In his new film Bleed for This (opening today), Miles Teller shows off more than just his acting chops. The movie centers on Teller’s character, real-life world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza who makes a remarkable comeback after suffering a near-fatal spinal injury in a car crash.
"To me the heart of the movie is this guy who everybody’s telling [that returning to boxing] is impossible; it’s not gonna happen,” Teller told InStyle at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Doctors, people at the highest part of their field are telling him, literally this is impossible. And there’s just something inside him that said, no, it’s not impossible. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna prove everybody wrong.”
To prepare for the role, Teller had to get into Vinny’s head as much as his boxing technique, tapping into a part of himself that could relate to Vinny’s will and determination to succeed against all odds. Physically, Teller also had to get into Vinny’s boxing shape and undertook an intense diet and exercise regimen that included working with boxing coach Darrell Foster, Sugar Ray Leonard’s former trainer who also helped prep Will Smith for his role in Ali.
"I had about seven or eight months of dieting and weight training, and then we got in the boxing toward the end,” Teller said. “At first I was just trying to not look like a freakin idiot on camera. A lot of other boxing movies that have come out, their budget is ten times as much as ours. We shot this in 24 days and for each fight we only had one day to film. That’s really tough to do, so it was just flying.”
The final touch in Teller’s transformation? The film’s spot-on 1980s costumes, including one very memorable “outfit” for a scene in which Vinny gets weighed before a big fight.
"I knew I was gonna be wearing a thong, because that was real. Vinny still has his. You know, Vinny was just a flashy dude,” Teller said. “When [the real] Vinny was on set, I wanted him, in a weird way, to see himself 30 years ago.”
Even though Vinny wasn’t on set the day they filmed the thong scene, Teller said he had so much fun with the wardrobe that he had to keep a few mementos.
"We replicated Vinny’s jean jackets. I kept more wardrobe from this movie than I have from any other. I got all my jean jackets, I got all my 'Pazmanian Devil' jacket and shirts.” Pazmanian Devil was one of Vinny’s nicknames. “I was just really excited to play him. I have so much respect for him,” Teller said.