Actor-musician Ansel Elgort found himself gleaning inspiration from American Psycho and Michael Jackson for the dark, sexy “Thief” video, directed by his brother Warren.
Elgort, best known for roles in The Divergent Series and The Fault in our Stars, dances and sings in between scenes of seducing his on- and off-screen love interest Violetta Komyshan. Channeling Patrick Bateman, Elgort’s character is both vain and dangerous, preening in front of a mirror to flex his muscles after sex and never showing emotion as events transpire around him.
“I had created a character while writing and producing this song that was the Thief,” Elgort tells Rolling Stone of his creepy alter ego. “I couldn’t wait to bring him to life in the video. For the performance, we wanted something colorful and rich. We went with an all-leather outfit and neon lighting while I sang and danced, like an Eighties dance video.”
While Bret Easton Ellis’ dark satire of the Eighties’ shallow side influenced the visuals, Elgort also pulled from more positive aspects of the decade to inspire the ethos behind the video. “Music should be art,” he says. “Musicians used to play characters all the time: Bowie, MJ, Freddie Mercury. I’m inspired by those guys [rather than] the modern pop star.”
As he kept big names like Jackson and Mercury in mind while writing and recording the song, the final product carries the slick iciness of Cliff Martinez’s Drive soundtrack, which was a tribute to Eighties synthpop and New Wave. “The first element of the production I created was that changing rolling triplet bass line,” Elgort explains of the connection. “That bass line was certainly inspired by some of the bass lines in that soundtrack.” The track is Elgort’s second single under his own name after releasing music under his DJ moniker Ansolo.
Elgort is slated to appear in three movies this year, including Baby Driver which premieres at South by Southwest in March. He has spent the last year and a half primarily working on pop vocal records, a long culmination of years spent singing onstage in musicals while simultaneously producing electronic music. His next goal is simple: “Now I just can’t wait to get on stage and perform these songs.”