Jacob Elordi doesn't want to tell me about his paintings. The actor’s been quarantining at his family home in Australia, taking this unintended respite from working in stride by reading, writing, and working on his art. But when I inquire about the nature of his paintings — are they still lifes? Portraits? Landscapes? — he demures. “If I [told you about them] I worry I might jeopardize what I get out of them,” a bespectacled Elordi tells me over Zoom, wisps of his freshly grown mullet peeking into the frame. “[They] bring me so much joy. It’s nice to be at home in that space [where] there’s no expectations — I can just do them and no one has to see them.”
This thoughtful, artsy image is at odds with the jockish Elordi we’ve come to know on screen as the sociopathic quarterback Nate Jacobs in Euphoria or The Kissing Booth’s motorcycle riding, leather jacket-wearing heartthrob Noah Flynn. But when not in character, Elordi, 23, can be found co-writing a one-act play, visiting iconic New York City bookstores with his co-star and “close friend” Zendaya, or dabbling in photography. His uniform consists of accessories like pinky rings and a chain link bracelet, with a manual camera frequently strewn across his chest. Gone are any traces of the ultra-masculine, often violent high schoolers he’s famous for playing.
It’s fitting, then, that ahead of the release of The Kissing Booth 2, Bustle spoke with the perennial teen heartthrob about the hobbies he actually enjoys when he's off the clock. Below, Elordi’s reflections on everything from Sartre to Moleskine journals.
Before quarantine, you were photographed at the Strand Bookstore in New York. There was some speculation about your personal life from photos of that day, but I have a more mundane burning question: what books did you buy?
I can tell you. I bought a Joan Didion book, and I'm going to try and think of [the name of it]. She's so beautiful. [The book] is in America and I haven't actually got to read it because I had to leave. It's a tiny little book.
She had a recent anthology about the American West.
That might've been what that was about. I'm pretty sure it was essays and reflections. And then the other was a play called the Cost of Living, which is a beautiful play. I went back every day and bought books [at The Strand]. When you're in New York, you just want to read more and more, you know?
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I'm reading [Jean-Paul Sartre’s] Nausea. Well, I've only just started it, but it seems to be about a dude who thinks way too much about everything. So it's incredibly relatable. I feel like all those French books from that time are like, "I woke up feeling very sad. Then I looked at my glass and it was a sad glass. Then I had wine and smoked a cigarette and felt a bit better. Then at the end, I was still sad."
I also read Homer's The Odyssey while I was here, because I felt like going on some kind of adventure. I loved it. It might be a bit of a cliché, but I realized how many things in stories — film, TV, and other books — stemmed from that book. Even sayings that we use now as colloquialisms are in that book. Just little one-liners that you think are slang now were really from that. So that was a massive joy, reading that.
Are you typically a big reader? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Yeah, I read a lot. I went through periods. Probably when I was making the first [Kissing Booth] movie, actually. I was an enormous Kerouac fan. I was on an airplane, going on this new adventure, everything was changing, and I was [reading] Kerouac. I’m also a huge Sartre fan. Donna Tartt definitely has my heart.
I haven't read The Secret History. I'm dying to.
I believe it to be her best work. It's so good. And I would die to see that as a movie, even though it's quite sacrilegious [to say that]. I feel like there's something that could translate in this Dead Poets Society, The Talented Mr. Ripley kind of way.
I love Shakespeare more than anything, but I'd say that's maybe a given with actors. Dare I sound like an assh*le now, after listing classical works!
"I've got stacks of books everywhere. Mad scrawlings. They'd probably lock me away if they read them."
You’re passionate about photography, too. Is that something you’ve been taking time for during quarantine?
I always shoot, but it's a little bit like the painting. I've probably tainted it a small amount by sharing it. I always have a camera with me and I love thinking of it like a journal. I have thousands and thousands and thousands of photos that I look back on so fondly, and some not so fondly. But I'll always have time for taking pictures.
Who are some of your photographic inspirations, or artists you admire?
My sister. I think the reason I started taking pictures when I went to LA was because of Heath Ledger, which I might've said 10 billion times. I'm worried that his family is going to think I'm a freak. One person's book I do have at home, well two, is Dennis Hopper and Anton Yelchin's. I really like actors who took photos of their journeys and the people around them. In Hopper's book, there's just pictures of legends like Jack Nicholson doing wild things and stuff like that.
[With Anton], I never knew him, but he seemed so gentle and honest. Then you get his book, and it's this harsh look at bondage, motel rooms, cigarettes, porn, and leather. It's quite dark. Seeing that other side of him through his work is what I think all art should be about. It was so honest and so revealing.
You seem to value reflections on the creative process and reading other actors' meditations on the craft. Do you ever journal?
Yeah, yeah. I've got stacks of books everywhere. Mad scrawlings. They'd probably lock me away if they read them. I like to document everything. Maybe it's just trying to constantly remind yourself that you're here, you know?
Do you carry journals around all the time, or will you buy a journal for a certain period of time?
I've got notebooks in my pockets, in my jacket pockets, all over the place.
What's your notebook of choice? Are you a Moleskine guy?
For work, I'm a Moleskine guy. I've got a black, same sized Moleskine for every character that I play. Then if I'm going somewhere, taking pictures, I'll usually just have a tiny, little, whatever I can find. Like a traveler's journal or something like that. But I also buy way too many. If I see one, I'll just buy it. I'm like, "Oh, well I need to write that one thing down." Then they end up just splattered everywhere, like a mad man.
When you're diving into a character, how deep into journaling about them will you get?
It's ever-changing. Sometimes I might work with someone who's just like, "F*ck it. Throw it away, just see what you can do." And I take a bit of the pressure off of myself. Then sometimes I have to put like 20 anvils on my shoulders and wear the weight of all of it and sit in the space and be a muttering goose in the corner. But my idea of it is ever-changing. So I don't think I can give you a straight answer. I'd read [my words] in print and I'd be like, "You're a dickhead. That's not true."
I think Marlon Brando said something that's like, "When you fall asleep and you dream like the character and wake up and you're still there and you remember, that's when it happens.” [Ed note: Bustle was unable to verify the aforementioned quote.] Someone will say this is dicky, but I can say that I feel like I've felt that happen. You wear [the character] so much that you go to bed and it's still there and you wake up and it's like you haven't slept. It's like the character slept or something like that. I really love that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.