Full Speed Ahead
Ansel Elgort has had a dramatic take-off in the past couple of years. He’s transformed from teen heartthrob to action badass to musical lead as he continues to expand his resume. It’s obvious that Elgort is both dedicated to his craft and always seeking new challenges.
Ansel Elgort puts on his black sunglasses, pops in his earbuds, and takes off in a high speed chase in a bright red car. He swerves, brakes, speeds up, and nearly flies off of the road while his car accelerates at full speed. He is Baby, in the movie Baby Driver. The 2017 movie saw Elgort at the height of his fame, having achieved his first serious lead role amongst huge stars such as Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Kevin Spacey. He almost didn’t receive the notable role, but after a conversation with director Edgar Wright, he landed it. Wright needed an actor who also had a strong understanding of music, and at first, he doubted Elgort’s abilities in this category. However, when Elgort was asked to name a song that he knew all of the lyrics to, his answer surprised the doubtful Wright. “‘Easy’ by The Commodores,” he replied. Wright was impressed by his knowledge of music, and liked the song for Elgort so much that he wrote it into the musically-inspired script.
“Probably the reason why I was able to get the role in the first place is because [of] my background in musical theatre and theatre. Being theatrical and moving to music and learning choreography was not foreign to me,” Elgort mused.
Needless to say, Ansel got the role as Baby, and immediately leapt into the script. He endured 10 sessions of four hours of driving training, where he learned how to drive stick shift and how to drift a car so that he would be able to complete most of his own stunts. He also accomplished sign language coaching, vocal coaching for his accent, parkour training, and even choreography, as his character breaks out in dance during many scenes. All of the hard work towards his craft paid off, as the movie was well-received by critics. Elgort was nominated for his first-ever Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It was clear that this had caused the world of cinema to take serious notice of him as an actor.
Before his breakout role in Baby Driver, he was known as a teen heartthrob. After starring in his first movie, Carrie (2013), Elgort landed his first notable role as Caleb in Divergent (2014), where he acted alongside Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, and others. The movie is a dystopian science fiction that takes place in Chicago and is based off of the book series of the same name by Veronica Roth. It went on to produce two other films, the sequel, Insurgent (2015), and the last installment of the trilogy, Allegiant (2016). Fans were beginning to take notice of Elgort’s looks and acting skills in Divergent, and that same year, when he was cast as Gus in The Fault in Our Stars, the fans went into a frenzy. The movie is an adaptation of the wildly popular book of the same name by John Green, so fans were already lining up to the see the film. When they saw the true power of Elgort’s charm and brilliance on the screen, he earned a whole new set of fans. He won three Teen Choice Awards that year for the film, as well as a Young Hollywood Award, a People’s Choice Award, and an MTV Movie + TV Award.
Never one to limit his capabilities to just one thing, Elgort explored other areas of entertainment as well. A big fan of EDM music, he created a Soundcloud account and began to remix popular songs under the pseudonym, Ansølo.
“I really respect the dance music industry,” he said, “I didn’t want to come in and abuse the fact that I was an actor and use my name to book gigs. I’m not getting into music because I need to…I just do this because I love it.”
In early 2014, he signed a record deal with Tom Staar’s new label, Staar Traxx, and Steve Angello’s Size Records. This allowed him to release his first official song, “Unite,” that same year. His first major dance track, “Totem,” gained notability and began to be remixed and played by other DJs at music festivals. He continued to release original songs throughout the next two years, and even DJ’d at festivals like Electric Zoo and Ultra Music Festival.
In 2015, Ansel ditched the pseudonym and instead of DJing, decided to focus on his voice. Under his real name, Ansel signed with Island/ Universal Records and began to make Pop music. His fans were ecstatic! Who knew that this talented actor could also sing? He released his first single, “Home Alone,” in July 2016. The following year in 2017, he came out with “Thief,” a catchy song that featured his girlfriend, Violetta Komyshan, in the music video. Elgort has been dating Komyshan, a professional ballet dancer and influencer, since his high school days, and they are still going strong today. Elgort continued to work on music as he acted in films, featuring on rapper Logic’s 2017 album Everybody on the song “Killing Spree.” He took to the stage at the Governors Ball Music Festival that year to perform the hit alongside Logic. Not too long after, he starred in the movie November Criminals, a Crime/Drama with Chloë Grace Moretz. It’s clear that Elgort is mostly comfortable when he has a full plate! The pattern carried on with his 2018 Sci-Fi film Jonathan, where he played twin brothers Jonathan and John who share the same body. The creepy Thriller was a different route for the actor, as it was both low-budget and more of an indie film.
“I really liked the indie vibe on the set. It made me feel like I was a part of something and not a piece of it,” Elgort said.
Ansel’s 2018 singles, “Supernova” and “Believe,” were released at the beginning of the year, months ahead of Jonathan, and both were just as popular as his previous singles. Although he is far more famous for his acting, Elgort’s voice is undeniably smooth and beautiful, making his foray into Pop hard to hate.
“It’s great that I have music, because I’m able to stay artistic. It’s my favorite thing. If I’m not doing something or creating something, I feel empty,” he expressed.
Of course, Elgort’s first love will always be acting. “Believe” was the last single he released, as he continues to focus on his time on the big screen. In 2018, he starred in Billionaire Boys Club, alongside Kevin Spacey and Emma Roberts. It follows a group of rich boys in Los Angeles who pursue a “get-rich-quick” scheme that turns out to be fatal. Now Ansel is prepared to star in The Goldfinch next month with Nicole Kidman. The movie will come out in theaters September 13th, and will follow Elgort’s character, Theodore Decker, who moves in with a wealthy Upper East Side family in New York after his mother dies in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After this film, Elgort still has lots to keep him busy. He will be playing Tony in the much anticipated Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, which is set to be released in December 2020. Then he will star in a TV series, Tokyo Vice, which will be released exclusively on WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, although a release date is unknown. This will mark Elgort’s first TV role, which will be sure to garner lots of views. Also in the works for the movie star is a Crime/Thriller, Finest Kind, which will also feature big names Jake Gyllenhall and Zendaya. A release date for this movie has also yet to be announced.
It seems that with his music career and his acting career both doing well, Elgort has certainly got a lot to keep his hands full. He’s a man of many passions, a man who has been influenced by art, and he will not stop in his exploration of different forms of entertainment and creativity. Recently, he has even taken up miniature painting, which involves painting mini figurines like aliens, soldiers, warriors, and others with acrylic paint. For Elgort, it’s all about the ability to create, something he won’t quit doing for as long as he lives. After all, it’s what got him where he is today.
“If I hadn’t become an artist, I would have been a loser,” Ansel said, “I wouldn’t have been successful if I hadn’t had the opportunity to become an artist.”
By Selene Rivera