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The most comprehensive source for everything DIVERGENT.

#Divergent Fansite Set-Visit: @AnselElgort Interview

2014 is going to be another year of great YA adaptations and Ansel Elgort is going to be starring in two of them (Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, in case you’re, you know, new to the planet). At 19 years old, Ansel is relatively new to the Hollywood world. To the mainstream Hollywood world, that is. A professionally trained actor, he attended LaGuardia High School in New York City which prepares its students for future careers in visual and performing arts.

The timing of our interview with Ansel was pretty fantastic, actually. We sat down with him on the Chicago set of Divergent on May 16, 2013 just days after it was announced that Ansel had been cast as Augustus Waters.

When Ansel walked in, he immediately went around the table to each one of us, shook our hands and introduced himself. As if we didn’t all know who he was, but I think we were all instantly impressed with his genuine kindness and politeness.

I should say first off, I’ve never been around someone that I instantly had this feeling that they were going to be successful. Granted, I don’t spend a lot of time around actors but sitting on the Divergent set, with the excitement of Ansel’s new job with The Fault in Our Stars in the air, I just got this feeling that this guy would be going places.

Ansel Elgort, thank you for being so sweet and I feel so excited that I was able to meet you at the start of what I know is going to be a successful career.

Veronica has said that by Book 3, Caleb becomes her favorite character. Did she give you any clues as to where this guy’s going, because we’re all thinking he’s a little ambivalent in the first two books…?

No. *Laughs* You know, I think we all have ideas of where he might go, and it’s open and it’s pretty interesting where he could go. I’m excited, too.


You asked your fans on Twitter to give you a description for Caleb. What are your descriptions for Caleb?

Well, I think I asked everyone just because I was interested in what everyone thought of him, you know? But I think that he’s very ambitious and he’s very righteous, and he thinks of everything in a big picture. It’s not necessarily about a single person; like, that’s why he seems to betray his family, because he thinks of everything in, like, the society and the world. He does what he thinks is right for the world and not necessarily for his family. I don’t think he’s a bad guy; I think he’s misguided.


Are you excited about working with Kate Winslet?

Yeah, I’m excited. I hear she’s really nice, so I’m glad.


You haven’t met her yet?

No, I haven’t met her yet. I don’t think any… Maybe some of us have met her. She doesn’t come til the end. I think I have a day with her on this one, and more in the future.


Are you jealous of all the stunts everybody else is doing?

No, I do… Well, I got to go off and on the train, so… And I had the guy – a wonderful stunt guy – do that, but he only did one take, and then I said, “Oh, I want to do the rest of them.” My legs were really sore the next day because I had to run after a train, and it was hard.


You’re big on rock climbing, right?

Yeah, I’m really big on rock climbing, so rock climbing really helped. In fact, actually yesterday, I was on the cab coming back from the airport, and my cab driver asked me what I did, and just to keep it simple I said I was a rock climber. It actually turned into like the most intense conversation about rock climbing, and I just had to keep making up more and more stuff about being a professional rock climber and why I was going to Chicago to be a professional rock climber because there are no rocks here… So, that was funny.


Were you excited to get the part? Who did you tell first?

Yes. Was I excited? No, I didn’t really care. *Laughs* Yeah, I was so excited. I told my best friend, who I do all my tapes with – he’s an actor also – and I was actually with him when I got the phone call. It was really special; I put it on speakerphone, and we both like jumped up and down, we were really excited about it. It was literally like classic out of a movie, and then once we ended the call we like, “Ahhh!” So, it was funny. He helped me get it; he made the tape with me… We work all of our auditions together; he’s a really good actor. We went to high school together for acting; we both went to La Guardia for acting. We’ve done a lot of shows together, so we have good teamwork and we sort of always work on each other’s stuff. I helped him get a role in Boardwalk Empire, and it just works that way.


How does it feel to be the new YA king? I mean, you kind of are, what with The Fault in Our Stars and this…

Oh, I don’t know any YA king…

Oh, you are!

Well, I think it’s nice that… Like, I’ve been working really hard at this for a long time, and I’m glad that it’s… I would be happy for any of my [fellow actors], like I know Nat Wolff was up for Fault in Our Stars, too, and I texted him before either of us got it, and I said, “Damn. Listen, man, like, I’d be happy if either of us got it.” Because he’s a trained actor, and I’m a big advocate for trained actors and people who really pay attention to the craft and aren’t just about, like… I don’t know, I think a lot of people have a misconception that it’s just about how you look or something like that. But it really is like being a dancer. I spent seven years training and acting, and now it’s all paid off, so I’m just glad that it’s a trained actor and, I mean, also that it’s me, but you know…


Are you ready for all the fame?

I think I’m gonna try to just be normal. I mean, I’m going to just be normal. And if people want to come up to me on the street and say hi, I’ll be happy to say hi back, but I’m going to just go around New York City like normal, go on the subway… Maybe I’ll have to wear a hood or something. But, you know, I’m just gonna try to stay, like, Ansel, and I think that’s the most important. I don’t want to become something I’m not.


What’s it like having so many dedicated fans?

I don’t know. I haven’t really… It’s nice that people care, but I think that when they see the movie, that’s when it becomes dedicated. I hope that when they see me act, they can say, “Wow, I really respect him as an actor and an artist,” and they can look up to me and say, “I want to work as hard as he did and do that as well.” I hope I inspire more artists.


What scene are you most excited to see on the big screen?

