From the writers of “The Hangover” comes an outrageous R-rated comedy 21 years in the making. College honor student Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) has always done what’s expected of him. But when his two best friends Casey (Skylar Astin) and Miller (Miles Teller) surprise him on his 21st birthday, he decides to do what’s unexpected for a change, to the dismay of his hard-driving father (Francois Chau) who’s arranged a crucial medical school interview for him early the next morning. What starts out as just one beer turns into an all-night, non-stop drunken bender.
At the film’s recent press day, Chon and Teller talked about working with co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, trusting one another with the film’s extreme physical comedy, ad libbing their lines, getting used to wearing only a tube sock on set, using ass doubles, playing drunk by the number, shooting a wild bathroom scene without a stunt double, playing drinking games in a frat house, riding a mechanical bull, being thrown off a roof, and surviving a golf cart accident. They also revealed how their 21st birthdays compared to their characters, what it was like acting opposite veteran actor Chau, and their upcoming projects.
Q: Miles, is it true that you were called to audition for the part of Casey?
Teller: Yes, I was supposed to go for Casey because he’s the attractive leading man who gets the girl. I was like, “No, I think Miller’s a lot funnier.” In the script, there was a big Fish guy, like the band “Fish.” I’m a big Dead fan so I went in wearing a tie-dyed Grateful Dead shirt. I was like, “I’m not reading for Casey. I’m reading for Miller and this is my part, so let’s do it.” That was the closest to my own voice that I had read in a script for a while so I felt pretty good about it. That’s Hollywood. Your agent’s like, “No, he wants this part. He gets the girl.” But I think the other part is so much better.
Q: Justin, you get to do a lot of physical comedy in this film. Was there ever a moment where you were like, “No, it’s too much. I can’t do that.”?
Chon: No, everything was always a yes, but it hurt. It’s like I’m getting thrown around and I’m hitting the ground. But I’ll tell you…
Teller: They crammed your head into the car window a couple of times.
Chon: But being carried like this (underneath his arms) was actually the most painful because you have to be dead weight. These guys were complaining that I’m not helping them out, but I’m like, “Dude, it hurts.” Your armpits start stretching and it hurts pretty bad.
Q: I have to ask, how did the teddy bear stay on?
Chon: There were a few different ones. They had the one…
Teller: Not from his dick.
Chon: Not from my dick. Bra straps had that clear material that’s nude looking. We had one like that. We had an underwear one and we had a pouch drawstring one. The pouch drawstring one hurt like shit because it would be held on, and if you tie it on loose, when you’re running it will fly off, so you’ve got to do it pretty tight. After about an hour, my balls are hurting like a motherfucker. It hurts really bad. I would have to loosen it for a second in the bathroom and chill out and then go back and retie it. That one was the one that you can’t see anything and it looks the most real, but it hurt the most.
Q: Well, of course. You pay the price.
Chon: You’ve got to pay to play, man.
Q: Miles, how’s your foot doing after Skylar ran over it with a golf cart?
Miles Teller: It’s still not healed. I’ve got to do the rehab and stuff. It swells up a little bit. It’s all good.
Q: You’ll live.
Teller: It’s a good story. I’m fine. I’ll rub some dirt on it.
Q: You might not be dancing as Willard again.
Teller: Huh?! I wouldn’t say that. I’m still good to dance.
Q: How did you two psych yourselves up to run around campus in your birthday suits?
Chon: Just do it.
Teller: Just do it, man. After the first one, you’re pretty comfortable with everybody, but before that you have a guy doing your ass make-up for two hours and you’re just having a conversation about it. It doesn’t matter because you’re so embarrassed by it.
Q: Was the nudity in the film written in or did you guys have a pact that you were all going for it?
Justin Chon: It was written in.
Teller: The crew said that they would all wear tube socks on that day…
Chon: …but they didn’t. They didn’t support us.
Teller: In the movie, there’s a lot more nudity than I thought. My buddy and I saw it six months ago and my buddy was like, “C’mon, man!” because it was too much.
Q: Ever since Mel Gibson first bared his ass in a film, there have been running jokes about ass doubles. Did you guys have the option of having ass doubles?
Teller: No. I wanted to. I thought about it.
Chon: I kind of had an ass double because I had a stunt double and his ass is way more defined than mine.
Teller: That’s because he’s a stuntman.
Chon: He’s a stuntman so he’s built. My ass is a little flabby so I did have an ass double.
Teller: On the kissing scene, that’s a double for me, just a mouth double.
