Is Jacob Elordi Too Tall to Be a Movie Star? - NEWS (2024)

Published: February 14, 2024

In June 2022, Sofia Coppola placed a worried call to her cinematographer, Philippe Le Sourd. They were preparing to shoot her new biopic of Priscilla Presley, and the director was close to casting the all-important role of Elvis. “She didn’t tell me who she had in mind,” says Le Sourd, “but she asked if it would be a problem to shoot with a tall actor.”

You can understand her concern: Cailee Spaeny, the actress who was slated to play Priscilla, is just five-foot-one. The actor in question was Jacob Elordi, the 26-year-old Australian heartthrob, who is classically handsome with a whiff of Elvis’s charisma — and is six-foot-five. In Hollywood, that is not just tall but towering, unapologetically altitudinous in a way that few leading men have ever dared to be. Could the cinematographer cram such differently sized humans into the same frame? Le Sourd took a can-do approach. “I told Sofia, ‘There’s always a technical solution, and we’ll make it look as good as possible,’” he says. “But I’m sure that for some directors, the height difference could’ve been too much.”

In most walks of life, height like Elordi’s is an advantage. Tall people, especially men, make more money, get more matches on dating apps, and win more presidential elections. They can also run faster, see better at concerts, and buy booze for high-school parties without wearing a trench coat and standing on a friend’s shoulders. One of the vanishingly few places on earth where height does not automatically confer benefits is a movie set, where logistics seem to favor smaller performers. Diminutive actors — like Tom Cruise and Tom Holland (both about five-foot-seven) or Robert Downey Jr. and Joaquin Phoenix (both five-foot-eight) — can pair more easily with most co-stars and play younger characters for longer, thus expanding their career options. Extremely tall actors, when they’re cast at all, tend to get pigeonholed as villains, comic relief, or space creatures — like Peter Mayhew (seven-foot-three), who portrayed Chewbacca, or Bolaji Badejo (six-foot-ten), who played the title role in Alien.

Or at least this is what Elordi himself had been taught to believe. “Everybody would tell me I’d never work because they wouldn’t be able to partner me with people, or they wouldn’t be able to lift the camera up high enough,” he told GQ in 2020. “I used to try to pass as six-two or six-three because people hear six-five and go, ‘He’s a giant.’” (Elordi declined to comment for this story. Also: Many actors’ true heights are treated as state secrets, and no one mentioned in this article agreed to let us measure them. The numbers given are the best we could find.)

Elordi is taller than just about every tall person on today’s A-list, including Adam Driver (six-foot-two), Will Ferrell (six-foot-three), and Jason Momoa (six-foot-four). He’s taller than Tim Robbins, who, at six-foot-four-and-a-half, is the tallest star to ever win an Oscar. Only a handful of actors are the same height, such as John Cleese, John Corbett, Stephen Fry, Armie Hammer, Joe Manganiello, Tom Noonan, Tyler Perry, Randy Quaid, and Vince Vaughn. It’s impossible to create an exhaustive list of the very tallest actors in part because some of them are actively misleading about their height — like Nicholas Braun, who once described his six-foot-seven frame as “the biggest impediment to getting roles” and has tried to pass as several inches shorter. But aside from athletes who have moonlighted in movies, only a very few working actors are taller than Elordi, including Pete Holmes, Bo Burnham, and Penn Jillette (all six-foot-six), James Cromwell and Stephen Merchant (both six-foot-seven), and Brad Garrett (six-foot-eight).

Yet so far Elordi doesn’t seem to be having trouble booking roles. In fact, it’s rare for a burgeoning star to be in such high demand, let alone one who probably bangs his head on doorframes. Elordi first came to attention in Netflix’s 2018 teen romance The Kissing Booth and the HBO series Euphoria in 2019. Last fall, he starred in Priscilla and then Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, in which he made such an impression — opposite Barry Keoghan (five-foot-eight) — that Etsy shops are selling candles that purportedly smell like his bathwater. Until now, he has mainly played naïfs and crush objects, occasionally leveraging his height to convey a sense of menace. But this year, he’ll expand his repertoire in the film On Swift Horses, as a gambler in 1950s California, and in Paul Schrader’s Oh, Canada, as the younger version of the main character, played by Richard Gere (five-foot-ten). (“Richard grew six inches for the occasion,” Schrader tells me in an email.) Elordi recently began shooting Guillermo del Toro’s Dr. Frankenstein, in which he’ll play Frankenstein’s monster.

