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Teller soars in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Miles Teller is proud of his Hollywood accolades, from sharing the silver screen with the likes of Nicole Kidman and J.K. Simmons and, most recently, Tom Cruise.

His performance as Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw has launched him into another stratosphere, but for Teller, it also means a victory for Lecanto High and its baseball program, which Teller was a member of during his prep athletic career. Early in the movie, as Cruise’s Maverick looks at a collage of photos, which includes Teller donning a Lecanto High baseball cap and baseball warm-up.

“For me, I’ve constantly talked about Citrus County, I’m really proud of where I come from, and baseball was a big part of my life,” he told the Chronicle. “I loved every second of it.”

Slipping the picture into a major motion film wasn’t all that difficult, Teller said.

“(The studio) basically tells you when they need photos of you … that was the photo I wanted to use,” Teller said. “If I could get a Lecanto Panthers logo on there, me in a baseball uniform – that was wholly intentionally, to give Lecanto a nice win … film is forever.”

Photo courtesy of the Teller family 

Miles Teller, right, with his dad, Michael, during his prep baseball career at Lecanto High School.

teller top gun 2.jpg

While he’s been jet-setting across the globe the past month promoting “Top Gun: Maverick,” there’s no denying Teller’s eager for a dose of home.

“I miss Publix,” he lamented to the Chronicle, as he ran down a long list of his favorites from his youth, including Dan’s Clamstand, Crumps Landing and the sales at Cody’s Roadhouse, where he worked while attending Lecanto High School.

He doesn’t hide his love and appreciation for Citrus County, especially when making the rounds through Hollywood talk shows.

“I do have pride in growing up in Citrus County. I’m proud of where I come from,” said Teller, who was saddened when the Circle K at the corner of State Road 44 and County Road 491 was razed to expand C.R. 491. “I was shocked.”

That Circle K was the spot, Teller said.

“We were there all the damn time,” Teller said for before and after school snacks or other high school gatherings.

When he is home, Teller spends time with family, friends and playing golf at either one of his two favorite course – Black Diamond or Skyview. Despite his meteoric rise in Hollywood, he often goes unrecognized or people ask him why he’s in Citrus County vacationing.

“A lot of people don’t know I went to middle and high schools at Lecanto,’ he said.

But with “Top Gun: Maverick” having spent the past two weeks as the No. 1 movie at the box office, his series “The Offer,” about the making of “The Godfather,” and his soon-to-be released film, “Spiderhead,” with Chris Hemsworth, debuting June 17 on Netflix, that likely won’t be a problem for Teller.

“He’s very proud of being from here,” said his mother, Merry. “He wants to bring awareness, this is where he got his dramatic arts beginning. He’s always been proud of coming from here.”

For now, he’s enjoying the victory of his spoils, especially “Maverick,” the long-awaited sequel to the original 1986 “Top Gun.” The film, which took a year to make, was completed three years ago, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its theatrical release was delayed twice.

“We all knew how much work we put into it,” he said, noting “Whiplash,” which was nominated for Best Picture, took all but a month to film, while flicks he’s starred in took upward of three to four months to complete. “It was a ton of work.”

But it wasn’t personal disappointment that set in due to the delays, it was the disappointment fans would have to wait.

“We knew the fan base was extreme,” Teller said. “This is a fan base that hasn’t gone away. I was OK. I tend to be pretty even keeled. I was just bummed for the fans.”

Film preparation

To prepare for the mental aspect of his role as Bradshaw’s offspring, Teller watched the original “Top Gun” movie as well as tapping into what it would be like for a child in a military family without his Dad.

“To follow in his footsteps, grow up, being active duty right now,” he said. “I take it very seriously. I’ve gotten to know a lot of men and women in the service. For a lot of guys and gals, it’s a family tradition. That was really what I tapped into it.”

Paramount Pictures 

Teller as “Rooster” while standing in Cruise’s shop during a scene from “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Top Gun: Maverick

The on-screen chemistry with Cruise’s Maverick came pretty naturally, Teller said.

