Now playing in limited release is director Jason Reitman’s (Up in the Air) latest feature, Men, Women & Children. Starring Ansel Elgort, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, J.K. Simmons, Elena Kampouris, Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Crocicchia, Dennis Haysbert, and the voice of Emma Thompson, the drama follows the loosely connected stories of a group of teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate life in the digital age. Loaded with great performances and a smart script, Men, Women & Children is able to tap into the zeitgeist of our tech-obsessed culture yet it doesn’t feel pedantic or forced. It was definitely one of my favorite films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. For more on Men, Women & Children, read Matt’s review, watch some clips or the trailer, or click here for all our previous coverage.
While at TIFF, I landed an exclusive interview with Ansel Elgort. He talked about making the film, how Jason Reitman’s script deals with so many different subjects, deleted scenes, what the last year has been like, losing his anonymity after The Fault in Our Stars, social media, Insurgent, his music, what he wants to do in the future, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
ANSEL ELGORT: My life has changed very much, in good and positive and negative ways. Mostly positive, but in some ways the negative is probably just how weird it’s been. There’s a big adjustment period when you’re a human being and all the sudden you can’t walk down the street. I know everyone says that, but it’s just weird. You walk down the street and people recognize, they want to stop you for a picture of something and I’m so used to being a normal person because literally six months ago I was a normal person, five months ago, but right when Fault in Our Stars came out that all changed.
I can’t even imagine. What’s funny is that this movie deals with the hunt of fame, one of the characters wants to get famous and you are seeing the pros and cons of that.
ELGORT: Yes. I think that most people who are just artists, who are getting famous would trade a lot of their fame back some normalcy, pretty much immediately. I would say I’ve been famous for like two or three months and already I’d rather be less famous and not be recognized but still be respected in the art world and by certain people, and be recognized by certain people not just by everyone.
Sure, but at the same time I’m friends with a bunch of actors and they’re in the limelight a bunch and one of the benefits is that you can shine a light on things that are important to you, as well as if you’re good at your craft you can parley that into being able to get choice roles.
ELGORT: Absolutely. It’s so true. I mean that’s why I’m on social media, that’s why I am active on the internet because I think it’s beneficial to someone’s career. But also I have an audience and I think I have taken this role, whether I like it or not, as an influencer and I want to be a positive influencer. I want to encourage people. One of the things I do encourage people is that that internet is a place where we should share our ideas and be positive, not negative. And also I try to inspire young people to do what they want to do, chase their dreams and enjoy themselves, and be positive. I mean look at that whole Ice Bucket Challenge thing, which pissed some people off, but those people are assholes because it raised over 50 million dollars for something that would have never raised 50 million dollars.
I completely agree.
ELGORT: That’s the internet for you right there. There are negative things about the internet, but there are certainly positive things, and I’m a young person and I think it would be naïve of me not to join the movement of the internet.
I really enjoyed this movie a lot, and one of the things I think is cool about it is that it’s dealing with so much – videogame culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting – it’s dealing with all these different things. When you first got the script were you just like, “I need to do this”?
ELGORT: Yeah, it was just like that. “Wow, this is so relevant in so many ways.” I think it has the ability to touch a lot of people, but mostly young people – and old people, but growing up is a very weird time of life, it’s a very difficult time, and I think art is a way that helps people grow up and get over things and their problems. I think young people will see this and hopefully young girls who are dealing with anorexia will see this and be like, “Wow, I should stop this.” Or people who are too into these video games, which are very easy to be into. I used to be into one of them.
ELGORT: [Laughs] I think that there’s a beautiful message in the script and it’s for so many different reasons. Yeah, I definitely wanted to be a part of it.
I read that you got offered the part in the room.
ELGORT: Yeah, a few of us did.
That’s pretty crazy though.
ELGORT: That’s just Jason. He’s very particular, he knows what he wants and he also had the ability to offer it to us in the room, so I did the audition for him and he was like, “Do you want it?” And I was like, “Yeah.” That’s it. It was pretty sweet. I had a good plane ride home.
I saw him last night and he said that his first cut after the assembly cut was two and a half hours, and he actually had to get rid of two storylines that were part of the movie.
Did you ever see the two and a half hour cut?