Q: One of the most difficult scenes from both a shooting and performance standpoint is that bathroom scene. How hard was that for you guys and did you do all of that yourself or did a stunt double come in for each of you?
Chon: We did all that.
Teller: It’s all real.
Chon: We did all that ourselves.
Teller: When the golf club goes through the door, they were like, “Stand right here because a golf club is coming through right there.” I said, “Who’s swinging the club? This girl? She’s not a professional. Let’s make sure this is okay.”
Q: What was the tampon made of?
Teller: Cotton? I don’t know the material exactly but whatever that is…
Chon: …it was delicious.
Q: It was the real thing?
Teller: Yeah, he ate a tampon.
Chon: Yeah, I’m committed. I was committed to this film.
Teller: That’s one of my favorite parts.
Q: What’s it like to have two directors and how did that process work?
Chon: Usually, it’s a tough thing because you’re getting two different directions sometimes, but they were amazing with it because Jon would deliver the notes. Scott and he would talk to each other, and then one person would deliver the notes, and they always had our backs so we trusted them.
Teller: Also, Scott was more focused on the monitor in terms of continuity, really watching, like, “We pass this street at this point. Let’s figure out some stuff to do.” Jon would be like, “Miles, say ‘poopy.’ That’s funnier. Go with that.” For every line I say in the movie, Jon would give me six back-ups and then he would let me throw in five or six ones. It was really conducive to comedy, I think. It was nice. It was very seamless.
Q: Justin, it’s difficult to play drunk, especially when you’re doing multiple takes because you’ve got to try and hit the same mark. How challenging did you find that?
Chon: My life is pretty much drunk, but no, actually the hardest part about the role is figuring out the levels. I just created some stuff for myself like defocusing my eyes, how much I’m swaying, how much I’m slurring.
Teller: Didn’t they give you numbers?
Chon: Yeah, they created a really good system where I would say, “What number am I?” They’d say 7, and then I’d know on a scale of 1 to 10 how drunk I should play. I really had to trust them because I can’t watch myself, and I had to trust the directors to tell me how drunk I should be at that certain part of the script. I think that was the most challenging for me.
Teller: That’s hard to do.
Chon: Yeah, without making a joke out of it.
Q: How many takes did it take on the mechanical bull?
Chon: On the bull?
Teller: A couple.
Chon: A couple.
Teller: Because you gag a stream of puke and to get it to line up.
Chon: At first they tried to use this tube that they taped to me but it looked like “The Exorcist.” It just shot out. The takes that they did use, I actually just spit it out. It was tapioca and rice, but just looking at it…
Teller: You put a lot in your mouth. I remember we always kept saying, “More, more, more…”
Chon: Just the fact that it looks gross makes you not want to throw up. It tastes sweet.
Teller: The texture I couldn’t believe.
Chon: Yeah, it’s gross. Like I said, I was committed.
Q: You guys play so many different drinking games in that frat house. How many of them were you familiar with from your own torrid past?
Teller: I’d never played Thumper. I didn’t know what that was. I don’t think milk chugging is really a drinking game, but maybe beer pong. Those beer pong shots, there was one where they needed all the balls going into the cups, so I just shot and I think I made the first six or seven rows. There’s a gag reel. Skylar needs to make the last cut so we can cheer and go, “Yeah, we beat the Serbs.” He just could not make it. It was ridiculous. It’s in the gag reel. There’s literally like twenty shots. It just would not go in.
Chon: It sucks.
Teller: I like to drink so I feel like I’ve sampled a lot of the games.
Chon: Yeah, I’ve played most of them.
Teller: Justin just takes shots.
Chon: I just drink. I don’t need to play games.
Q: With a film like “21 and Over,” how much trust do you have to put in each other to execute the extreme physical comedy?
Teller: None, I don’t trust him at all. Well, you’re trusting us physically.
Q: Well you threw him off a roof so…?
Teller: Yeah. With improv you do need to trust who you’re working with. It’s always “Yes” to everything you’re saying. You don’t want to be a dick about it. Jon and Scott trusted us a lot to ad lib, which in my experience on movies is not always the case, because ad libbing can go nutty and you go to all these places and you forget about the scene. There’s a lot of trust with a comedy.
Q: What about from your standpoint, Justin?
Chon: I had to trust these guys 100 per cent because my eyes are closed and they’re throwing me. The scene that I hated the most was in the car where I was in the windshield. Skylar kept touching me and I got angry, and then Sarah tried to touch me to say, “Are you okay?” and I was like, “Don’t fucking touch me.” I got so angry and she was like, “Oh my God. Sorry!”
