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Ansel Elgort Struggles with Loss, Guilt in “The Goldfinch”

Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Goldfinch is the achingly poignant journey of trauma survivor Theo Decker,  portrayed as an adult by Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars) and, as a child, by Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon).

Watch the film’s trailer

The film is based on Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel The Goldfinch, published in the fall of 2013, and immediately became a must-read, topping best seller lists around the globe, earning numerous honors, including the coveted Pulitzer Prize.

 

The last time 13-year-old Theo Decker saw his mother, she was gliding away from him into another gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Seconds later, a terrorist bomb exploded destroying priceless pieces of art…and shattering Theo’s life forever. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, friendship and even love.  

 

Throughout the turbulent years, as he grows into adulthood, Theo secretly clings to a single, precious object—his one tangible connection to the mother he lost on that terrible day—a priceless painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch. The Goldfinch.

 

Ansel Elgort shares, “It is a beautiful and intense drama that draws you in. The story of a life that was stolen and the ripple effects of a single devastating event.”

The actor allows that one of the most daunting aspects of his performance was conveying the trauma that haunts Theo, who remains, metaphorically, as chained to the day of the bombing as the tiny bird is to its perch in the stolen painting. Hidden away, it is his secret talisman, which both comforts and torments him. And, like The Goldfinch, the pain Theo feels is also concealed from view.  

 

Elgort observes that his character “views human life as something fleeting because his life has been so traumatic. But an object can endure, and I think that idea comforts him. And the object he prizes the most—and the one that also haunts him the most—is The Goldfinch.”

 

“Judging by appearances alone, Theo seems to have gotten himself together,” Elgort explains.  “But inside, he is still struggling with his loss and the guilt he has been carrying on his shoulders since childhood. I had to find his inner darkness and getting to that place was my biggest challenge.

 

The filmmakers knew that engendering empathy for Theo would have to begin with the young actor playing him at age 13, when his world was shattered. Young actor Oakes Fegley says, “Theo’s mom was the only stable family he had. His father left and is not part of his life, so to lose her, too, leaves Theo feeling helpless, with no control over where life is taking him, on top of his grief and guilt. He goes through such a big range of emotions, which is one of the things that drew me to the role.”

 

“We went through hundreds and hundreds of submissions of kids for Theo,” recalls director John Crowley.  “It was a gradual process of narrowing them down, and we kept circling back to Oakes. He was really good and very touching, and there was also this impression of an old soul about him that felt right for this character.”

 

Producer Nina Jacobson concludes, “Oakes Fegley is a remarkably sophisticated actor, especially for someone that young. His performance is extraordinary…so moving, so vulnerable.”

The Goldfinch Poster

In Philippine cinemas September 18, “The Goldfinch” is distributed in the Philippines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a WarnerMedia Company. Use the hashtag#TheGoldfinch

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