Rising Hollywood star Ansel Elgort has a reputation for being kind of bad. Madeleine Chapman met him to find out the truth.
Ansel Elgort sounds like a douchebag.
He’s 23 and famous, with a Vogue photographer for a dad and an opera director for a mum. He grew up rich in New York and skipped all the struggle of waiting tables as a young actor, with his first movie role being male lead in 2013’s remake of Carrie and his third as the charming Gus in The Fault in Our Stars. He’s had no evident setbacks and has never experienced even the mundane hardships of ordinary life. He just bought his dream home in Brooklyn.
His DJ name is Ansolo.
So while researching Elgort ahead of a short interview with him, I wasn’t at all surprised to find more than one article detailing just how big a douchebag he is. I wasn’t happy to learn any of this – like any regular person, I prefer to talk to people that I like, and after reading a whole lot of Ansel Elgort quotes I was pretty sure I really didn’t like him. But a job is a job, so I dutifully wrote down some questions and headed up to the Langham Hotel for our interview.
I greeted Elgort as the previous interviewers dragged their cameras out of the hotel room and into the hallway. When I told him I was just recording on my phone he looked relieved and immediately got more comfortable in his chair. He opened up a Fabulicious licorice (a truly underrated sweet) and ate it throughout the interview. As I watched him try to figure out how to peel the licorice (you can, but it’s tough) I realised if I read that he’d spent a whole interview fiddling with a piece of licorice, I’d think ‘what a rude guy’. But sitting across from him as he did it, I just wished I’d brought my own to eat.
Most of the articles (read: all) that paint Elgort as a douche use a list of quotes that he’s said in previous interviews. So here is a list of quotes he said to my face in our interview that are just fine and maybe even a little bit nice.
On getting success early
“I never had a plan for myself. My only goal was that I hoped I could be a working actor and not be a waiter, but that didn’t mean being a lead in big movies or being recognised in the street. I just wanted to be able to tell people when they asked me what I did that I was an actor. That maybe I had a job on Law & Order or was on an episode of a show or was in a play off-Broadway and making enough money to survive. That was my goal and I couldn’t believe it when all of a sudden I was doing big movies.”
On releasing music as a known actor
“I’m grateful that people listen and that my fans appreciate the singles. I hope that more people will listen but it’s not right to have goals when you’re making art. It’s just about making music. If people want to put someone down and write ‘this guy shouldn’t be making music’, they can write that but I don’t really care. I make music because I like to make music.”
On Anthony Bourdain tweeting “Fuck BABY DRIVER” and retweeting it
“I love Anthony Bourdain! The fact that he even saw Baby Driver is dope to me. He could’ve tweeted *any blank thing* BABY DRIVER *any blank thing* and I would’ve retweeted it because I think it’s so cool that Anthony Bourdain tweeted it. It’s too bad that he said “Fuck BABY DRIVER” but I’ll retweet that because it’s Anthony Bourdain.”
On all the articles saying he’s a douchebag
“Sometimes I’m like ‘this person doesn’t know me, why are they saying mean things about me?’ The thing is I don’t think I’ve ever sat down with somebody and had a big interview and then they said ‘I don’t like this guy’. It’s usually people who write an article taking another article’s quote out of context to say ‘I think this guy’s not cool’ but they’ve never met me. It would probably hurt my feelings if I spent time with someone and I thought we had a nice time together and they wrote ‘I hate that guy’ [laughs]. Recently someone said ‘I hate Ansel Elgort almost as much as I hate Paul Dano’. And I was like ‘But Paul Dano’s super cool!’”
On what he wants his first Google result to be in 50 years
“Ansel Elgort Is A Douchebag [laughs]”
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Elgort to draw some bad fan art of me. I told him it was because he has a lot of fan art online and while most of it is amazing, some of the drawings are pretty bad (bad fan art is a meme sub-genre in itself). This was half the truth. The other half of the truth was that having a drawing done by people I interview is a nice keepsake and much better than a photo with them. I also thought it would be a funny Instagram post to say that I got owned by Ansel Elgort if he drew me badly.
But although I told him to deliberately make it bad, he got really into it and actually took it seriously. While he was drawing I told him that I’d seen him retweet a piece of bad fan art a couple of years ago that was quite funny. His face dropped and he looked embarrassed about it.
“Yeah that wasn’t very nice of me. That was a few years ago and I don’t think – well I hope I wouldn’t do that anymore. That was me being mean. It was just nice that somebody would try to draw me. I regret that, that wasn’t very nice.
“To watch someone grow up in the public eye, they’re going to make mistakes and do things that they hope they won’t do again. Those articles that you’re talking about, maybe I did say stupid things in interviews years ago. But everyone says stupid things.
“I don’t think every tweet or retweet I’ve done is how I want to be represented for the rest of my life. Hopefully I’ll grow up and not make fun of people who want to draw fan art.”
At that point he seemed to make the connection between what he was saying and the fact that he was in the middle of some fan art himself because he added “hopefully you won’t make fun of me for my one. I don’t think my proportions are quite right but I tried to make a nice little thing.”
Want to know what his drawing looked like? Too bad. I’ll never post it because if I learned anything from Ansel Elgort, it’s that not everything has to be cynical or snarky to be funny. Sometimes a lame pun is just as good. People might hate him because he’s confident and honest, and those same people will probably hate the sincere joy ride that is Baby Driver, but it’s so lame to hate strangers. Most often these people aren’t hating the artist or the work, they’re hating the fact that other people love it. Who cares if young people love new Hollywood star Ansel Elgort-who-has-everything-going-for-him. Who cares if New Zealanders won’t stop gushing about Lorde. Who cares if someone else’s success makes you feel like you’ve done nothing.
As I walked out of the Langham still too poor to ever stay there, I felt ashamed of how quickly I had disliked Elgort based on some random articles I read. Is he a douchebag? He definitely said some cringe things, like when he casually mentioned how many Instagram followers he has (eight million). I’d put him at 15% douchebag, maybe 20%. That’s pretty good considering your average social sportsman sits around 35%. And that’s what people forget. Most people in the world, even the good ones, are a little bit annoying and a little bit dumb and a little bit obnoxious and a little bit gross.
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