Q&A Movie-soldier Miles Teller: 'Who am I to put on this uniform?'

By Bonnie Laufer

Looking to "up" his game, MIles Teller has been making serious films lately (Whiplash, Bleed For This), and he has two films out this month in which he plays real-life heroes. 

Only the Brave (out last weekend) is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who battled the Yarnell Hill wildfire, which blazed through Arizona in June 2013.

Teller sat down with Original-Cin’s Bonnie Laufer to talk about his new movie, Thank You For Your Service ( in theatres this Friday). It tells the true story of Sgt. Adam Schumann, an Iraq war veteran, who struggles to integrate back into civilian life after three tours of duty. The actor calls it the most difficult role he ever played.

 Miles Teller as Sgt. Adam Schumann in Thank You For Your Service

Miles Teller as Sgt. Adam Schumann in Thank You For Your Service

ORIGINAL-CIN: What was your overall experience like making this film?

MILES TELLER: “This experience was really trying and really tough. But everybody went into it with a lot of hope and compassion. It just meant a lot to everyone in the entire cast and crew and we all put in everything we could  to make it as authentic as possible. It truly was one of the most eye opening and hardest role I’ve ever had to play.”

OC: I understand how important it was for you to be a part of this, but what an honor it must have been as well.

TELLER: “I have so much respect for our military that I almost didn't want to do the film because I felt like, ‘Who am I to put on this uniform? Who am I to say that I just got back from my third deployment?’ I didn't want to take that responsibility on, because I was very intimidated by it. But now that I've seen the movie, I just feel so proud to be a part of it and to be chosen to be the guy to represent Adam Schumann. You're right, it is one of the greatest honours of my life.

OC: Tell me a little about Adam and bonding with him.

TELLER: “He is just awesome and it was so great spending time with him and getting to know him. This is very sensitive material and we are showing the darkest moments of his life.

“And it all started when he let David Finkel, the author of the book, live with him for those nine months when he was just getting back from war. How many people would just say, ‘Yes come live with me when my marriage may be falling apart,' or ‘I'm trying to figure out how to take care of my kid,' or, 'I need to go to the VA all the time and my best friend kills himself after coming back from our last tour.’ It's really tough, but at the same time I think there's a lot of hope in this movie. And that's what Adam represents to me. I just respect him so much and I learned a lot from him.”

OC: What I found so unbelievable is to see what happens when these guys come home. They're not cared for very well after all they have done for their country.

TELLER: “Yeah we don't have the pension plan set up for these guys like we do for cops and firefighters. It's tough, because we have no problem sending these guys to war, but we still don't know how to bring them back. It's not that the VA is bad or that our Congress doesn't care. It's just that they don't understand how to deal with these guys and what they are going through - especially dealing with immense trauma and then coming back and having to figure it out.”

OC: PTSD is such a huge problem. It's horrifying to discover that something like 22 people a day who have some back from war commit suicide.

TELLER: “That's just not from this war. We are talking about all veterans. We have guys who served over thirty years ago who can't deal with it. You also see it now with football players with CTE and very well-known musicians who commit suicide. I do think that as a country we need to rally around (trauma) a little more, that it should become a national issue.”

OC: You were recently in Toronto for the Invictus Games. What an amazing thing that Prince Harry has done for veteran soldiers who are dealing with PTSD or have come back from the war having lost limbs.

TELLER: “Prince Harry is The Man!! (laughs) It's extraordinary and I was thrilled to have been a small part of it alongside Adam Schumann. Just watching these guys wearing their flags and competing in these sports.

“We saw a wheelchair basketball game, and it just shows you that these guys don't stop being soldiers when they get back from war. There was a team from Afghanistan there which blew me away. They had to go to a safe location just to be able to train, just to be able to try out and go to the Invictus games. To see all of the different countries competing in these games, it makes everyone feel as one. In the military that to me is where society actually works. Race, religion none of that matters. Everybody is green in the army.”

OC: You also star in Only the Brave portraying a real-life fire fighter. It's got to be very important to you on a personal level to tell these stories.

TELLER: “It is, absolutely. Look, I know I am in the ‘entertainment business,’ as it were. But every once in a while, if you can get attached to a story that you're very personally affected by, you just feel a responsibility to get that story out there. Hopefully you get to work with people like I got work with on this, that felt so strongly about the material and knew that we could really make an impactful film.”

Thank You For Your Service. Directed by Jason Hall. Starring Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Amy Schumer Opens wide, Friday, October 27.

For more of Bonnie's interviews from Thank You For Your Service, click here. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTGPLZa_wSI&list=PLe4GXBB52jAVJpEZYC57TzFDqsxkT6N8M