Is Ansel Elgort for real or is he trolling us all?
Since he rose to fame in the 2014 tear-inducing hit The Fault in Our Stars, Ansel has become one of the most in-demand actors of his generation...and also one of the most enigmatic, despite being so open and available since viewers fell in love with him as Augustus Waters.
At 25, Ansel, the son of famed photographer Arthur Elgort, straddles the line between millennial and Gen-Z, with his social media and public personas encapsulating that fine line. His posts are simultaneously self-aware and obtuse. He's the face of Ralph Lauren's new fragrance and has a side-hustle as a DJ (Ansolo...like Han Solo). He bleaches his hair platinum just 'cause.
His recent press tour for his latest film, The Goldfinch, which also stars Nicole Kidman, has continued Ansel's hypnotic hold, with his simple act of just stepping onto a red carpet bizarrely fascinating us.
Even Kidman is enamored with the star, whom she called "very funny" when talking to E! News at the premiere of The Goldfinch.
"I just adore him. I just love what he does," the Oscar winner gushed, going on to praise Ansel for taking on the iconic role of Tony in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake. "I love his choices," she said. "This was a really, really great choice for him to do."
Aside from choosing to star in the highly anticipated musical, another choice Ansel made recently was posting 17 selfies in 10 minutes...which he really did back in May 2019, much to our dazed delight.
No captions. No context. No shirt. Just selfies.
"I think this one is the best," his girlfriend Violetta Komyshan commented on picture 15. "But they're all pretty good tbh." Chimed in his Divergent castmate Zoë Kravitz, "Dude. What is happening right now? Lol." His West Side Story co-star Rachel Zegler, on the other hand, was just as amused as we were, commenting, "My entire feed is just your posts thank u for blessing my insomnia buddy."
What happened later that day? The first trailer for The Goldfinch dropped.
For The Goldfinch's big debut at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival, Ansel's fashion choices ended up making headlines. At a party, he paired his all-white suit with a metal choker.
At a press conference for the film, both Ansel and Nicole posed for photographs with their own back duffle bags.
Ansel continued to rock the bag when he hit New York Fashion Week, pairing the same bag with crystal-rimmed sunglasses, a look so interesting Vogue wrote a whole piece on Ansel continuing the "murse" (man purse) trend. (He keeps his stocked his chokers, BTW.)
But Ansel's fondness for purses is nothing new, revealing to People last year that he often shares them with his girlfriend (along with jewelry).
"We share handbags—I wear handbags now," he said. "Purses are really cool, or like the ones you put over your shoulder. You can put your camera in there, your phone, your wallet. Sometimes if I'm wearing tight pants I don't want to put anything in my pocket. Or sometimes it falls out of my pocket. So we share those now."
Ansel's tendency to take "risks" on the red carpet is part of a growing trend of younger men in Hollywood stepping outside of the usual suit-and-tie norm we're used to seeing. Michael B. Jordan wore a floral harness to the SAG Awards, while his Black Panther co-star was one of the best dressed on the Met Gala red carpet in 2018, capping off a best-dressed-list making run.
And then, of course, there's Timothee Chalamet, whose silver suit at the Toronto Film Festival basically cleared breakouts, paid bills and saved lives, judging by the Internet's collective breakdown.
But Timothee also brings us back to Ansel, as the two stars actually went to high school together ...at the New York City school that inspired Fame (because duh).
Oh, to be a fly on that high school hallway wall, to see how two of young Hollywood's most in-demand leading men were received by their classmates. The two have debated over who was more popular in previous interviews.
"No one disliked Timmy," Ansel once said during an interview with MTV about the 23-year-old Call Me By Your Name star. "Some people disliked me. Everyone loves Timmy."
"Timmy" disagreed, noting how he lost nearly every high school lead audition role to Elgort, which is why he had so much spare time to launch his now-infamous part time career as rapper Little Timmy Tim.
"Are you kidding me?" he said. "How could I possibly have been more popular?"
In some ways, it is easier to believe Ansel was the more popular one, as he just seems more—how do we say this?—bro-ish, comparing being the top actor at the school to being "like being the quarterback on the football team at a Texas high school.
Maybe that's why his interviews can sometimes be so jarring, like his response when a reporter for the Huffington Post simply asked how he was doing at the start of their chat as a generic ice-breaker.
"That's a big question...I have a lot of feelings inside me." When asked to describe the feelings, he said, "Complex.' Another pause. 'I feel like I'm at the psychiatrist's.'"
When the interviewer admitted they were expecting a stock answer, Ansel replied, "Well, I'm trying not to be stock. I'm kind of over that."
It's just another piece as we assemble the Ansel-puzzle, another piece of evidence suggesting Ansel is self-aware and very in tune with how people can perceive him, once admitting he knows he's "super easy to hate."
"I don't walk around calling attention to myself. It's important to be able to blend in; otherwise you turn into a Hollywood douche bag," he told Billboard. "I'm sure plenty of people think I am one, too."
Then, in the same interview, he defended his friends The Chainsmokers after they received backlash once hitting it big.
"And I've also been there. It becomes a meme to hate somebody," the Baby Driver star said. "But don't be like, 'They seem like they're so bro-y.' They were never trying to fool anyone into thinking they weren't bro-y...Sorry if I sound heated. It's just so easy to be a hater."
To be clear, we're not haters; we're just trying to figure out if Ansel is for real, a troll or a for-real troll. We're fascinated regardless.
The Goldfinch is in theaters now.