I was most excited to do some acting scenes. I did a couple scenes in the kitchen with Shailene and Tony and Ashley, and those were really great scenes because, as an actor and coming from stage, most of the stuff I did was like a kitchen sink drama kind of thing, where you sort of stand in a room and you have a deep conversation about something. That’s really the emotional connection between someone, and that’s real acting, whereas like running after a train all day… You know, it’s fun, but it’s not real acting. I’m excited to see like the real scenes. I’ve never seen myself on a big screen doing acting, so I’m excited to see just the acting.


Do you have anything in common with Caleb?

Yeah, I think I’m a righteous guy. I have strong beliefs, and I’m like idealist in that way. I like to follow my beliefs through. I think that I really, though, value more than like the overall picture, I do get suckered into the one-on-one relationship with people. I probably wouldn’t be able to betray my family like he has. I wouldn’t have the strength to do that.


What’s your chemistry like with Shailene?

It’s really good. We have become like best friends. I was just in New York; I hung out with her twice. We actually went rock climbing together. We have become very good friends. It’s very valuable on set to have a good friend, because otherwise you get very lonely… So I really value that relationship. It’s very good. We are very much brother and sister.


Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories from the set?

Nothing that embarrassing has happened yet. If I think of one, I’ll tell you.


What got you into acting? Did it start in high school, or…?

I started when I was nine years old in ballet dancing, so I was a ballet dancer first. I did that for five years, but meanwhile, I started doing some theater. Then musical theater got me into straight acting, and straight acting, after a time, got me into doing some film.


I’m curious to know, is it that you think Caleb choosing a different faction is a betrayal to his family?

No, I don’t think that that’s it. I think that it’s the idea that he… I mean, partly. In the scene – more or less, I’m not going to say the exact line – but in the book, you know, the father kind of makes it clear that there’s problems in the Abnegation and Erudite is going after Abnegation, and it’s kind of a weird thing that he would leave Abnegation and go to Erudite, especially with all the pressure on Abnegation from Erudite, you know? But I think it’s more about what he does later on, in the second book and stuff, that is more sort of betrayal to his sister.


Obviously, you’re going to get some time working with Kate Winslet. What are you looking forward to about that?

I’m just sure that she’s really good, and I’m looking forward to that. I live for the part of acting where you look into someone’s eyes and you feel them giving you something and you give them something back, and there’s this moment, and it’s really real. Great actors really buy into it, like one hundred percent. And then you’re there with someone, and it’s like you’re in a different world. Like, Ansel’s brain is completely different. It’s like, I’m not thinking from Ansel’s brain as Caleb; I’m thinking as Caleb, and that’s it. That’s a really spectacular moment. To be able to do that, honestly, you need to be there with a good actor, because otherwise they do something or they say something  or they make a movement that, it’s just like, that wasn’t Caleb or that wasn’t Jeanine. But I’m almost positive that it’s going to be all Jeanine there, and I’m really excited for that.


What’s it like working with Neil?

Neil is really great. I think he’s a good balance of, like, big time director – because this is a big movie, obviously – and he has a lot of stuff to deal with, but at the same time, he will take us all aside and have a conversation – a really good conversation – about the character, the scene, and the moment. He’s very collaborative, which most directors, they should be. We’ll sit there and talk about it, and our opinions matter, his opinion matters. I think especially coming from stage, the process with the director is very collaborative, and he’s been very, very good with that.


You’ve been really generous with your little set glimpses. Have you had to get permission? Are there a lot of problems?

I think that she was upset with me with like one thing, but it was okay. I mean, I’m going to just make sure to email her stuff before I post them. I’ll try to keep posting stuff, as long as I don’t get into trouble. She said I wasn’t supposed to post Theo’s head, which I told her on purpose about already. It’s the top of it. I thought it would be funny; I knew everybody would be like, “Oh my god, that’s totally Theo’s head!” I think it’s really exciting that I’m able to post a picture of like anything to do with Divergent, and the excitement coming from the fans is really awesome. It’s like, it makes me excited for this movie to come out and to be a part of something that people are so enthusiastic about. It’s really great.


Did you love the book?

Yeah, I really liked it. I mean, I think it’s a lot of fun, I think it’s exciting, and it’s… I always like those kind of books where the world is totally different. It’s really creative how the world has totally changed, and it’s actually a really good metaphor for where we’re probably going and also, I mean, how our society works and how society has worked. How, like, you know, Communism hasn’t been able to work right; Abnegation is sort of Communism. And then Erudite is sort of like another bully country going in and trying to tell people what to do and what not to do. It’s really cool in that way; you can really pick it apart, and it’s not just… Like, some other YA books – which I won’t mention – are very on the surface, and they’re very just about a cute guy and a girl and their relationship, and it’s BS, you know? But this book is really deep, and I wouldn’t be a part of this project if it wasn’t. I was glad that it was so great.


So when you walk onto sets like this, being a fan of the book, are you blown away? Does it exceed your expectations?

Yeah. Well, I mean, we have to see it first when it’s all put together in the movie, right? But just walking in as an actor and saying, “This is what all these people have put their time into.” And the scale of it… Like, thousands of people are working on this movie. It really humbles me and makes me remember that I’m not like any big time guy; I’m just another guy in the process, and if I were to not do my job, and if I were to be like a bad person about thinking I deserve more than I do or being a diva or anything, it would make me feel like an idiot. There are so many people involved in the making of a movie, and I’m just another piece of the puzzle.


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