Timothée Chalamet in conversation with Harry Styles: the hottest actor on the planet interviewed by music's most charismatic popstar
To mark the release of 'Beautiful Boy,' Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles talk politics, social media, and modern manhood.
Timothée Chalamet is the Oscar-nominated teen heartthrob redefining what it means to be a leading man in 2018. Harry Styles is the platinum-selling award-winning musician asking the world to treat people with kindness. To mark the release of Timothée's hotly anticipated new film "Beautiful Boy," they discuss navigating fame, social media, and modern masculinity.
When Timothée Chalamet shot onto our screens in Call Me by Your Name in 2017, the world fell hard and fast in love with his delicate face and foppish hair. Despite his beauty, it was Timothée’s skill and power in the role of trilingual, precocious, Elio, that was most revelatory. It was a role that deservedly earned him the youngest Best Actor Oscar nomination in 80 years, and his star has been on an upward trajectory since.
Timothée went on to appear in the Oscar-nominated, Greta Gerwig-directed Ladybird, in which he gave the high school cool kid surprising emotional depth, but it is his current role in the Felix van Groeningen-directed Beautiful Boy that has taken his star to the next level.
In Beautiful Boy, Timothée plays well-to-do teen, Nic, who spirals into crystal meth addiction to the horror of his journalist father, David, played by Steve Carell. From the outside, Nic has an enviable life. Living in San Francisco’s Bay area on the beautiful, surf-washed north California coast, a bright future awaits him. That’s until his interest in drugs takes a dark turn and he abandons home, descending into addiction. Based on the memoirs of father-and-son David and Nic Sheff, the dual perspective is what gives Beautiful Boy its devastating impact.
Timothée gives a visceral performance as a desperate, wounded Nic, while his father struggles to account for what went wrong. The cycle of recovery and relapse and back again makes for blistering viewing, but unlike other drug films, Beautiful Boy offers no trite, moralistic answers. It exists instead as a powerful account of a father and son’s relationship and the addiction that shatters their world.
Timothée captures Nic in all his complexities; from meeting his dad in a San Fran café obnoxiously strung out, only to ruthlessly scam him for cash, to being clean and back home again wearing the broken demeanor of someone who knows recovery won’t last. Tear-inducing and hard to watch, the film is deservedly gaining major Oscar buzz. In a post #MeToo world, Timothée Chalamet represents the change we want to see in the film industry. He’s sensitive, honest, thoughtful, polite, goofy, and self-aware. He’s in touch with his feminine side, and he smiles. A lot.
Harry Styles: Mr Chalamet…
Timothée Chalamet: Mr Styles… it’s nice to meet you over the phone. Thank you for doing this.
H: Thanks for asking. I saw Beautiful Boy this morning and it’s great.
T: Thank you for taking the time to watch it. It really means a lot.
H: My first question; David Bowie once said that, “Creativity is like wading out into the ocean. You wade out to the point where you can’t touch the bottom, you’re a little scared, and that’s where you do your best work.” Do you agree?
T: I do agree. It reminds me of a quote — if someone tells an artist that they’re brave, they’re really telling them that they’re crazy. I think that whatever bone gets electrified when I act, there’s always a feeling that I’m a little bit out of my depth or out of control.
H: I think if you stay in that safe space all the time, it’s very easy to get bored. It’s important to rip it up and start again sometimes…
T: … and be bad and take risks. I know from working on a movie that if a scene goes wrong, and there’s laughter on set, it loosens you up for the next take, it’s better than protecting yourself and getting lost in your head. The greatest teacher for me has been experience.
H: Your character in Beautiful Boy is a pretty intense part. Are you someone who stays in character when the camera cuts, or are you able to flip it on and off?
T: My part in Beautiful Boy stayed with me longer than I thought it would. I thought one of the traps of this role, especially as a nervous young actor, was going to be to lean into the seriousness of it. I didn’t want to try and be as hard on myself as possible, thinking that was what it would take to make it good. After the last day of shooting, I had the strangest walk home. I didn’t even live it, Nic and David did, but I still felt really affected, drained, and a little devastated. The movie isn’t a downer, because it is really redemptive and hopeful, but it did feel like a punch to the stomach.
