From afar, Ansel Elgort, sitting in a booth at New York's STK Downtown wearing an argyle sweater and tan slacks, looks like he could be any 24-year-old diner. But up close, the Baby Driver star glitters. It’s impossible to ignore the massive jewel-encrusted crocodile ring he wears on his right hand, paired with an “iced-out Cuban link” bracelet he found in the diamond district. A matching choker peeks out from beneath his collar. “I like shiny things, for sure,” he tells me, explaining that he bought all three pieces for himself.
The actor, who's quickly become a red-carpet regular (his red-carpet bromance with former classmate Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars was particularly beloved), is here today to talk about Jonathan, his sci-fi romance that has the Tribeca Film Festival abuzz. Next to him sits his costar, actress and model Suki Waterhouse, 26, clad in a white jumpsuit, her blonde hair styled in a tousled shag. The duo has worked together before, in both Insurgent and Billionaire Boys Club, the latter of which Waterhouse says is not likely to be released; it stars Kevin Spacey.
Waterhouse also appears in A Rainy Day in New York, directed by another aggressor of the Time’s Up movement, Woody Allen. While she declines to comment on her work with Spacey and Allen, the actress says Time’s Up has undeniably had an affect on her career already. “I’ve been working on movie sets the last few months, and I’m seeing a really positive change. There’s little things that happen that make a lot of difference to how you feel comfortable on set,” she says.
Elgort and Waterhouse have a clear natural chemistry with one another. They also both know what it's like to be a particular kind of famous—they're well-known, with followers in the seven figures and megafans. But they're not yet instantly recognizable household names.
And on this note, Ansel has a theory: There are fake fans and real fans, he explains. And he can do without the first. “I like real fans. I love real fans, I just don’t like fake fans. They don’t care about me at all. They haven’t even seen my movies—they just see me on some awards show," he says. “I love when a fan comes up to you and they clearly know you for what you do, and they appreciate it, and it’s crazy to me when they don’t ask for a photo—they just want a hug and want to spend a moment with you. Every once in a while you have a real fan. And the problem with becoming a celebrity is that you have a lot of bulls—t fans.”
Waterhouse agrees. “Sometimes people don’t actually know your name,” she says. “That actually happens.”
The subject is top of mind for Elgort, who recently visited his high school—celebrity breeding ground Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts—and felt like an outsider. “High school was awesome,” he says, but “I went back a few weeks ago and it was crazy. I was a famous person. I thought I’d go back and the kids would be like ‘Ansel, you go here still, kind of.’ but it was like they looked right through me as they took their phones out, and that really sucked. So I can’t go back there anymore.”
Looks like Elgort is still getting used to fame.
He feels similarly about social media. The actor has 10.4 million Instagram followers but doubts most of them actually follow his work. "Who cares about having 10 million instagram followers when, like, 9 million of them are fake fans. They’re not people who care about you. I wish I could get rid of everyone off Instagram who wasn’t an actual human who had love for me. I love that—that’s wonderful, people who support me. But not everyone supports me.”
Waterhouse's approach? Don't live your life according to what you think fans want to see. “It’s really dangerous to live your life for other people first,” she says. “There are times I go through not really wanting to share much, and it’s OK. I don’t think the world collapses when you do that. You’ve got to check in with yourself and see if you’re looking after yourself. And if that means switching off, so be it.”