“With Maverick, that just developed. I think people see Rooster is mad at Maverick,” he said. “We explored a good, complicated relationship he has with him. The performance of those scenes, it comes pretty naturally. It makes your job easier.”

With the mental preparation set, the physical preparation for the film took months.

“Once I was 100 percent signed onto the project, the day I got home, I got an email: ‘Here’s your flight training,’” Teller said. “We trained multiple times a week.”

For about three and a half months, Teller and his castmates started in the same program, beginning with Cessna to familiarize themselves with aviation. From there, they moved into the Extra 300, an aerobatics plane, to the L39 to the vaunted F-18.

“The F-18 is a whole different animal,” Teller said, “it’s basically flying a rocket. We all have over 20 hours in an F-18, close to about 60 hours flight time total.”

In addition to the flight training, Teller and company also had to pass the same survival test every Naval aviator is required to pass on an annual basis.

“There’s a video of behind the scenes about it,” Teller said. “We’d be in the pool all day, doing a bunch of different tasks. There was the dunker, which they strap you to a chair, blindfold you, mimicking a cabin of a (helicopter). You have four connections, take that last last breath and it turns you upside down, blindfolded, strapped to a chair.”

Each individual had to escape the harnesses, safely and calmly, while completing a respective task so the crew could escape the cabin.

“It was intense,” Teller said.

No one works harder than Tom Cruise, said Teller’s father, Michael.

“(Miles) was personally picked by Tom Cruise for ‘Top Gun.’ He wanted Miles,” Michael Teller said. “It says it in a nutshell. We’re incredibly proud, incredibly proud. We’ve always been proud of Miles.

“He’s gotten (where he is) by hard work and dedication. People who know him and work with him, his work ethic and leadership capabilities and talent, has gotten him to where he is today.”

‘Maverick’ response

With movies, whether originals or sequels, Teller said, you don’t know how critics and fans will react. The response to “Top Gun: Maverick,” from both have been stellar.

Paramount Pictures 

Miles Teller plays Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw in "Top Gun: Maverick" from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

“From Tom’s perspective … I think when we had finished the reshoots, we probably knew what they had,” Teller said. “There are movies, that I had a great time, that didn’t turn out well. Other movies, like Whiplash, if you were to tell me after I finished it would be nominated for Best Picture, that JK Simmons would win Best Actor, I don’t know. It’s hard to get a sense of it. Critics, or fans, might not always vibe with it. And critics and fans love this. I’ve gotten so many positive messages, I can’t tell you how rare that is.”

Cruise told the cast and crew, in this one, you’re trying to hit a bullet with a bullet, Teller said.

“People have been waiting for 30 some years for this, I think we honored the original,” Teller said. “You can put this DVD right next to the original and not feel embarrassed.”

Moving forward

Not only will Teller continue to be busy acting, he’s moving forward as a producer, too. But the long-term goal remains the same, he said.

“Work with the best directors,” he said. “It is a director’s medium … I want to work with the best people. It takes a long time, to get a résumé, to get to the top of a list.”

Little did he know when he finished “Top Gun: Maverick,” that he would have two other projects – “The Offer” and “Spiderhead” – out at the same time.

“It’s not always ideal,” he said.

Teller said he just acquired the rights to a book, “Cactus League,” that he’s thoroughly excited about.

“I’ve wanted to make my, ‘Bull Durham,’’’ Teller said, referencing the Kevin Costner classic.

The “Top Gun” sequel has spurred fans asking for another round.

“I would absolutely love that,” Teller said, “exploring Rooster with a family.”

Tibbetts Lumber to open new manufacturing facility

Tibbetts Lumber Company has purchased the old single-stream recycling center on State Road 44 and will convert it to a window door manufacturing facility.

David Brown, the company’s regional vice president, told the Chronicle he anticipates opening Sept. 1 with a formal grand opening to follow.

Brown said the building is three acres in size and it will allow Tibbetts to better serve the needs of local builders in Citrus and Levy counties.