H: We all know addiction is an illness that affects so many people, so why do you think it is still cloaked in so much secrecy and shame?
T: I’m no authority on this, but I think it’s because it’s easier to see it that way. It’s comforting for people to give a face to addiction and think it couldn’t affect you, your family or your loved ones. When the reality, like you said, is that it’s an illness that doesn’t discriminate. It knows no race, class, or gender. It’s a very human illness that affects a lot of people our age. One of the things I really like about Beautiful Boy is it doesn’t really get into why Nic’s addicted. I think it’s easier for people to think it’s a choice, that when people are addicted they’re on this big party binge and euphoria, when there’s often a big black hole, as Nic would say, or a place of pain.
H: When you first watched the completed film, did anything about how it turned out surprise you?
T: I was more terrified to see this movie than anything I’ve ever been in before because it was based on real people. I really felt pressure, and seeing it for the first time wasn’t the most comfortable experience.
H: Whenever I’ve done stuff in film or music videos, I often put secret messages in for friends; like I’ll have someone’s name in something or I’ll wear necklaces that my friend’s kids have made or something. Do you ever put secret messages to people in your movies?
T: I’m a very tactile actor, and if I start getting it in my head that I suck, then I do start reaching out for things and I do have little mementos. Certainly on a film like Call Me By Your Name, when we were shooting in a house, there were lots of nooks and crannies where I felt safer. I have little things for myself in each role and little things I try to take with me after I wrap.
H: When you were reading the script for Call Me By Your Name, what was the one scene that made you think you have to do this?
T: It might be the scene where Elio reveals his feelings for Oliver by the war monument. The book is so genuine, so accomplished and well written that I felt like that one scene would be a barometer for whether we would pull it off or not. On the day, Luca Guadagnino didn’t quite know how he wanted to shoot it, and it was actually Armie Hammer who had the idea to do it in one take and in a wide shot. It took away the whole cringey Hollywood feeling. If you mute the movie you can’t tell it’s somebody telling somebody else that they are in love with them.
H: Which is a much more real way in which that would happen…
T: I think so… you might scare someone away if you went too big.
H: There have been rumblings of a sequel, are you nervous about carrying on a story that so many people loved?
T: We made the first movie in the humble hope that fans of the books would go and see it. I would love to do a sequel, that challenge is really exciting to me.
H: Can you still eat peaches?
T: [Laughs] Umm I can, but not without thinking about it…
H: I’ve had a hard time…
T: [Laughs again] That’s the most awkward scene to see with your parents in the whole world. My poor father…
H: I’m sure he’s done it too. You’re close with your family, right?
T: Yes, I am. Are you the same?
H: Yeah, sometimes my parents will come on tour and it’s always nice to have them around. The last couple of years have been nuts for you. What role have your parents played in keeping some sense of normalcy around you?
T: I think the most precious thing I get from my parents – and I try and give it back to them as much as I can – is their love and support. I hope that doesn’t sound cheesy, but it’s true. In your late teens, early 20s you suddenly realize that your parents are human. That doesn’t mean I don’t get really great advice from them, because I do. But you reach a certain age and you take control of your own life. My mum recently put this photo up of her and my dad at the LA premiere of Beautiful Boy and its heart shattering in a great way, they’re just beaming with pride. It’s almost overwhelming.
H: Do you ever get a moment to yourself to take it all in, and realize just how amazing this is? I keep a journal, as I always find it helps with writing songs. Even if it’s just bullet points to make me stop and keep track of what’s happening.
T: Yeah, I keep a journal and I’ll jot down thoughts in the notes app on my phone too. Gratitude and appreciating where you are is very important to me, but that comes with time. Having enough time to write in a journal or simply be thankful. I have about a year and half of work coming up now, I’m doing Little Women and Dune… and I hope I can take time to appreciate it all. What comforts me is that when I wake up, within healthy boundaries, I always have a subtle feeling of gratitude. It’s really awesome to hear that someone like you, who’s been doing this for a good amount of time, has that objectivity and ability to take a step back and write in that journal. To take time to self reflect is important.
Photographer | Mario Sorrenti
Stylist | Alastair McKimm
Makeup | Caoilhionn Gifford
Hair | Duffy
Shot at Pier59 Studios