‘Baby Driver’ Star Ansel Elgort Reveals Why His Latest Role Took Him To A Dark Place

It would be hard to imagine someone more polite and affable than Ansel Elgort. He's also terrifically tall (6’3") and refreshingly modest.

Despite being one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars, Ansel Elgort, actor and DJ, gives the impression that he's almost embarrassed that anyone would want to ask him about his life and work.

But even at the age of 25, he's already racked up impressive credits in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, the ‘Divergent’ franchise and, of course, ‘Baby Driver’.

His most recent movie is ‘The Goldfinch’, which tells the story of a boy taken in by a wealthy New York City family after his mother is killed in a terrorist bombing. It kinda bombed at the box office, despite the star-studded cast, although Elgort stands by it.

But it was the physical transformation that he had to go through, to portray an addict, as well as going into a very dark space, that was the real challenge, as he exclusively reveals to RSNG. We spoke to him to find out how he juggles DJing with acting, and why he hates the new Star Wars movies…

THE INTERVIEW: RSNG The Goldfinch – you’ve inferred that this was your toughest challenge yet? ANSEL ELGORT, ACTOR ‘Well, firstly I should say I’m really excited about the film. I must say, I felt like I really pushed myself in the movie and I knew what I was doing after reading the book.’

‘I also had to lose weight for it, but I still don’t really look skinnier than I was.’

‘The movie is about a kid who, when he is a pre-teen, he goes to the Metropolitan Museum with his mother and there is a terrorist attack. His mother dies and it is this crazy story of him growing up. He has this addiction and he is very, very closed off and that results in him being completely haunted by the death of his mother.’

I was always in a terrible mood on set, I think people saw me as a horrid person – this is the effect a movie can have on you

RSNG How do you embrace that sort of role? AE ‘Well, it was an absolutely terrible character to play, because playing a drug addict is bad and doing something which is just pure darkness is really bad too, because it takes a serious toll on you.’

‘I lost a lot of weight for the role, as I said, and not only was I depressed playing this guy, but I was also starving.’

‘Some days it just made me feel like I was crazy, and I was always in a terrible mood when I was on the set. So, I did my work and that was it and I don’t think that I was a nice guy, either.’

‘I think people saw me as a horrid person when I was doing the movie and that’s isn’t me, but this is the effect a movie can have on you.’

‘I have never been less close with a film crew in my life but perhaps that has helped in creating the tone and style, and art of the movie.’

‘We finished filming in Amsterdam and in Amsterdam is where I need to be at my darkest and the director said: “Listen, you need to come to Amsterdam with that darkness and get it however you have to get it.” When we had finally finished, he said: “Great work… and by the way, you don’t have to do these all of the time. You don’t have to ever do it again.”’

‘My next movie is not going to be a dark movie. In fact, I don’t know if I ever will do this level of darkness again – it’s been tough.’

RSNG It’s certainly your most mature role, even though you are embodying someone so young? AE ‘Thank you. I think the characterisation in terms of age is secondly to what you put into it. The story is based on an event as a child and the development of that, but even in the adult version of Theo he is still very much driven and determined by the actions of that child and the things that happened to him as a boy.’

‘In a sense he never really gets across the line into adulthood because he is so haunted by the consequences of that day when he lost everything.’

RSNG You’re also a DJ, so how does it feel to be in two incredibly creative industries? AE ‘I'm lucky that I'm able to do both films and music. I've had some great opportunities with some big movies, and I don't take it for granted at all. I love the work so much and I want to keep pushing myself as hard as I can. I've never had to work at any other job than acting.’

RSNG Your fashion photographer father Arthur named you after another famous photographer, Ansel Adams. Did people give you any grief about your name? AE ‘Haha! Sometimes. It was more that people would do a double-take and ask me to repeat my name. I would say: “Ansel.” Then people would come back with: “Hansel, like Hansel and Gretel?” And I would always say: “No! Ansel! Like the photographer.”’

‘Every time I'd get these puzzled expressions. But it's okay now. In a way, it sets you apart which can be a good thing in this business.’

RSNG Where do your musical taste lie? AE ‘I try to listen to everything. I love many different kinds of music. Some of my inspirations are Daft Punk and Skrillex, but I also enjoy Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Queen is another one of my favourite bands.’

‘I try to stay current as much as I can since I'm producing and writing music. But I'm also trying to play catch up and re-educate myself and so I've been listening to a lot of great music from the past.’

When I'm working on my music, I prefer to lock myself in my bedroom all day and shut out the world

RSNG Is it hard for you to juggle your twin ambitions of acting and music or is acting going to take priority for the time being? AE ‘I feel like I'm still able to do both. I started out as singer and musician and then I got lucky with my acting especially doing some big films, which got me a lot of attention.’

‘What I like about music is that it's very different from acting and it opens up a different side of me creatively, and I am more on that side at the moment.’

‘When I'm working on my music, I prefer to lock myself in my bedroom all day and get to shut out the world. Acting is a much different process. I've never stopped working on or thinking about music and that's something I can always do even when I'm on set, where sometimes you're just waiting around all day. I still DJ at parties and I work hard on videos, as well.’

RSNG You worked with your girlfriend Violetta in the video of Thief? AE ‘I loved working with Violetta of course because she's not only so beautiful and we love spending so much time together, but also because the video was gets pretty intense and racy and I don't think I would have been able to go that far unless it had been with her.’

'What I also liked about doing the video was that Violetta and I were playing characters and I got to play a character the way my idols David Bowie or Freddie Mercury would play characters in their videos.’

RSNG You must have hit the gym before filming Thief – do you workout still? AE ‘Not as much as I used to. A few years ago, I would spend a lot of time training at the Brooklyn Boulders gym (in New York) and boxing at the Trinity Boxing Club on Greenwich. Boxing is the best training you can ever do. It's very tough.’

‘I also did rock climbing with some friends although I haven't been able to do that in a while. Getting into shape for The Goldfinch was more about weight loss than actually building any kind of physique.’

RSNG Finally, we understand you’re not a fan of the new run of Star Wars movies are you? AE ‘Nope. I went to see the last one The Force Awakens and I hated it. The original movies are classics and they feel creative and homemade and that’s probably because they weren’t supposed to be a big thing.’

'That’s the thing with art – when you make something and it’s not supposed to be a big thing, there’s no expectation because you are just making it for fun.’

‘It’s also usually better than if someone says: we just bought Lucasfilm for about $1bn and we’ve got to make sure that we get our investment back, now. Let’s make sure these films make money… how many shall we do?’

‘I think that would be a really terrible way to go into it, even though none of them are going to admit that they would.’

RSNG Baby Driver saw you starring in what you called a ‘real movie’. How did you feel doing that? AE ‘I don’t even feel like I am that good of an actor and if I didn’t have Edgar Wright as a director, then I would have been screwed. Edgar Wright is a genius and he made that movie awesome. He also made me look really good.’

WHAT NEXT? Ansel Elgort’s best movie so far is probably Baby Driver – check out the retro-funk soundtrack on Spotify…