When “West Side Story” star Ansel Elgort appeared on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on December 8, he was rushed to attend the lavish Steven Spielberg premiere in New York City at Lincoln Center. He shared advice from the late Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the show’s lyrics, after a recording session for the movie didn’t go well. And he bravely explained how, as a child, he would walk around his house playing music from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
In other words, it was a plain, harmless clip on a late-night talk show. Unless you look at the comments for Elgort’s appearance on the show’s YouTube page.
“Everyone who did this… must feel extremely disappointed and disgusted with themselves.”
Hollywood waited an entire year hoping that everyone would forget trying to put Ansel back on the Hollywood scene. They think we are stupid? “
“Ask him why he preys on sophomores/juniors in high school.”
“And what about the accusations against Ansel?”
All of the comments stem from a claim posted on Twitter by a woman on June 19, 2020, that Elgort “sexually assaulted” her when she was 17 and he was 20. “I was just a kid and I liked him,” she wrote. “So when it happened, instead of asking me if I wanted to stop having sex, knowing it was the first time I was crying in pain and not wanting to do it, the only words that came out of his mouth were we need to break into you.”
The claim immediately spread viral. The next day, Elgort, now 27, posted on Instagram that he had had a “completely brief, legal and consensual relationship” with the woman, and that he ghosted her after the breakup, which he said was “an immature and cruel thing to do to someone.”
But regarding the woman’s allegation of assault, Elgort wrote that “her description of events was simply not what happened. I have never, and will never, assault anyone.”
Since the #MeToo era began, allegations like this have completely spoiled careers and turned major movie release plans upside down. Allegations of sexual assault against Armie Hammer at the beginning of 2021, for example, caused him to be reworked in several projects and put his last film, the mystery of the 20th century studio set “Death on the Nile” into question. . (Hammer denied any wrongdoing.)
At first, it seemed like something similar would happen with Elgort and “West Side Story,” especially considering that, apart from Rita Moreno, he’s the most recognizable face in the cast – thanks to his breakout roles in “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Baby Driver.” Disney’s decision to postpone the December 2020 release after a year due to COVID-19 bought the film some time, at least, but it didn’t change the fact that the leading man in one of cinema’s most iconic love stories has been accused of sexual assault. A teenage girl.(Representatives of Elgort and Disney declined to comment for this story.)
Recasting the role of Elgort — as Christopher Plummer did for Kevin Spacey in 2017’s All the Money in the World and Tig Notaro as Chris Delia in 2021’s Army of the Dead — wasn’t a start: unlike Plummer and Notaro, Elgort isn’t a supporting performer. Reproducing nearly all of the huge and complex groups in “West Side Story” would have been prohibitively expensive. Elgort’s limited presence in the film’s trailers has led some observers to conclude that the studio’s strategy will be to severely limit media exposure to the actor.
Instead, Disney engaged in an ingenious journalistic strategy to put Elgort in the public eye in a way that minimized any potential fallout. Elgort was helped by an enthusiastic participation in the “West Side Story” press tour. Besides speaking with James Corden, Elgort appeared on “The Drew Barrymore Show,” presented at the American Music Awards, took part in dozens of interviews during the global press conference and walked the full press line at the New York City premiere.
However, it didn’t sit down for the kind of one-on-one in-depth interviews one would expect from a movie star of this stature: no featured profiles or cover stories, no lengthy podcast interviews, and nothing in which it was almost certain that he was asked about the assault allegation. His unsolicited interviews with other actors were also grouped together, further protecting Elgort from the possibility of uncomfortable questions being asked. And although he posted several times on Instagram about his West Side Story, he stayed away from Twitter entirely, which prevented him from promoting the movie to his 3.3 million followers there.
However, Elgort was speaking, and until now, no one had asked him about this claim, including in a short interview with diverse At the premiere in New York.
Another complicating factor is that the entire episode unfolded exclusively via social media. Within days of her original post on Twitter, the woman deleted the tweet, closed her account and hasn’t posted any posts about her since. Elgort also deleted the Instagram post with his reply. Since then, other women have posted on Twitter who claim that Elgort Offer inappropriate initiatives via social media when they were underage, with screenshots that appear to support their claims. But Elgort has not commented on the allegations. No one else charged Elgort with anything similar to the original assault allegation; None of the allegations against him have been independently confirmed.
In this atmosphere, and with the press corps unwilling to bring up a controversial topic in an uncomfortable forum, Elgort moved on to releasing “West Side Story” without having to address what would have been an allegation of professional murder.
It’s impossible to know what effect these efforts ultimately had on the film, which debuted this weekend with an estimated $10.5 million domestically — a surprising disappointment likely related to consumers’ reticence to return to movie theaters amid the Omicron COVID-19 pandemic. Like any other reason. But it is at least clear that Elgort’s career does not appear to have been harmed. The actor spent much of 2021 filming the first season of the HBO Max series “Tokyo Vice” with directors Michael Mann and Destin Daniel Cretton. After showing “West Side Story” to SAG-AFTRA members the day before the New York City premiere, Elgort was the first cast member to step onto the stage for a Q&A follow-up. Enthusiastically received a standing ovation.
However, Elgort hopes no one will spread the moment online. There isn’t a lot of applause there.