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- Australian actor
"I'm just burning sage," says Jacob Elordi as he takes a lighter to the business end of a smudge stick. His voice, transmitted over Zoom from his home in Los Angeles, is so deep that the words tend to blur together, as if this six-foot-five Aussie, in a baseball cap and a banana-yellow T-shirt, has been possessed by the spirit of Eeyore. Or it might just be how he's feeling today. "A little down in the dumps," he says. He dearly misses his family back in Australia: his brother and sister, both older, and "my best friends"—his parents. He's in production on season two of Euphoria, HBO's acid trip of a series that gives Gen Z the prestige treatment. "Work is the North Star. As long as I'm doing that, I'm good. I can be anyone, anywhere, from any family," he says. "But it's the in-between moments. There are days when you just sit at home, and those days are tough. Because it's like, 'I have a swimming pool and a television and a couch and a tree, and I can't have Sunday lunch with my mum.' "
Above him hangs a painting done by a friend of a boxing match, two blurs forever throwing jabs at each other. When talking, Elordi pulls on the hem of his shirt; when listening, he pinches the flesh of his cheek. You get the sense that there's a separate conversation racing through his head. But that goes away when talk turns—inevitably—to the man's eyebrows. They're thick Basque brows, paternally inherited. "I used to be so self-conscious of having a unibrow," he says. "I would make my mum tweeze out the middle. I was fifteen and terrified of all body hair." He finally cracks a smile. "Since I've become vain, I do brush them from time to time before leaving the house. Which really kills me, when I reach for that little brush."
This article appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Esquire
On Euphoria, Elordi, twenty-four, plays Nate Jacobs, a high school quarterback who struggles with an abusive father—in addition to his own multitude of demons. On set, the actor has the heavy task of living in the head of a jock who, in season one, nearly pummels a guy to death, blackmails a classmate with her nude selfies, and projects his confused sexuality in every direction but inward. Elordi reveals that in season two, "there's a lot more time in his house, with his family."
To him, the idea of spending more time at home with his family—as he did during the worst of the pandemic—reminds him of everything that's missing. "I've been like, 'Why don't you just leave?' And then I'm like, 'Oh, fuck, because I can't. I literally can't.' "
For the record, he's not talking about contractual obligations. When Elordi was a child, his dad called him Jacob the Champion. "I would never stop anything, whether it be running or riding a bike up a hill," he says. The nickname still pops up in his brain like an inspirational Whac-A-Mole. "To this day, I will never, ever stop. Even if I'm in the gym or something silly like that, I can still hear 'Jacob the Champion.' It's almost to the point of an OCD, where I'm like, 'If I don't do this last pushup. . . .' "
Luckily, Elordi has reached a spot where he's not tallying how many fans and followers will be won or lost by his next role. "I don't care enough about being a celebrity to make movies that I don't really care about," he says. He will have a small part opposite Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas in Adrian Lyne's Deep Water (out January 14). When I ask if he'd ever stand in front of a green screen and play a superhero, he tells me that he nearly did, that the project was to be directed by Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), and that they'd hit it off from the jump. "I was like, 'Dude, I'll fucking fly around and shoot lasers for you any day,' " Elordi says. But nothing materialized. "I don't know if I can talk about it, because it's gone away now."
You've probably gleaned that Elordi's matured about five decades in the nearly four years since he first made his name, as the teddy-bear boyfriend in Netflix's teen rom-com trilogy The Kissing Booth. No one prepped him for the attention of millions of teenagers armed with Netflix subscriptions, plus a couple of Instagram-friendly relationships—with his Kissing Booth costar Joey King and, in a rumored fling, his Emmy-winning Euphoria costar Zendaya. I ask if being with his current partner, Kaia Gerber, the daughter of Cindy Crawford and a model in her own right, has helped with his loneliness. Elordi rubs his ears and says with a half grin, "Oh, no, I don't really want to talk about my relationship," then hurtles the interview train in a different direction.
"I used to worry a lot about what people thought about me, and about the kind of actor I was because of the movies I'd made," he says. "I just felt very corny, and I felt like I had to prove to everyone that I was a serious actor. I felt terribly misunderstood." Elordi thinks for a second about where he's going, looking up and to the left, past the camera. He has it now. "I got guarded for a little while, because I made a teen movie," he says. "I don't want to come to the end of my career and have not been candid and said what's going on and how it feels. So this is the start of me being open, I guess." He flashes a peace sign and logs off.
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