ANSEL Elgort may be a baby-faced 23-year-old but he’s definitely got guts. Asked who is the better driver between him and his latest, heavyweight co-stars — Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm — the youngster doesn’t bat an eyelid. “It would probably be me at this point,” he says coolly.
It’s less than five years since he passed his test, but this isn’t just braggadocio, because Elgort is fresh from playing the getaway driver for Hamm, Foxx and Spacey in Baby Driver, which opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday.
The role required Elgort to train with Jeremy Fry, a stunt driver whose credits include Jason Bourne and Batman v Superman. “I learnt how to do pretty much everything over 10 five-hour sessions,” says Elgort. “Jeremy taught me how to drift. We had a blast! I did all the driving they’d let me, which included two stunts. Most of the time I was driving a car full of actors; they didn’t want me crashing if Jamie Foxx was my passenger.”
Elgort is the son of Arthur Elgort, a fashion photographer, and Grethe Barrett Holby, an opera director. Having trained originally as a ballet dancer, he made his screen debut in the 2013 remake of the horror film Carrie, and followed it with lead roles in young adult films such as The Fault in Our Stars — a huge hit at the box office, taking $307m worldwide (its budget was $12m).
He learnt to drive just in time to land his role in The Fault in Our Stars. “They called me a week before we began shooting and asked if I had my licence because I needed to drive a car in the movie,” says Elgort. “They signed me up for lessons at Beep Beep Auto School in New York. I spent a couple of days in a car with this man who taught me how to parallel-park and stuff, then drove me straight to an expedited test. Fortunately, I passed.”
“It’s kind of ridiculous to drive a stickshift in New York, but it’s the only way to drift. I can literally drift into my parents’ driveway”
A couple of years ago he was content to drive an anonymous 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe: “It looks like crap, and it’s the kind of car that if you crash and dent it, you don’t even take it to the [body]shop.”
But Elgort, who lives in Brooklyn with his dancer girlfriend, admits his passion for cars has grown. The cars in Baby Driver were all “pretty crappy because the idea is to blend in while they’re robbing banks” — a Chevy Caprice, a Subaru Impreza and a Mitsubishi Galant, among others. In real life Elgort is doing up a classic BMW 2000, has his eye on a “1980s Lambo Count” — a Lamborghini Countach — and recently inherited his mum’s “stickshift” (manual) Mustang convertible.
“She bought it because she’s always wanted one — in theory,” he laughs. “But she never drove it. She said the clutch was too hard, so she let me have it.
“It’s kind of ridiculous to drive a stickshift in New York, but it’s the only way to drift. I can literally drift into my parents’ driveway on Long Island — but I don’t think they’re happy about the skid marks right outside the house.”
When his friends visited him on the set of Baby Driver in Atlanta, it wasn’t the big-name co-stars he wanted to show off about — it was his stunt driving. “I took my car out into a parking lot, and it was raining but I didn’t care,” he grins. “It was wet enough so I could slide around, and then I said, all casual, ‘I want to show you something’, and I did a J-turn, which is turning in reverse. You floor it in reverse, and then you flick the wheel as hard as you can, so the car flips [around], and then you put it into drive and, once it’s back straight, you drive out of it.
“My friends freaked out and loved it. But I could have got into some serious trouble.”
Ansel Elgort: my life in cars
- 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe
- 2016 BMW 2000
- 2017 Ford Mustang convertible
- My dream car A 1980s Lamborghini Countach