The Controversy Surrounding ‘West Side Story’ Star Ansel Elgort, Explained
Ansel Elgort and the cast of West Side Story were on track to dance their way to the top of the heap after the film opened in theaters Dec. 10. However, it ended up being a far closer race than originally expected.
The latest re-telling of the classic musical (it's the first new film adaptation since 1961) is expected to open with just $10 million in ticket sales, according to Variety. Despite a strong score on Rotten Tomatoes, the numbers for the film's opening weekend are definitely on the lower side of the spectrum.
Initial estimates expected West Side Story to pull up to $15 million. After a lackluster Thursday night debut and relatively slow Friday, there were some worries that the film may not even break $10 million.
There are a variety of reasons that the film may be underperforming, but TMZ notes some critics are claiming the less-than-noteworthy opening numbers have to do with the controversy and sexual misconduct allegations surrounding one of its most recognizable lead stars: Ansel Elgort.
Content warning below // sexual violence
In 2020, a woman named Gabby took to Twitter to accuse the actor of sexually assaulting her in 2014. At the time of the alleged interaction, she was just 17 years old. Elgort was 20.
Over a series of tweets she detailed their interactions, which started in DMs and then moved over to Elgort's private Snapchat account. She opened up about the alleged experience of their sexual encounter, which she also claimed was her first time.
"So when it happened instead of asking me if I wanted to stop having sex knowing it was my first time and I was sobbing in pain and didn’t want to do it the only words that came out of his mouth were ‘we need to break you in.’ I WASN’T there in that moment mentally," she said. "I disassociated myself and just felt like my mind was gone. I was in shock."
She added, "Years later, I have PTSD, I have panic attacks, I got to therapy. Finally, I’m ready to talk about it and finally heal."
Gabby also claimed that Elgort asked her to send him nudes and warned her that speaking about their interactions could "ruin his career."
Shortly after coming forward, Gabby deleted her social media account. According to Vulture, that several other women accused Elgort of behaving inappropriately on social media after her tweets went live.
The actor addressed the accusations made by Gabby in a since-deleted post on Instagram.
"I cannot claim to understand Gabby's feelings but her description of events is simply not what happened," he wrote. "I have never and would never assault anyone. What is true is that in New York in 2014, when I was 20, Gabby and I had a brief, legal and entirely consensual relationship."
Elgort added that the relationship ended poorly when he ghosted Gabby. For that, he apologized: "As I look back at my attitude, I am disgusted and deeply ashamed of the way I acted. I am truly sorry ... I know I must continue to reflect, learn, and work to grow in empathy."
Elgort has since scrubbed the post and a variety of other content off Instagram, according to The Cut.
At the time, there were calls for a boycott of West Side Story, according to Heavy. Others demanded for Elgort to be recast.
According to a timeline of the film's process compiled by Vulture, Elgort was officially cast as Tony in 2018. Production for the film wrapped in September 2019. The musical was originally due to premiere in Dec. of 2020. However, it was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Variety notes that recasting Elgort would have been challenging since production, which included expensive and intricate set pieces, was wrapped at the time the allegations were made.
Meanwhile, representatives for Elgort have declined to comment on the accusations as promo for the film has ramped up. The actor has since embarked on a press tour for the film, however, his appearances have skated around any questions about the allegations.
So, what will the accusations mean for his career? At the moment, seemingly not much. Variety points out that the actor worked through 2021 and was met with a standing ovation after a screening of West Side Story.