You Don’t Have To Like Jazz To Be Entranced by Whiplash

One of the buzziest films of the year is Whiplash, starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, who go head-to-head in a story about a young jazz drummer and his ruthless instructor. The film takes off from its opening scene, building both the tempo and tension for much of its 106 minutes before leaving audiences stunned by the pair’s relentless nature.

Whiplash first wowed Sundance audiences back in January, and the film is finally opening in theaters nationwide on Oct. 10. Before you head out, we’re breaking down the most important elements so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

The film was blacklisted

In 2012, Damien Chazelle’s screenplay was featured on film executive Franklin Leonard’s annual round up of unproduced scripts. The Black List, which was created in 2004, has been responsible for catapulting several stories to the screen big. Some of the biggest films to come out of the list are American Hustle, Argo, Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, and 50/50. When studios finally took notice of Whiplash, Chazelle turned his 15 pages into a short film starring Simmons before a feature-length version was financed.

Miles Teller almost passed on the role

2014 has been a breakout year for Teller, who has starred in four films (including Divergent, That Awkward Moment, and Two Night Stand). Feeling depleted from working on so many movies back-to-back, Teller “just wanted to hang out.” While on the set of the big-budget YA adaptation Divergent, his agent sent him Chazelle’s script. “I was like, ‘That’s awesome. I don’t know if I’m going to do it.’ My agent said, ‘You have to do this film, it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read,’” Teller explained to Variety. (It should also be noted he was not the first choice for the lead. Kill Your Darlings star Dane DeHaan passed on the role first, opening things up for Teller.)

See Miles discuss his very different roles of 2014, below.

This film does not involve Shailene Woodley

Yes, two of Teller’s biggest films have seen him paired on screen with the actress (Divergent and 2013’s The Spectacular Now). However, this film is focused squarely on the relationship between Andrew Neyman (Teller) and Terence Fletcher (Simmons). While there is a fleeting love interest, the part is played by Glee’s Melissa Benoist (pictured) — not Woodley.

Those wanting to see Teller and Woodley back together will have to wait for the Divergent sequel, Insurgent (to be released March 20, 2015). But if Woodley has her way, they’ll do more films together: “I would love for us to be a famous screen couple,” Woodley told W Magazine. “Like Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I want to do a musical with him!”

Watch as the pair discusses working together on The Spectacular Now and filming their first sex scene (let’s hope the next time isn’t as awkward).

Yes, Miles is really drumming

What you see on screen is Teller working as hard as he can to impress both his music conductor and film audiences. The actor, who played drums in high school, worked with an instructor three times a week and practiced four hours a day while studying videos of jazz drummer Buddy Rich. While the drumming is good, the acting is better. Focus on Teller’s intensity as he drums his way through injuries and personal defeat.

And yes, J.K. Simmons is really a jerk

Not in real life! Just in the film. The story is largely about the relationship between Terrence and Andrew and ultimate showdown between the two as they push each to their limits of self-control. Simmons relishes in role as the maniacal instructor who unleashes barbs at his students. He’s relentless. He’s cruel. He’s a jerk, but one that just might earn himself an Oscar nomination. He’s that good.

[Photo: Sony Picture Classics]