Acting comes naturally to this New Yorker. A student of the renowned LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Ansel Elgort starred in the play Regrets while at school and received rave reviews for his performance. An accomplished ballet dancer, he was also a part of the New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. The 20-year-old stepped on to the big screen with last year’s remake of Carrie before snapping up a part in Divergent. Elgort will now be seen in The Fault in Our Stars, a story about two youngsters battling cancer who fall in love. His next film will be equally intense—he will play renowned musician Van Cliburn in a biopic by the same name. More from the actor:
How did you get the role?
I did an audition tape on my iPhone, it in my stairwell. They sent it back and said: ‘Okay, do it a little differently now.’ So I did another tape. Eventually, I heard that they wanted me to go to LA to audition with Shailene (Woodley). We did a bunch of scenes, including the one where I first meet her.
How would you describe your character, Gus?
Gus is an idealist. He wants to leave his mark on the world and when he realises he can’t, it really brings him down. However, he realises he can make a difference with Hazel. That’s a beautiful discovery in the movie.
From playing Shailene’s brother in Divergent, you are now her boyfriend.
I’m a big admirer of Shailene and it was nice working with her on Divergent, but my character was not big in that. Working with her on this film was the real deal, because I’m the leading man. This film involved long, hard, emotional scenes.
How important is humor in the film?
It is important because the teenagers in the story are human beings and when suffering hits them, they handle it well. They are young and they don’t have many worries (other than health) or responsibilities, so they can focus on their love for one another. John Green depicts them in the book as regular kids who are humorous and who constantly make a joke out of their disease. It is the same in the film.
What was it like working with the older actors, like Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe?
When I was making the film I was 19. So it was awesome working with those amazing actors. This is only my third movie and I learned such a lot. Willem approached the work in a very scholarly way. He seems like a guy who has never stopped learning.
And your work equation with director Josh Boone?
Josh is very chill, which is nice because he set a good vibe for the set. This is a story about a beautiful friendship and relationship, and Josh just let it happen. He was relaxed. He didn’t seem like a big-time, scary movie director guy. I like him a lot.
What do you admire about John Green’s book?
I think it empowers young people. We’re still at a stage in our lives when we think a lot about a lot of things. I think John Green acknowledges that and he doesn’t write dummy books for young people.
You are also a DJ?
Yes, for some reason, if you produce music, you usually DJ, too. But what I love is the production of music. I started by playing the piano and writing a lot of music. I loved John Legend and then my cousin introduced me to EDM, and a program called Ableton [a music production software]. It took me a year to learn it, between filming Carrie and Divergent. Now it’s finally paying off. I can score music for movies with that program.
The Fault In Our Stars is scheduled to release today.