Promising young man: why Jacob Elordi is Hollywood’s number one to watch
In partnership with Warner Bros. UK
Jacob Elordi is already a Gen Z icon with 12.5million Instagram followers, but Saltburn looks set to propel him to the next level. In director Emerald Fennell’s spiky and surprising psychological thriller, he lights up the screen as Felix Catton, an upper-crust Oxford student who rolled a 6 at birth. Felix isn’t just a filthy rich aristocrat with a palatial family home (the Saltburn of the film’s title); he’s also cool, charismatic and classically handsome. Felix has immense privilege but wears it lightly in a way that’s both beguiling and galling.
Elordi, who was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, absolutely nails the arrogant drawl that a teenage toff like Felix would speak in. The 26-year-old actor noted in a recent interview that cosseted poshos like Felix “don’t even have to enunciate”. Elordi also uses his physicality – he stands at a statuesque 6ft 5in – to highlight Felix’s innate sense of entitlement. He said in the same interview that Felix is happy to “occupy as much space as possible”, probably because he never really gives it a second thought.
It’s a technically impressive turn from Elordi, who is currently best known for his role in zeitgeist-grabbing teen drama Euphoria, but also one filled with nuance and depth. Yes, Felix seems work-shy and naive, but he’s also kind and driven by a strong moral code – one shaped by his pampered upbringing. Felix’s flawed likeability is a vital cog in Saltburn‘s fizzing Catherine wheel because it lets him bedazzle Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), a bright scholarship boy who lacks his posh poise and social polish.
When Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer at his family home – a place so grand it makes Oliver gasp in disbelief – their friendship begins to turn toxic. Oliver is clearly obsessed with Felix and his monstrously self-indulged family, something Felix doesn’t quite realise, but the outsider’s end goal is trickier to pin down. What unfolds next is dark, audacious and discombobulating – all hallmarks of Fennell’s previous feature film, the Oscar-winning revenge thriller Promising Young Woman.
Saltburn is Elordi’s most exciting film role to date. His previous big screen credits include Swinging Safari, an offbeat Australian comedy starring Guy Pearce and Kylie Minogue, and Deep Water, a psychological thriller with Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. He also played the love interest in The Kissing Booth, a Netflix romcom based on Beth Reekles’ young adult novel, and its two sequels. These wholesome and somewhat formulaic movies weren’t exactly cool, but they did prove hugely popular.
If The Kissing Booth proves Elordi’s viability as a conventional leading man, his role in Euphoria underscores his dramatic range. Since 2019, Elordi has starred in the edgy, agenda-setting series as Nate Jacobs, a high school quarterback with anger issues and an overbearing father. Though Nate projects an ultra-confident image, he is actually deeply conflicted and riddled with insecurities. Smart, narcissistic and manipulative, Nate betrays his thinly veiled misogyny in the way he torments his loyal girlfriend Maddy (Alexa Demie). He is very much a baddie for an age in which we’re finally squaring up to toxic masculinity.
Nate may be borderline sociopathic, but Elordi said in a recent interview that Saltburn‘s Felix is even “scarier” in some ways because he thinks he owns “well, everything”. Felix’s juvenile side comes out when Oliver gets involved with someone he shouldn’t, causing Elordi’s bratty alpha to sulk and pout like a petulant child. When you’re used to having everything for yourself, it’s unbearable to think that something – or someone – might really belong to someone else.
Saltburn is filled with sublimely observed moments like this that allow Elordi to show off his range. Along with his performance as Elvis Presley in the upcoming biopic Priscilla, it’s a role that should transform him from TV rising star to big screen go-to. After all, Elordi is already attracting the attention of Hollywood’s great and good. Footage from last year’s Met Gala shows Leonardo DiCaprio congratulating him on Euphoria, which the Oscar winner calls a “great show”. Now, with Saltburn about to dazzle audiences, it feels like Elordi’s time to establish himself as a DiCaprio figure for the next generation.
‘Saltburn’ is in UK cinemas from November 17