Teller: Justin was freaking out during that scene.
Chon: I didn’t like that.
Teller: He was extremely claustrophobic, but we had to get the shot.
Chon: I was claustrophobic and my neck was all tweaked and I had to trust them for that. I’m in the windshield of a car.
Teller: Did you ever get the acupuncture in China?
Chon: It’s a whole different thing. We actually shot part of it in China.
Teller: Not in this version.
Chon: Not in this version. I woke up on my bathroom floor with my neck tweaked. I couldn’t move my neck so they hired a full-time acupuncturist to come and do acupuncture on me six times a day because I couldn’t move my neck. I was supposed to be running through these Chinese villages so that’s a whole other…
Teller: China is like a different thing.
Chon: China is weird, yeah.
Q: At the core of this, there are some great thematic elements to this film with friendship being the most powerful one and then the father-son relationship and the expectations.
Teller: That guy (Francois Chau) played Shredder, by the way, in “Ninja Turtles 2.” It blows your mind.
Chon: He’s scary.
Q: So that was real fear on your face then?
Chon: Oh yeah.
Teller: The producers were like, “We don’t think he’s scary enough. He’s not reading scary enough.” I thought that guy was scary as shit.
Chon: Yeah, he’s Shredder, dude. He was also the Dharma Initiative guy. He’s ominous and scary.
Q: How was it working with Francois Chau?
Teller: We had a lot of respect for him.
Chon: Oh yeah. Being an Asian-American actor and someone who’s been in the industry for so long and has had success like he’s had, I had a great respect for him. What I do, whenever I’m on set, is I always find the oldest, wisest person and try to learn from them. Definitely, on this set, it was Francois. He was so gracious to give me advice. He’s a great actor and I think he’s great.
Q: Given the fact that Jeff Chang’s father wanted so desperately for him to become a doctor and that falls into such a stereotypical ideal that so many people have in the Asian culture, did you ever have that in your own life?
Chon: No. My parents were both artists. My mom was a pianist and my dad was an actor when he was younger, so growing up, I had no pressure to be whatever. They didn’t even force me to go to college. I just went to college because I didn’t know what else to do. They’ve always been supportive, but they don’t blow smoke up my ass. That’s for sure. Anything I’ve been in, my dad always tries to give me acting notes and it really pisses me off because I’m like, “Shut up!” He gives me really obvious acting notes like, “You need to act more grounded or natural.” I’m like, “No shit, dude!” But my parents really support me and I’m really grateful that they didn’t try to make me be a doctor or a lawyer.
Q: Did your dad give you any acting notes on wearing a bear on your penis?
Chon: I told my mom…
Teller: Are you excited for your parents to see this?
Chon: Yeah, for sure, they’re going to come to the premiere and I do wear a prosthetic penis so my mom will be like, “It’s not that big.” I can’t wait for my parents to see my stretchy dick.
Teller: That was so funny. It was like this huge bush and then….yeah.
Chon: Yeah. I get abused in this movie, man.
Teller: Well people ask if this movie is racist, and in that scene alone, you can say, “No, it’s not. If anything, we’re playing against type.”
Chon: Right. Because my dick stretches pretty far.
Teller: Yes. It’s pretty big.
Chon: It is.
Teller: So, take that.
Chon: Take that!
Q: Do the two of you have friendships in your life that are rock solid and core where you kind of drift and then you come back and you realize?
Chon: Oh yeah. Nothing changes. Last night I was drinking with my buddy from New York and I’ve been friends with him since we were toddlers, and we meet up and nothing’s changed.
Teller: I grew up in Florida so six of my best friends live in Florida. They’re all flying out here for my premiere. We do an annual trip every year. I think it’s important, man, friendships. That’s why it’s hard when you move somewhere and you want to make new friends but friendships take a lot of work. It takes a lot of effort to maintain them. Eight of my best friends flew up to New York for my 21st birthday from Florida. They travel around.
Q: You guys both mentioned drinking.
Teller: No, we didn’t.
Q: What is your drink of choice and what the hell is “Thumper”?
Teller: Dude, you got me. Ask Skylar. I don’t really know what Thumper is. Apparently it’s like a weird drink game that kids are doing. I have no idea.
Chon: My drink of choice is Guinness and Vodka soda.
