Miles Teller, who currently plays The Godfather producer Albert Ruddy in The Offer (premiering on Paramount+ on April 28), broke out playing a jazz drummer in 2014’s Whiplash. But three years before that, he made his studio film debut as a rhythmically challenged high school student in 2011’s .
The film, which set out to capitalize on the popularity of the Step Up franchise that kicked off in 2006 (and made Channing Tatum a star), was a remake of the 1984 hit about a big-city kid from Chicago named Ren (Kevin Bacon) who teaches a small Midwestern town to dance again after the activity is outlawed at the urging of an overzealous preacher (John Lithgow).
The remake stars Kenny Wormald (a former Justin Timberlake background dancer who was cast when Zac Efron pulled out, worried he’d be typecast as purely a song-and-dance man after his High School Musical success) as Ren and relocates the town to Georgia (familiar Southern territory to writer-director Craig Brewer, who made his name with 2005’s Memphis-set Hustle & Flow). There, a dance ban is put in place after an accident takes the lives of a group of teens coming home from a party. Teller, then 23, plays Willard in the remake, an endearing goofball who befriends Ren and later learns to dance in a montage set to “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” — exactly as in the original.
“I have vivid memories of Miles Teller telling me he can’t dance,” recalls the movie’s choreographer, Jamal Sims. “But he said, ‘I can do this’ — and he did a glide, kind of a moonwalk in circles. I was like, ‘Oh, you can dance!’ So we use that glide in the movie a couple times. He had moves already. He literally was Willard.”
The new Footloose left The Hollywood Reporter underwhelmed, its critic calling it a “by-the-numbers affair that generates rote sympathy for hormonally charged high schoolers busting out of their jeans to find a way to express themselves.” The review did single out Wormald as a “dynamic and attractive new actor,” and as “comic relief and a reluctant dancer,” THR proclaimed, Teller “scores.”
This story first appeared in the April 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.