ELGORT: No, I would have liked to because those kids are my friends. I was with one of them last night and it sucks, it really sucks, because they worked really hard. They were like part of the freaking the crew in Texas and then they’re not really in the movie anymore. The kid I beat up from the cafeteria was another main character.
That’s what he told me.
ELGORT: But now he’s not. He’s just a kid who gets beat up in the cafeteria [laughs].
I asked Jason specifically what is it like to make that phone call to the actor after you put that movie together, someone who thinks they’re in a huge movie and all the sudden they’re just not.
ELGORT: I’m sure it’s so difficult.
He said it’s the hardest thing you can possibly imagine.
ELGORT: But if you watch the movie even now it’s almost too cluttered, like there’s almost too many storylines. I think you could maybe you could take out one more and it wouldn’t even hurt the movie because it’s so much going on. But I think that’s’ sort of the idea of it though with the whole ADD way social media is and the internet is. It kind of works that way. It’s like this flash of all these stories moving at once.
Well you can’t have the title Men, Women & Children if you’re not dealing with all three subject matters.
It is true though, I run a website and I can tell you we’ve moved into a Twitter generation where everyone wants to know as much as they can in as short amount of characters that they can get it.
ELGORT: Yeah, it’s crazy. Twitter isn’t even cool anymore.
I’m on Twitter 24/7 because it’s an instant RSS. It’s where news is, but it’s for work.
ELGORT: Yeah, but I mean young people are getting off of it, young people are getting off of Instagram now too. It’s all Snapchat right now. I think that every six months there’s a new thing and that is fucking crazy.
It’s because people don’t want to be where their parents are.
ELGORT: No, exactly! That’s just it.
They want to have their own thing.
Once it’s cool, everyone migrates. That’s the thing though, a lot of people are talking about how Facebook is going away. Facebook can’t go away when you have everyone on it. It’s too many brains right now.
ELGORT: But you don’t have young people on it anymore.
But it still has billions of people.
ELGORT: Yeah because it’s very global, but I think that young people because I have a connection with them because all my followers are young people almost, I asked my young fans to go like my music Facebook page please and most of the things I got back were “I don’t have a Facebook.” “I don’t have a Facebook.” “I don’t have a Facebook.” Which I couldn’t believe.
Let’s pull it back into the movie, it’s because with Facebook parents-
ELGORT: It’s easy to get it.
Parents are monitoring their kids.
ELGORT: Yeah, with Snapchat, no way.
That’s what I mean.
ELGORT: It’s a little tiny app on your phone that they might not even know about it.
Oh, they know about it. I’ve seen this movie called Men, Women & Children and it talks about how parents are monitoring their kids [laughs]. Jumping into making the movie. Jason’s dialogue feels like real-world dialogue even if it’s scripted. What was it like working with a director who has that kind of dialogue?
ELGORT: He would always tell me to do nothing. He was like, “Just don’t do anything. You are interesting as you are. Just say the lines and breathe and don’t do anything.” Because he wanted Tim to be very subdued, and down, and quiet, and not energetic. Then there are a few moments where he shines through because of the girl and that’s why I think he’s a beautiful character. Whereas if you watch Fault in Our Stars Gus is big, he’s all over the place. Jason was like, “We’re not doing that at all.” Obviously I wasn’t going to do that because It’s two different characters, but he really directed me to place that I haven’t been before and I’m really happy with the result. I think it’s very different than anything I’ve done and I owe a lot to Jason, because I just really trusted him and he gave me really specific direction and I just took them, and now it’s an interesting character.
Talk a little bit about Insurgent has been going, filming that, which is another huge movie. And also what are you thinking about for the future? Have you started looking at other scripts or projects?
ELGORT: Insurgent is about to be done. I have one more day left and that’s going to be – it’s darker and I’m excited for that. It’s good. Different from this movie. For the future, right now I have Van Cliburn coming up but that’s eventually. I haven’t taken any movies. I sort of need to take a break and I’m just working on music a lot. I just played Electric Zoo in New York.
That’s very effing cool.
ELGORT: That was fucking awesome. Yeah, I really want to take a little break and live a little bit because if you work all the time I don’t think it’s that good. I think sometimes you need to just take a break. I haven’t taken a break in a while.