Teller: Yeah, I got into that. I like Vodka soda. It’s really refreshing. I’m a beer guy, but Vodka and water apparently is like the least calories. I’ve been naked a lot lately. I just like beer. Yuengling is my favorite beer. I was born in Downingtown. That’s where it’s at. Soon as I say my o’s, that’s where Philly just won’t let me go. It’s such a dirty accent.
Q: But it’s so distinctive.
Teller: It’s very distinct.
Q: Have you been to Boo’s, the cheesesteak place in Silver Lake? It’s people who moved here from Philly and they make cheesesteaks and they bring in the bread.
Teller: Amaroso rolls?
Chon: It’s called Booze? I’m going there.
Q: You mentioned your 21st birthdays. Can you talk about how yours compared to your characters’?
Teller: My 21st birthday was actually pretty cool. Eight of my best friends from Florida flew up to New York. I was going to NYU at the time. I was a junior. My mom said, “There’s a guy in the park you’re going to meet. You’re going to meet this guy in Union Square Park. Don’t ask him any questions. He’s got a package for you. Go up, grab the package and leave.” I walk up and it’s Duncan, who’s my cousin’s buddy who I’ve met a bunch of times. He’s wearing a mustache. I’m like, “Alright, what’s up, man?” “Take this package.” “Alright, I’ve got it. Thanks, Duncan.” I go back to my house and I open it up, and it’s like eight fluorescent green shirts with my face on it with a crown and it says “21.” And so, the next day from 10:00am, me and all my buddies just barhopped wearing these shirts with my face on it. We went around New York and had a blast. It was mostly their first time and New York is a pretty nice playground to wander around in. That was awesome.
Chon: My story is not as cool as that, but I was going to USC at the time and I had studied abroad in Korea the first semester. I drank at some shithole and I got really wasted and I woke up on the street in the door of a pharmacy. My shirt started off white, but it was completely black, and I woke up and it was just raining on me.
Teller: That happens to Justin more than you know.
Chon: And my friends just left me there on the street. I took the subway back to my grandma’s house and took a shower and ate food to get over my hangover.
Q: Miles, you said you’ve been naked a lot lately, so…
Teller: A lot of sex scenes.
Q: How many movies are we going to see you naked in? Is this now a new contract provision?
Teller: No. I mean, it should be.
Chon: You want to see Miles naked.
Teller: I don’t know, man. It’s so funny because I was telling my mom about this movie and she says, “Oh my God, I haven’t seen your butt since you were five or something like that.” So I said, “Well you’re also going to see my…” And she went, “Oh my God, the nest! I’m going to see the nest.”
Q: How will that make you feel to be sitting there with your mom seeing this?
Teller: I was going to be sitting there with my grandma but she’s sick from Sundance. So yeah, I don’t know. I’ll cover her eyes or something like that. She saw a sex scene that I did. In “Spectacular Now,” there’s a pretty honest sex scene where it’s pretty intimate. My mom, my sister and my grandmother are all just sitting there like this [peeking through their hands covering their faces].
Q: How do you do that with grandma sitting there?
Teller: Just fuckin’ take it, grandma!
Q: What did each of you take away from the experience of making this film?
Chon: Just a good time.
Teller: This is the most fun I ever had on a film. When I saw it, I was really … It’s so fun to watch because we had such a good time filming it and I think that plays. You feel like we’re actually pretty good friends having a good time. I thought it was hilarious.
Q: What surprised you when you saw the movie?
Teller: How much I’m in a tube sock? It’s a lot.
Q: Are you happy to see a lot of your hard work up on the screen?
Chon: Oh yeah. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of this film.
Teller: There’s a lot of ad libbing in this film so it’s good to see what they used and what they didn’t use. Every film I’ve ever done, the first time I see it, I absolutely hate it, and by the second time, I can accept it. Usually it doesn’t go past that. But the first time I saw this, I was laughing. I thought it was really funny. It’s easy to watch. It wasn’t like I was so self-conscious about it.
Q: Were you excited about certain ad libs making it into the final film?
Teller: I’ve only seen it once and that was probably six or seven months ago so I can’t really remember, but like when I’m saying, “Where do I masturbate?” and Skylar says, “Oh where else do you masturbate?” That was just me. “I wear flannel because it makes me feel like a lumberjack.” That stuff is all ad libbed. There’s a lot of ad lib. And the monologue when I’m walking in front of the couch being like, “Oh, in America, Bally’s Budweiser, after that you’d have to kill a pig or an Eskimo” and all that shit, they just left the camera on for 20 minutes and said, “Just pace and say whatever you think of,” which is nice because a lot of times they don’t let you ad lib. Someone’s got to be the straight man, so that’s good for Skylar, because everything I say is … we invented this thing where Miller just says Snapple facts where he knows a little bit of everything but none of anything. That was something we just found on set and I would say shit and he’d say, “Dude, that’s not true.” And I’d say, “Yeah, it is.”
