In a new ad campaign for Prada, the Italian fashion house, Miles Teller looks intense in a blue shirt and dark blazer. He is pulling a fancy fountain pen out of his breast pocket, scrawling something on the palm of his hand.
The spread appeared last week in a glossy men's fashion magazine, part of a big Sunday newspaper.
"I've got to send it to all my ex-girlfriends," Teller deadpans.
All his exes?
"Not that many," says the star of the Oscar-nominated best picture Whiplash and the mega-box-office Divergent series. "Under five."
Teller, 28 - who spent his childhood in Downingtown, in Cape May, and in the stands at Veterans Stadium watching the Phillies - is on the phone from Los Angeles, talking up Insurgent, the second installment in the franchise adapted from Veronica Roth's Divergent best sellers. The film, opening Friday, is set in a futuristic, dystopian Chicago, walled in from the rest of the world (which might be obliterated) and divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent).
Shailene Woodley stars as Beatrice "Tris" Prior, the heroine who, with a bit of all five in her DNA, doesn't fit in. Tris becomes the Katniss Everdeen-like symbol of rebellion against the powers that be. Teller, who also starred with Woodley in the 2013 high school rom-com The Spectacular Now, plays Peter Hayes in the Divergent series, a Dauntless initiate not to be trusted.
"I don't owe Tris anything," he says. "She's not my family. She's not my friend. She's just this girl who, as far as I'm concerned, is disrupting the system. . . . I'm trying to figure out what's best for me and what gives me the best opportunity to do something better for myself. . . . And then when I get screwed over by the Erudite, I think, OK, maybe this Tris character has something to say here, so then I float with her camp for a little bit.
"But at the end of the day, Peter is just looking out for himself."
Peter also will be looking out for himself in Allegiant, the two-part finale to the book trilogy, set to begin production in mid-May.
"As long as Peter is alive, I will be playing him," says Teller, who may have another recurring role in his not-so-dystopian future. On Aug. 7, The Fantastic Four, adapted from the Marvel Comics series created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, is slated for release. Teller is Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic, a brainy scientist with the power of elasticity. He is joined by Kate Mara (Susan Storm/Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan (Johnny Storm/Human Torch), and Jamie Bell (Ben Grimm/The Thing).
"Two franchises at once - that's good, isn't it?" the actor says, confirming that his Fantastic Four contract calls for two or three sequels. "The goal is to make sure it's good enough to do a second one. . . . I haven't seen any of it yet, only that sizzle trailer, but it felt good doing it."
Teller was born in Downingtown, Chester County, and spent his childhood at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, walking the boardwalk in Wildwood, walking home from school amid the splendid Victorians of Cape May. His family picked up and moved to Florida, where he went to high school, but he remains a diehard Philly sports fan. In fact, the first words out of his mouth on the phone last week were "Frank Gore," when it looked as though the running back would be playing for the Eagles. (He won't.)
Teller has fond memories of going to Veterans Stadium with his father for the Phillies-Braves games every year. And he remembers the team's playoffs, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
"I was at the game in 2008 when Shane Victorino hit the grand slam off of CC Sabathia - that was an incredible memory."
Teller got into acting at Lecanto High in Citrus County, Fla. It was the end of his sophomore year, and he was cast as Willard, the best friend, in Footloose. He played the same role in the 2011 remake of the Kevin Bacon movie musical.
"By my junior year, I was in all the plays, and senior year, I was drama club president."
Then, it was on to the theater program at NYU. Two months before graduating in 2009, he was cast in Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of the David Lindsay-Abaire play. His costar: Nicole Kidman.
"That was the first thing I worked on, which was in New York, and then after that finished, I moved out to L.A. . . . I was not a free agent for too long."
Teller has recently moved into a new place in L.A. He's in the process of setting up a music room, complete with a drum kit. In Whiplash, he played an intensely focused student at a New York conservatory who becomes the protégé, and the punching bag, of a maniacal jazz drumming instructor - Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons.
"Music will always be a part of my life," Teller says. "When you have free time, you can play music. It's not like acting - when you have free time, you don't go around acting. . . . But music, you can always be creating something."
Maybe he'll even start a band.
"I'd love to get famous enough as an actor where people would come and listen to me play Bob Seger covers," he says. "That would be cool."
Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Bruce Willis - they've all fronted bands and hit the road. In some cases, you kind of wish they hadn't.
"Yeah," Teller says. "I'll probably be in that category."
But maybe he can keep that modeling-career thing happening.