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Actor and native Floridian Miles Teller discusses his acting process and dissects Rabbit Hole

Young actors had an outstanding year for performances in 2010. From 14-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit” to 20-year-old Aaron Johnson’s embodiment of legendary musician John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy,” one might wonder why the majority of Academy Award winners this year were above the age of 30.

Another memorable performance of 2010 was 23-year-old Miles Teller in “Rabbit Hole.” The film follows a couple who must deal with the loss of their only child after their son is run over by Teller’s character, Jason.

While Teller only shares a few scenes with the couple, played by Nicole Kidman and “The Dark Knight” actor Aaron Eckhart, he more than holds his own in a film full of prestigious talent. Curiously enough, “Rabbit Hole” is only Teller’s first feature film.

In a recent conference call, Teller discussed director John Cameron Mitchell’s acclaimed “Rabbit Hole,” as well as talked about when he first caught the acting bug.

“I first got into (acting) my sophomore year of high school,” Teller said. “We just got in this new drama teacher who was really young and energized for the program. Before that, the program was where kids went to hide out rather than put on great performances.”

Once Teller began attending drama classes in Citrus County, about an hour north of Tampa, he decided to audition for the part of the rhythmless Willard in his school’s production of “Footloose,” a move that would be both inspiring and oddly foretelling of his future career.

“My buddy who I was playing baseball with and strangely enough Muay Thai kickboxing, he said, ‘Hey, the high school is doing a production of ‘Footloose,’ we should audition for it,'” Teller said. “He got the lead role of Ren, and I got the part of Willard, and I guess I had the bug from there.”

Teller’s role as Willard in the production of “Footloose” influenced him to change his intended career path.

“Before that, I was planning on going to Syracuse to study broadcast journalism,” Teller said. “Thanks to my (friend) and my drama teacher, I was all ‘jacked up for drama.'”

As for inspiration from accomplished actors, Teller said that despite being a fan of the “Indiana Jones” trilogy and some of Nicolas Cage’s performances, he likes to draw his acting inspiration from great scripts and real-life emotion.

“With acting, the reason I got into it is that it gives you the chance to explore the many facets of the human experience and human emotions,” Teller said. “With (Rabbit Hole), there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s not a script where you just sit around a coffee table and talk about bullshit.”

A particular scene between Kidman’s character and Teller involved them sitting on a park bench and calmly discussing Teller’s future. Teller said the scene represents what acting means to him.

“In this scene, we’re talking about me going to college and all these things that don’t really matter,” Teller said. “Underneath that, here’s this woman whose child I killed in a freak accident, and she doesn’t hate me, and I don’t hate her. And there’s just so much going on, but we don’t have to talk about it.”

The experience of working with an accomplished actress like Kidman, an intelligent director in Mitchell and a great script by playwright David Lindsay-Abaireprovided Teller with plenty of confidence, especially for his first feature.

“You can’t take in everything, but I was exposed to such great actors and such consummate professionals,” Teller said. “The way they go about the work is great to see.”

While Teller now has a friendly relationship with the film’s leading man, he said his first meeting with Eckhart was far from decent. After Teller’s character accidentally runs over their son, he shares a particularly heated moment with Eckhart in their family kitchen.

“The first scene we did together was when I walked in the kitchen. I hadn’t said a word to him until I walked into that scene, and that’s how I met Aaron,” Teller said. “When I was first talking to him, while all this was going on, all I could see was Harvey Dent or his character from ‘Thank You for Smoking.'”

Next up for Teller are two high-profile Hollywood projects. The first, the mysteriously titled “Project X,” is a party comedy in the vein of “Superbad,” and is being produced by “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips.

Teller is one of the main characters in the film, which has been secretly ushered through production since day one, and could possibly turn out to be a sleeper comedy hit when it’s released in November.

“I am excited for that. I have no idea what it’s going to be or how it’s going to turn out,” Teller said. “Todd was there a lot in the beginning, so that’s cool. He directed the first scene I was in, and he said, ‘You’re really funny, just stop mumbling.'”

The next project is a remake of the 1984 dance film “Footloose,” which he said will most likely be in theaters at the same time as “Project X,” where Teller will reprise his role of Willard, but on a much larger scale than his high school production of the film.

“I get an entire dance montage,” Teller said. “So I can now cross that off of my movie bucket list.”

Teller said that when he was offered the role he was asked if he could do a Southern accent for the character. He promised that he could deliver more than just an accent.

“Having grown up in Florida, I had my character pretty much pegged,” Teller said. “Where I’m from, (the) population was 7,000 people, and when I moved there, it was Redneck Riviera. So I felt like I pretty much knew where I was going to take Willard from there.”

With other ‘80s remakes such as “Arthur” and “Fame” being churned out into cinemas, Teller said he realizes that expectations are low, but promised that with the involvement of “Hustle and Flow” director Craig Brewer, it’ll be much more interesting than audiences are expecting.

“Brewer will give the film a little more street credit. I know that expectations are really low for this movie,” Teller said. “That’s exciting, though, because I’d rather surprise people than disappoint people.”

“Rabbit Hole” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.