Ansel Elgort in person seems to come with an invisible soundtrack.
The 23-year-old glides into a hotel room, a star on the cusp, with the professional messed swatch of curls falling into his eyes. The star of the new movie “Baby Driver” is feeling the forward motion that began in Vegas at this year’s CinemaCon. “It’s not me. It’s the movie,” he insists. “Vegas meant so much to me because people heard about this movie and went nuts.”
In “Baby Driver,” he’s Baby, a guy who steals the wrong car and is now working off a debt for a mobster. Baby always has his iPod ear buds in because he has tinnitus and has to block the ringing in his ears. He can still drive like hell during mob heists orchestrated by Doc (Kevin Spacey), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). He also falls in love with a diner waitress named Debora (Lily James).
The native New Yorker, who starred in “The Fault in Our Stars” and the “Divergent” franchise, sat down with the Review-Journal to talk about his increasingly fast moves.
Review-Journal: Let’s start with a typical Sunday morning. Do you actually like to go driving? And since this movie, how many moving violations have you racked up?
Ansel Elgort (laughing): “I do like to go for a Sunday drive. After this movie, I’m a really good driver now. My driving school was stunt driving, and now I’m a trained stunt driver. On the road, I don’t contain myself now. I drive like Baby as much as I can get away with. But I know where there are speed traps now. So far, I haven’t had any tickets.”
The drums for “Baby Driver” started beating in Vegas at this year’s CinemaCon where you won the Male Star of Tomorrow Award in April. What do you remember most of that time?
“I owe so much to this movie, which is why I won the award. It was exciting at CinemaCon because everyone knew that Edgar (director Edgar Wright) gave me an opportunity to do a role like this one. At CinemaCon, it was clear that I hadn’t done a big film like this before with a cast like Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. Sony was saying, ‘Okay, CinemaCon and theater owners, we’re going to have this young man be the face of the movie. He’s not the biggest star, but here he is.’ ”
Did you get to do a little gambling during your free time?
“I love gambling in Vegas. I love playing blackjack. I don’t do high stakes.”
Why? You’re a big star now. You have coin!
(Laughing) “I always expect to lose everything, and that came true at the blackjack table during CinemaCon. I lost just a little bit of money, but it was fun.”
The opening scene in the movie reminds me of John Travolta walking down the sidewalk in “Saturday Night Fever.” You swagger down the street for three uncut minutes. What was that like to film?
“People are calling it my ‘Saturday Night Fever’ moment and it was amazing. I wanted to do something on film that I was felt was iconic. That shot will be something people can look up on YouTube as the opening scene of ‘Baby Driver.’ It was just so cool. We rehearsed it for weeks and did 28 takes. That was Day One of filming. I felt like I was back doing theater again. I could feel the scene through the vibe of the music. It felt like the soundtrack to my life, and once I cranked those tunes and the camera rolled, I felt unstoppable.”
The movie is driving, running and jumping. Did you get hurt making the movie?
“I did a lot of the driving, which was exhilarating. … The hardest stunt was when I run through a mall. I slipped and hit my elbow while falling pretty hard and fast. I did it when I switched from the up to the down escalator. I just didn’t make the second escalator. It was fine in the moment, but hurt for four months.”
Do you ever get nervous working with bigger stars?
“On the set of ‘Baby Driver,’ I thought, ‘I’m Ansel and I’m about to rehearse with Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx. But everyone was so nice. Jamie was like, ‘Come to my house. Play basketball. I hear you play music. I have a studio in my house. I’ll give you a key.’ ”
What’s going on with your music? And are you sleeping on Jamie’s couch?
“No, I’m not sleeping. I was up until three in the morning in the studio making music. I sleep thinking of music with tunes in my head. I’m just so into music … just like Baby.”