Rachel Zegler: ‘It was a real gut punch’ to be repeatedly asked about Ansel Elgort

Rachel Zegler covers the latest issue of Elle Magazine. The editorial is nice but somewhat boring, especially since Zegler’s interview is actually pretty good. Zegler is, to me, very cool and the kind of young woman who seems unafraid of calling out bad treatment or unprofessionalism, even if she’s being told it will “hurt her career.” That comes up in this Elle piece, where she addresses (at length) the Ansel Elgort situation. Elgort was her costar in West Side Story, and in 2020 (after the filming wrapped) he was credibly accused of rape, sexual assault and many instances of creepy behavior towards teenage girls. Elgort barely had to address the accusation during WSS’s promotion, mostly because he was in the wind for promotion. Disney buried him and barely gave him anything to do. Which left his female costars, like Zegler, to answer questions about how they feel about the accusations against him. Tremendously unfair. Some highlights from this Elle piece:

Zegler felt a huge shift when she was cast as Snow White: “I felt more of my anonymity go out the window after Snow White was announced, because Disney has such a dedicated following.”

Being a Latina actress. “I had to step into these iconic shoes [in WSS]. The first thing I thought personally was just how to block out the inevitable comparison that would come between myself and Natalie Wood, and myself and a literal two-dimensional cartoon that everyone and their mother seemed to care about the second they announced that I was in the movie. Snow White was this incredible piece of art, hailed as this triumph for animation, and put Disney on the map in such a huge way.”

She considered going to college but… “I really believed in my talent very early on, and probably in a psychotic way, to the point where I was, ‘Yeah, I’m in an audition for a Spielberg movie; maybe then I won’t go to college.’ That was the idea I had.”

She feels punished for being confident: “It’s hard but at the end of the day, you have to remember that, at least in my case, I’m the one with the confidence to go out there, and show my face, and be myself, and I’m getting paid. I’m working, doing what I love…and it’s all I’ve ever wanted in my entire life. I’m really excited to share myself in that way, and let them all talk, you know? Let them all talk. I lead with love, and that’s all I can really tell the world.”

Being asked repeatedly about the accusations against Elgort: “It was a real gut punch, honestly… I reverted back to this brain space I was in [back in] June of 2020, when the accusation surfaced. We were in the middle of the first wave of lockdown, and there was nothing to do but doom-scroll. Those days were some of the worst mental health days I’ve ever had. I was sitting there having just turned 19, on the precipice of what was promised to be the biggest moment in my life, and was being held accountable [by the public] for accusations that not only had nothing to do with me but were made about a situation that was said to have occurred [five] years prior to when I had met and worked with this person. With no thought to the fact that I was also 17 when I met this person, 17 when I worked with them, 17 and 18 when I had to do love scenes.”

Stop analyzing her reactions to the questions about Elgort: “[There is] inherent discomfort that comes with that realization that there are tons of people who think that you have to answer for the actions of an adult male who can speak for himself. It is so wildly disappointing at every turn, no matter how you slice it. No matter how many times I’ve tried to justify people’s concern when it comes to me in my brain, but then realizing that it comes from a place of me having to answer for that, and not them actually caring about whether or not I was okay, was really hurtful…”

[From Elle]

The way she framed it through the lens of an actress who met Elgort when she was 17, and had to do love scenes – I mean, not actual sex scenes, but intimate scenes – with this man who would be outed as a serial predator months later, that made me think. I bet it made Zegler think about their work together and she was likely examining her memories, trying to figure out if he did something inappropriate, or could she have known, etc. It just sucks. Time’s Up was supposed to change the perceptions around this kind of abuse within Hollywood and change the way we talk about predators and their victims… and their coworkers. Anyway, I feel sorry for Zegler that her “big break” was marred that way. And then after all of that, Disney didn’t even want her to go to the Oscars.

Covers courtesy of Elle.

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