Ansel Elgort Thinks the Classics Need a Remix
Does inhabiting a character from a book, as you do in The Goldfinch, ever feel in some ways like a remix to you?
Not really. I do my best to become a character when I’m acting, and with The Goldfinch it’s great, because I have a whole book to pull from. But there is an aspect of making it a new thing with the movie itself, and that comes from the director [John Crowley] not wanting us to be obsessed with following the book exactly, but doing things that work for the movie on its own.
What drew you to the movie’s script initially?
It was people saying, “This is something you’re gonna want, it’s a great character, it’s a great story.” And then I read the screenplay, which was great on its own—adapting a book like that is very difficult. After I got the role and read the book, I realized what a special story this was, and what an honor it was to be part of it.
Did you feel connected to Theo’s story in any way, having grown up in a very artistic world in New York?
Well, there’s obviously aspects of growing up on the Upper West Side, so I have a lot in common with him in that way. I’m actually in the Met right now—I’m sort of in Egypt. I’ve spent a lot of time here throughout my life, having parents who love art. I used to be obsessed with the armor room. I know it’s not the most artistic thing, but I loved it. I wanted to, like, live in medieval towns as a kid.
But there was also a lot of imagination that had to be used [to play Theo]—which is what we do.
How do you bridge those gaps between yourself and a character?
It’s just imagination. You don’t think about it, you just become somebody else or something else. We had pretty specific scenes and moments from the book and the movie that shape who I become, just as in real life. Sometimes you have to imagine that stuff and come up with it yourself when you have a character, but in this case, it was just there.
Is that the same process you’d use to get into character for other projects?
Not necessarily—in West Side Story, for example, we had to work on the whole storyline prior to the movie existing at all.
Are you using the original 1957 West Side Story script as a guide in the same way you used The Goldfinch, or paying less attention to that reference point?
We didn’t pay any attention to the original musical or movie, and actually, I haven’t watched it since before I was involved in this. But the Robbins estate is involved, and there are some aspects of the original choreography that are still intact.
Is this your first time doing choreography in a movie?
We had choreography on Baby Driver, but this has been more challenging, in the best way. It’s not as subtle—it’s full-out. But I fought for this role tooth and nail.
It’s funny, now that I think about it, even your earlier roles in young adult-oriented movies had pretty tragic storylines. Do you think you’re particularly drawn to roles that have a darkness to them?
Maybe everyone is. That’s why the good characters are the ones who have tragedy. They’ve got a lot of good and bad in them. They have flaws, they’re well-rounded, real people. I guess I’m drawn to that.
Do you seek out ways to find lightness in characters like that in order to balance them out?
Source : Danielle Cohen Link