By Sharon Clott Kanter
Updated Oct 12, 2014 @ 4:00 pm
Credit: Jerome Corpuz

He's made you laugh in Divergent and That Awkward Moment, but get ready to see Miles Teller in a whole new light. In Whiplash, out this month, Teller stars as a competitive jazz drummer who goes head-to-head with his music instructor, played by J.K. Simmons, at a Juilliard-like school in New York. One of the buzziest films of the year since its premiere at Sundance, the drama has made the full tour through the film festival circuit. At InStyle and Forevermark's pop-up portrait lounge in Toronto for the International Film Festival, Teller and Simmons told InStyle what you can expect from the most intense scenes in the movie—and you won't want to miss any of them.

Teller was an avid drummer for years, so it makes sense that he looks right at home on a drum kit in the film. “My character plays jazz, which is a completely different style than what I’ve played,” he said. “I felt like I was learning from scratch, because you hold the stick differently. The most fundamental thing is how you hold the drumstick, and that's very different. The timing and rhythms are completely different, too.”

Things get so hardcore that you might wonder if it's actually Teller on the drums at times--and the answer is yes, it's really him. “My hardest scene was when we were having a drum-off, and J.K.’s character wants us to do a certain amount of beats per minute on the cymbal,” Teller said. “It’s like a competition, but we’ve been there for hours. We were drumming on the cymbal hard, and finally, I just stopped because I couldn’t go anymore. Drumming is very exhausting—it’s a lot of frenetic movement, especially this big band stuff,” Teller said.

“Miles worked his butt off to get his drumming chops back,” Simmons added. And while he's full of praise, Simmons still likes to take a shot at Teller every now and then—literally. “My favorite scene is the one where I'm slapping the s*** out of Miles.”

Check out the trailer below for Whiplash, in theaters today!