Q: Had you ever used the phrase, “Bananas and pajamas” before?
Teller: No, I threw that out.
Chon: That was funny. “Bubblegum and sugar in your underwear.”
Q: Given the great camaraderie that we see on screen amongst you three guys, is this a camaraderie that you feel will carry on in real life for years to come?
Chon: Oh yeah.
Teller: We chill, man. We still kick it. I love seeing Sarah. She’s such a great girl.
Chon: We don’t know about Skylar. Skylar is a shithead so…
Q: He goes and sings.
Chon: He sings.
Teller: Yeah, who knows where he ends up?
Q: What was your most memorable moment on set or off?
Chon: I’d say the Gorge with these guys. That was awesome.
Teller: Oh my God. We’re at the festival that’s real rad. It’s called Identity Festival. There’s a bunch of ravers and stuff, which was funny because every time the AD would yell, “Rolling,” they’d all be like, “Ha, ha, ha!” This chick is rubbing my arm in between takes and stuffing my hair with this needle thing. That was so much fun. That was a really fantastic time.
Q: Miles, you’ve played distinctly different roles in “Rabbit Hole,” “Footloose,” and now “21 and Over.” What do you look for when you consider a project?
Teller: I guess it starts with the script. Now I’m really trying to find out directors. I think directors are so important, because once you leave a movie, it goes through a lot of different changes, and it needs somebody in the room to have a really strong hand on it. For me, at a young age, I said I wanted to do drama and comedy. I really didn’t think you could … I always thought as an actor you should be able to [do both]. You want to believe you can do everything. Obviously, people do things a lot better than you. But, for me, with this script, I thought it was the funniest script I had read in a very long time and I’m constantly reading scripts.
Chon: By the way, this guy just got the Grand Jury Award at Sundance for Best Dramatic Actor. That’s a big deal.
Teller: Yeah, it’s “The Spectacular Now.” It’s just coming out. It’s more dramatic. The scripts that you really connect to, you hope that you get a chance to do them, because the bottom line is it’s hard to get a part in any movie. It’s a very limited field, so you hope that you get cast in the good ones.
Q: Justin just gave you a plug. What plug are you going to give for him?
Chon: There’s no plug for me, except for being drunk.
Teller: Oh, I’ll tell anybody, the physical comedy, the stuff that he’s doing with the alcohol, he plays it seamlessly, but you don’t realize that there’s a lot of preparation that’s going into that. I was even going to tell you that on set, man.
Q: Can each of you talk about what you have coming up next?
Chon: This guy has six movies that he just shot.
Teller: The “Spectacular Now” was just at Sundance. It’ll come out in July. A24 picked it up. I did a movie called “Get a Job” last year with Bryan Cranston and Anna Kendrick. That’ll come out at some point. I did this movie called “Two Night Stand.” It’s an indie. I think that’ll go to Toronto but I’m not sure. And then, I just finished a movie “Are We Officially Dating?” with Zach Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis. I literally just finished that two and a half weeks ago. It’s spread out. (to Justin) What do you got?
Chon: I wrote and directed a film over the summer in Hawaii. It’s an indie. It has a $250,000 budget.
Teller: (laughing) Wait! How long was your pre-production and how long did you actually shoot it?
Chon: I pre-prod for a month and a half and we shot it for 20 days.
Teller: He was just hanging out in Hawaii. He was like, “Hey dude, you want to come down? I’ll pay for you to fly down here. Just say some lines and shit. We’ll just chill.” All Justin wants to do in life is make enough money to chill.
Chon: That’s the whole point of this movie. It’s called “Man Up” and we’re going to digitally release it. You know how Louis C. K. and Aziz Ansari sold their stand-up online? That’s what I’m trying to do with this movie. I’m not trying to get a distributor. I think there’s a big potential there and my partner has 3 million subscribers on YouTube so we’re hoping to get a percentage of that. I just want to chill, dude.
Teller: You make more money on YouTube than you do shooting entire films, man. It’s insane.
Chon: Yeah, it’s insane.