This will mark the ninth Tibbetts location in the region.

Tibbetts Lumber opened in 2019 at 1965 N. Dunkenfield Ave. in Crystal River. The new manufacturing facility is about 10 miles away and – equally important – is only 3 miles from the new Suncoast Parkway access.

Brown said the extension of that toll road was a factor in opening. Throw in the fact that Citrus County is expected to grow in the coming years and it’s an ideal time “to broaden our footprint (here),” Brown said.

The St. Petersburg company offers a wide range of supplies and products for commercial, industrial and residential use.

Inverness taxable value lower than hoped; officials say no tax rate hike


It wasn’t the number Inverness officials were hoping to see.

The preliminary value of Inverness was $551,370,000 for 2022, according the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office. City officials were hoping it would be higher.

Property Appraiser Cregg Dalton and his staff in June released what they evaluated was the city’s worth. They do that by evaluating all of the city’s properties, including residential and commercial properties.

The number is important because that’s one of the numbers city officials use to establish Inverness’ annual budget. It’s also the number elected officials use to help them decide whether to raise property taxes to meet the demand for services.

Dalton sent Inverness City Manager Eric Williams a letter May 31 as to the city’s value, including new construction.

The estimation, although preliminary, is 5.1 percent greater than a year ago when the city’s value was determined to be $524,663,936.

Dalton determined that of the city’s increase in value of $26.7 million, $1.4 million was from new construction.

Inverness council members said that regardless of the evaluation, they won’t support a property tax hike and the city will live within its means.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s off the table,” Councilwoman Linda Bega told the Chronicle.

Bega said that she was concerned that the national economy could be in store for a continued downturn.

“I think we’re heading toward some dire times,” she said.

Bega said she had faith in the city’s staff to find additional sources of income and knowing where to cut costs.

The city’s current 2021-22 millage rate is 7.8211.

This is how millage rates work.

One mill in property, or ad valorem taxes, is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of the property’s taxable value. So if a property is worth $75,000, after homestead exemptions, the property owner’s city property taxes would be $586.58. That does not include county or school taxes.

Bega thinks Dalton underestimated the value of recent construction projects such as Colonnade Park apartment complex and a recently built convenience store.

Council president Cabot McBride agreed that raising taxes was not the answer given the current economic times with rising gas and food prices.

“What we don’t want to do is increase the millage rate,” he said.

If the economy continues to falter, city government “is looking at some belt tightening,” he told the Chronicle. “It’s tough times for us all.”

“It’s not a good idea to be increasing rates when people need their dollars to spend on basics,” he said.

Dan Robbins, the property appraiser’s office deputy of appraisals, told the Chronicle that he thought his estimate of the city’s value was fair. But he also warned the final estimate would come out July, and could change.

Robbins said that a 5 percent growth was a healthy increase and reflected an increase in value of residential, commercial, and vacant land.

People are moving to the area, he said, and want to buy and build homes.

City manager Eric Williams said he won’t come to the council with a tax hike request.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable right now,” he told the Chronicle.

After several years of raising the millage rate, Inverness only two years ago began reducing it.

Regardless of the city’s final value as determined by the property appraiser, Williams said “we’ll live with that growth.”

The other county taxable values, according to the property appraiser are:

Citrus County at $12,030,000,000

Crystal River at $581,700,000

Commander Brandon Natteal received his commission from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2003, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He holds a Master of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering from Old Dominion University. He is a licensed professional engineer and Type 3 logistics section chief. He retired on May 6.

CC Natteal, Brandon

Wesley Jones Park playground to be updated

Regular users of Wesley Jones Park, located at 2510 W. Castania Drive, Citrus Springs, may have noticed a newly empty space where the playground used to be. Citrus County Grounds Maintenance would like to assure citizens that, while the old equipment will not be returning, the park will be gaining a new playground in June.

Installation is planned to begin on June 13. Construction is anticipated to be complete by June 17, weather permitting.

