The following feature appears in the June/July 2017 issue of NYLON Guys.
“Please don’t make me sound like a douchebag.”
That’s Ansel Elgort’s half-serious plea, early on in the conversation we’re having on a spring afternoon in Brooklyn. We’re at a tangy-smelling climbing gym located in a neighborhood flush with industrial warehouses, a spot he’s been coming to for eight years, since he was about 15, and where the employees know him not as Ansel Elgort, Movie Star™, but as a goofy, energetic regular who likes to scale the walls a few times per week when he’s in town, the kind of guy who, when an employee offers him a sip of her mango smoothie, happily takes her up on it. (The smoothie is pretty tasty, he confirms.)
But here’s the thing: Elgort thinks he may have just compared himself to Pablo Picasso (and in fact he kind of did), but it’s an honest—or make that earnest—mistake. See, the night before we meet, he encountered one of those surreal, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming situations that up-and-coming actors sometimes find themselves in. He was hanging out at the Manhattan townhouse of Diana Widmaier-Picasso, granddaughter of Pablo, hobnobbing with A-listers Robert De Niro and Whoopi Goldberg, television mastermind Ryan Murphy, and cinematic auteurs Baz Luhrmann and David O. Russell. The whole experience was like an electric rod right through him, inspiring and energizing, and it got him thinking about Picasso, and then art, and about how, for Picasso, art wasn’t about the finished product—it was about the process. Then a light bulb went off.