the house."

Yet aside from two wordless stage roles as a child extra, Miles Teller didn't do any acting until joining Bedee's Panther Players. Footloose led to roles in Damn Yankees, Bye Bye Birdie and as Snoopy in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Bedee's lessons and acting exercises stick with him today.

"Some of the stuff I was doing in Beth's class was just as advanced as what I was doing in college," Teller said, "how we'd critique it and wanted to make it better.

"Absolutely without her I don't think I would've ended up where I'm at."

Bedee isn't so certain about that, sounding like a teacher you'd like to have:

"What I did was allow him to have an outlet. … I just got him, understood where he was coming from, and was able to kind of bring it out, give him opportunities to shine.

"But as far as creating the genius? That came from him."

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

     
 
Comments
Hurricane Michael: Here's how we reported from Mexico Beach

Hurricane Michael: Here's how we reported from Mexico Beach

Reporting in a hurricane is dangerous, complicated and important. When it came to Hurricane Michael, we had to find a way to tell the stories.
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Hurricane Michael: How we prepared to cover the aftermath

Hurricane Michael: How we prepared to cover the aftermath

What is the storm category rating? Concrete block with steel-rebar-reinforced columns is acceptable. Stay away from brick-, wood- or metal-framed structures. They could collapse or be compromised by wind and water.
Published: 10/18/18

Sports on TV/radio for Thursday, October 18

TODAYBaseball playoffsALCS: Red Sox at Astros8 p.m.TBS; 620-AMBoxingMiddleweights: Quigley vs. Hernandez10 p.m.ESPN2College footballGeorgia State at Arkansas State7:30 p.m.ESPNUStanford at Arizona State9 p.m.ESPNCollege soccerWomen: Texas A&M at Alab...
Updated: 11 hours ago
So much to like about ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

So much to like about ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

TAMPA — The latest touring Broadway show in town fails spectacularly. It’s supposed to.The Play That Goes Wrong had a full house at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts laughing almost the entire time, in a way I have never heard bef...
Published: 10/17/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 18

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 18

Clearwater Jazz Holiday: George Thorogood and the Destroyers headline the opening day of this year’s four-day music festival. 6:45 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. Four-day package $70-$180. two days $35-$90. Singe day: general admissio...
Published: 10/17/18
Last year, the arts got little state money. This year, arts groups are watching.

Last year, the arts got little state money. This year, arts groups are watching.

In March, the state slashed funding for hundreds of Florida’s arts and cultural programs by 90 percent. The dropoff came as a blow to the gut, like downsizing from two loaves of bread to one piece.After three straight years of cuts, arts nonprofit or...
Published: 10/17/18
Big Bird puppeteer is retiring after 50 years on 'Sesame Street'

Big Bird puppeteer is retiring after 50 years on 'Sesame Street'

WOODSTOCK, Conn. — The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on "Sesame Street" is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.Caroll Spinney tells the New York Times that Thursday will be his last day on the program, which he joined from...
Published: 10/17/18
Best pizza in the U.S. comes from this Boston restaurant, TripAdvisor says

Best pizza in the U.S. comes from this Boston restaurant, TripAdvisor says

TripAdvisor offered its views of the best pizza restaurants in the country, and while New York can claim one big victory, it fell short of the ultimate prize -- the best pizzeria in the land.
Published: 10/17/18
Roseanne overdosed on opioids and left ‘The Conners’ behind. It’s better this way.

Roseanne overdosed on opioids and left ‘The Conners’ behind. It’s better this way.

BC's The Conners, a retitled reboot of a revival, made its return Tuesday night with the now widely known news that its main character, Roseanne Conner, had recently died in her sleep at the sitcom family's home in Lanford, Illinois, a small town tha...
Published: 10/17/18
Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

ST. PETERSBURGDr. BBQ needed a beer. Mission accomplished: A sip of Green Bench’s Dr. BBQ Pale Lager dispatched, he was ready to start the tour. See that teal tufted couch against that wall? It’s like something from Girl & the Goat in Chicago. The wo...
Published: 10/17/18