Is Jacob Elordi Too Tall to Be a Movie Star? - NEWS (1)

The speed and ease of Elordi’s rise is enough to make one wonder just how strong Hollywood’s bias against the tall really is. If he has come this far despite so much height, how much further can he go? How high is the ceiling for a six-foot-five star?

I put these questions to industry professionals, most of whom insisted that being tall is not the insurmountable hurdle to an acting career that it has been made out to be. Casting director Pamela S. Kramer says that tallness might have been more of an issue in the past but that something in Hollywood has changed in recent years. “I’m surprised sometimes when I get a casting breakdown and it says it doesn’t matter what an actor’s weight or height is,” she says. In theory, this pivot to open-mindedness was supposed to help plus-size and disabled actors, as well as other nontraditional types that have historically been shut out of movies — and here it is benefiting the most conventionally gorgeous man ever born.

Still, some of those same insiders told me that in certain cases an actor’s height can remain a deal-breaker. “Once, we had already cast an actress who was on the shorter side,” says casting director Rich Delia. “We had her do chemistry readings with actors. One of them was quite tall, and they looked odd together.” The actor did not get the role. “A couple of times when working on commercials,” says Kramer, “I was told that an actor couldn’t be taller than six-foot-two; otherwise they wouldn’t fit on the set.” Judy Henderson, another casting director, says tall people may have more trouble in theater “since onstage, you can’t put the other actors on apple boxes.”

What about the co-stars of tall actors? Hollywood can be a minefield of egos and insecurities. Might some powerful actors not want to work with someone larger for fear of looking short? Liam Neeson has said that when he shot scenes with Clint Eastwood for 1988’s The Dead Pool, Eastwood “stood on curbs and the upside slopes of hills” to appear taller. (Both actors are six-foot-four.) It has been rumored that similar adjustments were made to put Vin Diesel (five-foot-11) level with Dwayne Johnson in the Fast & Furious movies — though the mystery of Johnson’s height complicates this speculation. He has claimed to be six-foot-four and even six-foot-five, but photos show him to be about the same size as Barack Obama, who is six-foot-one.

None of the casting directors I spoke with said they had ever personally witnessed anything like this. They tell me most actors Elordi is likely to encounter will be pros, game to do whatever it takes for the good of the production. For example, legendary character actor Saul Rubinek (five-foot-seven) co-starred with Garrett in the 2002 TV biopic Gleason, the film that, according to Guinness World Records, made Garrett the tallest actor ever to play a lead role. I asked Rubinek what he remembers about the shoot. “For a couple of walk-and-talk scenes, I had to wear special shoes with eight-inch lifts,” he says. “It felt funny at first, and I was worried it would look weird, but it actually wasn’t that hard to do.”

Of course, as ever, most of the real work is done by craftspeople. To accommodate Elordi, Priscilla’s Graceland set was built slightly larger than the real thing. Ceilings were raised, and Elvis’s couch was made taller. Spaeny was given shoe lifts and platforms to stand on. For dialogue scenes, Coppola made extensive use of reverse shots, in which only one speaker is shown at a time. Elordi even affected the movie’s aspect ratio. “We couldn’t shoot in CinemaScope” — a panoramic ratio much wider than it is tall — “because that would’ve made the difference in heights look even greater,” says Le Sourd. Instead, Priscilla was filmed in a taller 1.85:1, allowing for more vertical space above and below Elordi to subtly de-emphasize his stature. (Maybe this is partly why Saltburn was shot in the nearly square 4:3 ratio.)

But in some ways, the differential between Elordi and Spaeny was helpful. Priscilla takes a myth-busting approach to Elvis’s legacy, foregrounding the power and age gaps between its two main characters. (When they met in 1959, Elvis was 24 and Priscilla was 14.) Le Sourd says the shots in which Elordi towers over Spaeny underline that theme: “In the beginning, we were just concerned about the technical challenge — how do we make sure she’s not too small? — but as we were shooting, we discovered that his height actually helped tell the story.”

“What’s most important, always, is the charisma and the talent of the actor,” Le Sourd continues. “If something’s not working, maybe your height is not the problem. Maybe you are the problem.”

Is Jacob Elordi Too Tall to Be a Movie Star? - NEWS (2024)
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