It was only three years ago that Ansel Elgort first appeared on the big screen, as a high-school student in Kimberly Peirce’s blood-soaked remake of Carrie, but considering the number of film’s the 22-year-old actor has already made—10, if you’re keeping track—he already feels like a veteran. Of course, that’s what’ll happen when you star in films like 2014’s YA weeper The Fault in Our Stars, which earned over $300 million worldwide and established Elgort as the resident heartthrob for an entire generation. Then there’s the action-packed, blockbuster Divergent series, which will see its third installment, Allegiant, released this month, in which Elgort stars as Caleb Prior, the older brother and comrade in arms of Shailene Woodley’s rebel Tris Prior.
But while Elgort has made his bones playing dreamy, doomed teenagers and action heroes, he’s poised to be much more than a matinee idol. In the coming months he’ll tackle a series of very serious film roles—starring alongside Kevin Spacey in Billionaire Boys Club and working with Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx in Baby Driver—and will bring his music career (he’s a popular DJ under the moniker Ansolo) to the next level with the release of an album. Here, Elgort talks candidly with DuJour founded by Jason Binn, about leaving behind Divergent, finding his voice and why, if you think he’s already made his mark, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The third move in the Divergent series is coming out this month, and then this summer you’re off to film the final installment. Does it all feel as though it’s flown by?
It really does. There have been times, like when I started working on the second film, when I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that we have another two more left. That’s a lot of movies to go!’ But now having only one more doesn’t feel like much at all.
What’s on your Divergent bucket list? Is there anything you want your character to do in this last film that he hasn’t done before?
I’d like to shoot a gun or something, instead of being the character that never does anything badass. Well in this next one that is about to come out, I save the day… I don’t wanna spoil the movie, but he saves the day. It’s nice to save the day and not just be the loser all the time like I’ve been. I would like to continue to not be the loser—maybe in the next one, that would be nice.
If you could switch places with one of your co-stars, is there someone whose stunts you want?
Oh yeah, everyone would probably rather be Theo James as Four, you know. But he has to work out a lot and be really in shape, and he has to go to stunt rehearsals all the time and learn sequences. I don’t have to do that, so maybe I’d regret wishing for it.
It might be better to fly under the radar a bit.
Yeah, but Four is a badass character in these movies. Shailene Woodley is obviously a badass, too. She’s one of the best actresses in the world, and she’s bringing so much to this role. I don’t think that an action hero would bring this much to a role and she does, she makes that role a lot deeper than it’s written.
Are you going to miss making the Divergent movies?
You know, yes and no. People always say that it’s like summer camp, because we go in the summertime and, as far as movies go, it’s not a grueling one to film. On Divergent, I get to set and it’s pretty relaxed. We shoot maybe one scene of us running around and breathing heavy, and then at night we’re out by 5 o’clock. But I just had the time of my life filming Billionaire Boys Club, and I had pages and pages of dialogue and we were shooting five scenes a day. I didn’t do anything besides focus on that movie; maybe I had a little time to work on music on the weekends. I’m working on a movie called Baby Driver now and I’m usually on set for 12 hours before I go home and go to sleep. We’ve been working nights lately, so I start around 5 p.m., get to bed at 7 a.m. and wake up again at 3 to start over.
How do you think you’ve changed as an actor since you made your first film,Carrie, which only came out three years ago? Do you ever watch those movies and compare them to what you’re doing now?
I’ve definitely grown a lot. I haven’t watched Divergent since the premiere, and I haven’t watched Carrie since… I actually didn’t make it to the premiere. I saw it in a movie theater once, but that was it.
You went to see it on the big screen?
Yeah, I went to the movie theater on 42nd Street with my whole family and we saw Carrie. I wasn’t bothered at all because it was my first movie. When we were leaving, some people were sort of like, Wait, weren’t you just in that? But I just felt like it was my first movie and I wanted to see it in the theater. Sometimes I see it on Netflix and I’m tempted to watch a scene or something, but really I’d rather watch Breaking Bad.
