Why Miles Teller Is The Perfect Choice To Play Elvis
There is a scene in Whiplash, the 2014 film starring Miles Teller as a drum student at a prestigious music academy in New York, in which his character Andrew breaks up with the girl he is dating.
"Really, I'm going to start to resent you for even asking me to stop drumming," he says, theorising how she will get in the way of what he needs to do. "I'd rather just break it off clean."
There's something so emotionally blunt about his delivery that it starts to cross your mind that perhaps he has a point. She really would only start to resent him. You see this single-minded determination in Teller's eyes for every frame of Whiplash, even as his knuckles split from thrashing a hi-hat or a car ploughs into the side of him.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the 32-year-old actor was in the running to play Elvis in a forthcoming biopic of the musician directed by Baz Luhrmann. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Teller was one of five actors called for screen-test last week alongside Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Austin Butler.
Styles is attractive for the star power he'll bring—the former One Direction singer has been credited in part with Dunkirk exceeding box office expectations—and can obviously hold a tune, but on the flip-side, the rest of his acting CV is largely made up of fragrance commercials. Which isn't to say he couldn't be great, but that casting him could make it a Harry Styles film, rather than an Elvis film.
Graduating from comedies like Kick Ass, Taylor-Johnson proved his acting chops with his performance in Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, but as a Brit, and one who doesn't remotely look like the King, this feels off as a casting. Elgort is the youngest of all the contenders, and looks it too. That isn't necessarily a deal breaker as Elvis' prime was in his early twenties, but aside from playing the titular young'un in Baby Driver, his recent projects have been a succession of middling teen films.
Which leaves Butler, an emerging actor who is set to appear in Once Upon a Time In... Hollywood this summer, but who is without a substantial back catalog. This could work in his favor if they want a fresh face, but really, there's no real challenger to Teller, who's been linked to the role since 2016.
Aside from Whiplash, his career highlights include a Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting at Sundance Film Festival for The Spectacular Now. There have been some misfires—like the American Sniper imitator Thank You for Your Service—but unless there are other unknown contenders, he's the obvious front-runner to take on the troubled musician.
Having grown up in a family of musicians, Teller played piano and saxophone before teaching himself the drums aged 15. After working with director Damien Chazelle on Whiplash he was almost cast in the director's Oscar-winning musical La La Land. Despite losing out to Ryan Gosling, it is a testament to the fact he clearly has some pipes on him.
Then, there's the visual similarities between Teller and Presley: the same doe eyes, the same oval-shaped face, the same dashing smile which sometimes strays into a smirk. Of course, actors don't get cast for how similar they are to the subjects they take on—that's where the acting bit comes in—but there is something about Teller which makes you confident he can pull of the charismatic, and at times melancholy, spirit of the musician.
The as yet untitled biopic comes in the midst of a series of films documenting the lives and careers of music icons, from Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody to Elton John in Rocketman. While the finer plot details of the Elvis biopic aren't yet clear, it is thought that the story will focus on Elvis' rise to fame, and his turbulent relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks.
Parker was a dominating force in Presley's life who tried to control him and was widely derided as a ruthless money-grabber who manipulated the star. Teller is of course already well-versed in playing a character who is controlled by a domineering figure. His on-screen chemistry with J.K Simmons, who went on to win an Oscar for Whiplash, provided the driving force of the film.
Elvis' story ended with a crushing addiction to prescription drugs which he overdosed on multiple times before dying of a heart attack at 42. It's not known yet how, if at all, Luhrmann's biopic will focus on this, or whether it will lean more towards the music and theatrics of his life like The Great Gatsby or Moulin Rouge.
Should he choose to lean into the dark last days of his life, then Teller's a prime candidate thanks to the range he displayed in Whiplash, changing from happy-go-lucky to jaded and withdrawn.
The white jumpsuit, the slicked back quiff, the baritone heartbreak songs and the slowly simmering resentment between Presley and Parker. Should Teller land the part, it has the potential for a career-defining one.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.