ARTICLE JASON LAMPHIER
PHOTOGRAPHY PHILIPPE VOGELENZANG
STYLIST STEVIE DANCE
ANSEL ELGORT, STAR OF THIS SPRING'S CARRIE REBOOT, JUST MIGHT BE THE CROWN PRINCE OF THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION
High school dreaming, adolescent fears, your worst fucking nightmare. Anyone familiar with Carrie, Stephen King’s 1974 novel and its classic 1976 film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek, knows that it doesn’t get much worse for a wallflower. Ansel Elgort, on the other hand, has been living a reverie so bright it’s nearly blinding.
Sitting in the booth of a burger joint in New York’s Greenwich Village, the 18-year-old actor, who’s making his feature debut playing opposite Chloë Grace Moretz in director Kimberly Pierce’s forthcoming reinterpretation of Carrie, rattles off his escapades and musings with the effusiveness and precocity you’d expect from a baby-faced golden boy who was born and raised in the Manhattan art world. “I’m so glad I waited seven years to do any movies,” he says. “I look at every actor and critique them, and I critique myself the same way, and I’m pleased with what I’m doing. For me, it’s really about the craft. It’s about making art.”
Elgort, the son of renowned Vogue photographer Arthur Elgort and Norwegian-born opera director Grethe Holby, is the six-foot-three, perfectly bed-headed embodiment of the millennial Renaissance man. Carrie, his first foray into Hollywood, is only the latest of his ventures. Elgort’s endless list of pastimes stands as proof that he’s the overachiever of overachievers. There’s the tap dancing, the piano lessons he’s been taking for six years, the electronic music he’s been cooking up in his bedroom for the past year, his painting of fantastical miniature figurines (dwarves, orcs, spaceship captains, and the like, for which he’s won three national Golden Demon competitions), and his seven summers’ worth of productions at Stagedoor Manor, the performing arts camp for kids in the Catskills. There’s also his first off-Broadway play, Regrets, which he starred in with Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel last spring, just a few months before he graduated from the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. And he recently started serving as what he calls a “brand ambassador” for his favorite designer, Thom Browne, a relationship that Elgort initiated by sending an adulatory e-mail to Mr. Browne’s team. Later in the evening, Elgort is DJing at Pink Elephant, a recently reopened underground hotspot just around the corner from where we’re having lunch, and a few hours earlier he was at a callback for what he hopes will be his next movie gig.
“I’ve never really been nervous, because I’m an actor and they’re a director, and it’s sort of an audition for both of us,” says Elgort, who discovered his passion for acting the opening night of his performance in The Nutcracker with the School of American Ballet, when he was 9. “We work off each other; we both have our own jobs to do. I go in there as if I’m ready to perform. When I went in for my first table read for Carrie, I had the entire script memorized.” He was called back six times before he landed the role of Tommy Ross, the handsome popular high school jock who, at the urging of his beautiful and popular girlfriend, throws his tormented classmate Carrie (Grace Moretz) a bone and asks her to prom (a bucket of blood later, we know where that nice gesture gets him).
Elgort gleefully recalls the circumstances of his final audition for the part, which took place as he was wrapping his run of Regrets. “It was a Tuesday night, and I’d already gone in for a callback earlier that day. I was just about to go into Billy Budd the opera at the Met. We had, like, the best tickets in the house. Then I get a call from the casting woman, saying, ‘Ansel, you need to come back, right now!’ She’s like”—he pauses for effect, chuckles, then lowers his voice slightly—“‘we need a shot of you with your shirt off.’ So I just gave my tickets away to two old people standing outside. They had probably the biggest facegasm I’ve ever seen.” The idea of the big reveal didn’t spook him, though. “I mean, I’d been rock climbing and boxing, so I was in fine shape,” Elgort says. “Clearly, they were ready to cast me, and they were like”—he shifts his voice into a gruff, theatrical tone, mimicking a skeptical detective—“Wait! But does he have a good body too?”
He adored working with Grace Moretz (“We still text all the time”), Julianne Moore (who plays Carrie’s disturbed mother), and director Pierce, the auteur behind another outsider anthem, 1999’s Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry. “Kim would help me out so much,” he says. “She would give me notes, not only in terms of what to do in the scene, but also as an actor on film.” And though he refrained from screening Brian De Palma’s original twisted version of Carrie until he was done filming Pierce’s reboot, he did read the novel to prepare for his role. “I think Stephen King is a great writer,” he says. “He writes books based on an idea, not just a plot. What happens if someone that was bullied could retaliate? It’s their fantasy. It’s really justifying, because the people she messes with really deserve it. I think Carrie’s a smarter horror film.”
Elgort has no immediate plans to attend college, but his parents are “100 percent okay with it,” he says, adding that both his brother, Warren, and sister, Sophie, are artists too (a film editor and a photographer, respectively). Instead, he has his sights set on Broadway. “If I can do a few movies and get people to care about who I am, then I can go back to the stage for a while. I won’t be surprised if I see Tom Hardy onstage soon. He’s that type of actor.” But what if the casting directors stop calling? “I’ve never doubted myself,” he says. “Sometimes I think, Wait, am I a little bit cocky? But I’ve worked really hard. I’ve never taken time off from being an actor. This is the kind of career I’d be so happy to do until I die. I always joke to myself that I want to have a postmortem Academy Award nomination.”
Grooming William Murphy for M.A.C Cosmetics (Opus Beauty) Digital Technician Toto Cullen Photo assistant Pavel Woznicki Stylist assistants Steff Yotka, Katharine Egarr, Austin Cantrell Retouching Jan Hibma Location Fast Ashleys, Brooklyn