Grounds Maintenance will also be replacing the playground equipment at Highland Park Playground, located at 3755 E. Kirk St., Inverness, during the same time frame.

For more information on this and other projects, contact Citrus County Grounds Maintenance at 352-527-5760.

Citrus County friends and family still a big part of Miles Teller’s life

When Miles Teller first left for Hollywood in 2009, he brought a big part of Citrus County with him — his friends.

One in particular, Rob Kellner, now a part-owner of a boxing/fitness gym in Los Angeles, recalled his cross-country trip in a U-Haul truck with his childhood best friend.

“It was October 2009, and I was going to be moving to California by myself to try to do some acting,” Kellner said in a phone interview. “I thought Miles was going to stay in New York. But then his mom told me, ‘You’re going to need a bigger U-Haul; Miles is coming with you.’

“So, we packed up and drove out from Florida, making a few stops along the way to visit friends. We got there Oct. 12, 2009. That was one heck of a trip,” Kellner said. “We stayed with a friend of Miles from NYU who knew L.A. and took us around.”

Kellner and Teller met when they were young teens. Kellner, two years older than Teller, was a classmate of Teller’s sister, Dana.

“I knew of Miles, but it wasn’t until we both played baseball in high school that we started becoming friends,” he said. “And then we discovered we both loved music – I play guitar and Miles plays drums, piano and saxophone. Every day after (baseball) practice we’d go to his house and jam out in the garage.”

They also used to go to the former Sportster’s restaurant for Buffalo wings and Mountain Dew.

“We went there so often that the server would have the drinks at the table for us before we even sat down,” he said. “We were devastated to hear Sportster’s closed a few years back.”

Kellner was the first of the two to get into the Lecanto High School drama department program after an elbow injury kept him from pitching on the baseball team.

“One day, Miles and I were hanging out and I put on a CD of ‘Footloose’ and he asked me about it,” Kellner said. “I told him I was going to try out for the musical at school and somehow lured him into auditioning with me. I got the lead and he got the ‘best friend’ role, which he later played in the national (remake) movie.”

Bachelors in paradise

After about a month in L.A., Kellner, then 25, and Teller, then 23, found a house to rent in Valley Village, about six miles outside Hollywood, and added two roommates to help pay the rent.

“It had a pool, four bedrooms and a band room in the back; it was a perfect set up for a bunch of young guys,” Kellner said.

They started going to the hottest hot spots in L.A., although back then, they weren’t on anyone’s VIP list, Kellner said, and they often had to wait hours to get into a club or restaurant.

“At that time, Miles wasn’t that famous,” Kellner said. “But now, it’s definitely different. That two-hour wait is nonexistent. It’s actually surreal. You sit back and think, ‘This is awesome.’

“I used to be really star-struck, but now I’ve gone to so many (movie) premieres with him that now it’s more like, ‘Oooh, there’s going to be free popcorn!’”

Kellner said the absolute coolest moment for him was when Teller’s wife, Keleigh Sperry, gave him her “plus-one” invitation to a private event at a house in the hills of Studio City where John Mayer was the guest of honor.

“She knew I was a big John Mayer fan, and this meant so much to me,” he said. “He (Mayer) gave a full concert for only about 30 people there. That’s the one thing that sticks out to me.”

Kellner said early on, several friends from Citrus County also moved to California and they all have stayed a tight circle with Teller throughout his continually rising acting career.

As a friend group, they go with him to premieres and events, and they also hang out at his house watching football like they always have.

“With all his success, Miles is still a good-hearted, down-to-earth person,” Kellner said. “I think the fact that he has his friends who knew him before his success and he keeps his circle close with people he truly respects, that’s the thing that keeps him grounded.

“He’s still Miles,” he said. “He still always asks about your family. That’s the Citrus County in him.”

Whenever Teller is able to return home to Citrus County, he calls it home, said Teller’s parents, Michael and Merry, adding that he comes home often.

Their home has always been a gathering place.

“It still is,” Michael Teller said. “Only now, they’re coming over with their wives and children. It continues; it’s just more people. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”