Which of your films has had the highest learning curve for you?
I think there have been a few like that. The first was definitely The Fault In Our Stars because that was the first opportunity I had to have a real starring role. I learned a lot from that at first, but just recently it was on Billionaire Boys Club that I definitely learned a lot as well. I’m very proud of the work I did in that movie, and I hope it shows on screen. I know what happened on that set and the way that I worked with the director and with Kevin Spacey, who’s now someone I would consider to be a mentor. It’s really nice when you can work with an actor who is so open. I would say between takes, ‘Man, I can’t figure this shit out. What’s happening here?’ Normally, you don’t ask an actor that, you ask the director, but he’s Kevin Spacey.
You’re not just making movies though, you’re also making music.
Musically I’ve sort of changed direction. I’m still making club music, but I’m also working on a lot that’s just singing and piano. Before I started producing music, I was writing music on the piano and singing—I did musical theater and went to vocal lessons since I was a kid, so singing was always a big part of my life—and once I got into producing, I put that aside. Right now, I’m really inspired by that idea of doing everything myself. A lot of my new stuff is electronic, but at the same time it’s not all dance music.
Would you release music that’s just piano and voice?
I might do two versions [of a song], but the final version would be more produced, because I think as great as piano and voice is, it wouldn’t be pushing the sound enough. There’s already one John Legend, and I’m not gonna be better than him. I don’t know if there’s an Ansel Elgort yet, as far as the music that I’m making goes. I haven’t heard [what I’m doing] before, and that is what I’m excited about.
Do you have a karaoke staple?
Yeah, I love to sing ‘Easy’ by the Commodores.
Are music and acting different for you in terms of creative energy?
Music is definitely a totally different part [of my brain,] and I think it’s really important to stay versatile as an artist and scratch a different itch. When I go on set and I become Baby, from Baby Driver, or when I was Jim Hunt in Billionaire Boys Club, it’s a very different thing than this kid who’s making music in his bedroom.
So, you’ve got movies and you’ve got music. What other fields would you like to break into?
The list goes on and on! There’s a lot of things I’d like to do, but just because I want to do them. I want to get into painting more—I used to paint when I was younger—and I have a new house in Brooklyn that has a room set up just for that; it that has really great light. It would just be nice to paint in there. I also really do like fashion. But particularly I love women’s shoes, which is kind of weird. Women’s shoes are beautiful. So that’s something I would like to look into.
Like designing women’s shoes?
Yeah, that would be really cool! I love buying shoes for the women in my life: my mom, my sister and my girlfriend. Every Christmas and birthdays I usually just buy shoes and jewelry. Unfortunately I can’t really wear either of them.
Is there a specific brand you like to give?
They’re expensive, but like, Giuseppe Zanottis and obviously Louboutins. Alaïa makes incredible shoes, and Valentino shoes are really cool. My sister just turned 30, and I gave her a pair of Giuseppe Zanottis covered in these crystals and they were so cool. She immediately took off the shoes she was wearing and put on these and I could tell that her confidence was through the roof and she was showing off her shoes to everyone at the party. I’m not saying I am going to go out and start designing shoes, but maybe I would like to look into it. Why not?
You’ve been working more or less non-stop for a few years. When you finally get a break, how will you relax?
When I finish this movie in mid-May, I’ll release ‘Home Alone,’ my first single as Ansel Elgort, and I’ll try to organize some stuff around that, maybe even playing a few shows. Even though I guess it’s not really time off, I can only sit back and relax for a day or two until I start feeling like, what am I doing with my life?
In main image: Jacket, $1,495, DAVID HART, davidhartnyc.com. Shirt, $195, VM. 212 Slim Fit jeans, $225, VINCE, vince.com. Shoes, price upon request, TOD’S, tods.com. Bow Tie, $250; TOM FORD, tomford.com.
Grooming: Jason Murillo at Kate Ryan Inc for Bumble & Bumble. Shot on location: New York City.