Ansel Elgort on Fast Cars, Rock Climbs, and Working With Ralph Lauren

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 Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

Lots of doors have opened up for Ansel Elgort since his Golden Globe-nominated performance in Baby Driver. Car doors specifically. Before filming Baby Driver, Elgort went through an intense stunt driving bootcamp with instructor Jeremy Fry, the guy who choreographed car chases for The Dark Knight and John Wick 2. There he learned to go into controlled slides with full-size beasts like the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Caprice. The experience also gave the actor a dense skillset that few possess: burnouts, J-turns, and power-out 90s.

Since then, Elgort has chased down every opportunity to test his new skills behind the wheel of the world’s finest rides. He also now owns the supped-up 2006 Subaru WRX that Baby drove in the movie, and has been known to take it out for spinouts in public. That is, between his pastimes of rock climbing and creating his own high-energy pop music.

 

So when Ralph Lauren was looking for an exciting young personality to be Global Ambassador of its new Polo Red Rush, a scene inspired partially by revving engines, the choice was pretty clear. Men’s Journal recently spoke with Elgort before celebrating the announcement at New York’s Classic Car Club; surrounded by the kind of fine machinery he’s seen driving in the fragrance’s sleek new ad campaign.

There are a lot of great cars in the Red Rush video.

The whole shoot was a pretty incredible situation. My character had this hanger of cars, so we were just playing around with those for the day. Then I took the Ford GT out, and by the time I got back it was time to move to the next location, which we were getting to by private plane. So I drove the car up to the plane and jumped in for the flight to Arizona.

Did you have a car you were looking forward to specifically?

I have always been into the old Corvette Stingrays so it was pretty great to be able to drive that out. I have been talking about it for a while. I was looking at getting one myself, but I will say that driving one made me want to own one a little less. You don’t think about how uncomfortable it is going to be inside.

I heard there was a Ford GT as well.

Yeah, they had the Ford GT on set. The one that I think is worth over a million dollars. I kept bothering them asking if I could drive it around. I did end up driving it. The guy who owned the car wasn’t there, but got back to the car handler, and there may have been a miscommunication.

So you may have taken it out on the road without permission?

The guy had said that I could drive it around the parking lot, but somehow it was interpreted that I could drive it out on the highway. So I took it out. I was so excited to take it out there but also so nervous obviously. I had my hands on 10 and 2 the whole way. I still don’t think he knows I took it out.

What are you currently driving?

I have a Jaguar F-Type back home in Montauk that I can’t wait to drive around. I just came home from Paris and that will be part of my decompression. That is another car with a motor that is just a beast.

Your Baby Driver character had to listen to music when he drove. Do you listen to anything yourself?

I don’t need to listen to music when I am driving that around. I just want to hear that engine. That is how I feel like all great rides like that: No music needed. I have the 2015 addition and added horsepower.

What is the craziest drive you have done so far?

I got to take a Porsche 918 Spyder out on the Autobahn. We were doing about 170 miles per hour, and passing other cars on there like they were standing still, which is funny because they were doing over 100 miles per hour for sure. Not only that, but we were doing it at night, which made it ever more intense. You would just roll up on someone in the left lane and flash them until they pulled aside, then you flat out again.

How did you feel hitting those speeds?

Of course, it’s crazy. But it was awesome.

What made this fragrance the right gig for you?

First off, I knew it would smell good, because Ralph Lauren is great in general. Not to mention that Ralph is a pretty big car guy himself, so it seemed like a great fit. I remember when I was going to school we had to wear polos, and I worked to save up money so that I could buy some by Ralph Lauren. Not only that but they wanted my input. They wanted my music. They wanted me to drive. And there was going to be classic cars.

I understand you are also a big climber.

I started rock climbing when I was 15. So I guess it has been a while now. A friend of mine was going rock climbing at the gym, and it wasn’t a popular thing yet. But I wanted to go with him just to have fun. The very first place that I went to was Brooklyn Boulders. I had one of the first memberships there. It had just opened. The membership was called First Ascent. It was super cool. I met Ashima [Shiraishi] there, so I have known her for a few years now.

How often do you get to climb?

I used to go there all the time on weekends. It was the first reason that I started going into Brooklyn, was for rock climbing. Back when I had a DJ residency at Omnia in Las Vegas, one of the reasons that I loved that gig was there was amazing rock climbing in the area. I would pack up with the talent liaison and we would go together right to Red Rocks. We would rock climb and I would go DJ. I was back in Vegas recently and we did a multi-pitch, which was pretty gnarly. It was such a rush.

Do you have more climbs planned?

There are a lot of climbs that I still want to check off. I feel like that would be a great way to pick the next places that I go to visit, is to travel places where I could get some great rock climbs in.

Do the companies or movie studios ever get worried about you climbing?

If I fall off a cliff, I’m probably going to die in general. So I don’t know if I am too concerned about any of that. I feel like Ralph Lauren Polo would actually like that, if I was such a badass that that is how I died. It would be pretty “on brand.”