The actor who played the first blockbuster lead in “Dune”, the thrill of working with Wes Anderson and why he learned to accept his insecurities
There are times when it feels like watching an actor grow up in front of your very own eyes. Take Timothée Chalamet, the star of dune, Denis Villeneuve’s epic new science fiction film, adapted from Frank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1960s novel.
Chalamet became known in 2017 Call me by your name, won an Academy Awards for his role as an adolescent experiencing the pain of first love. He’s had the boy-to-man role before. played The king, David Michôd’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal before joining Henry V.
But it’s something else to like a massive movie dune, in which he plays Paul Atreides, the heir to a powerful aristocratic ruler in the distant future who comes of age when he visits Arrakis, a desert planet rich in a precious drug called spice and populated by fearsome sandworms.
Has Chalamet anything to do with Paul’s journey? Was this his moment of growth? “It’s a tricky question to answer; I never want to look like I’m megalomaniac, ”he says as we speak at the Venice Film Festival, where Dune was exposed to ecstatic reviews.
“Still, I have to say ‘yes’. Not that I came to the set as a boy – I was already 23. But I felt… the ‘Hans Zimmer’ of everything and the fact that I grew up with such films that make the theater shake. “
Zimmer, the composer who delivers the thundering music to Dune and has written many blockbuster scores over the years, is a symbol of Hollywood at its bombastic best. He also scored Christopher Nolan’s I.interstellar, in which Chalamet played the son of Matthew McConaughey’s astronaut.
Designed with a size that dwarfs most movies, Dune is an overwhelming movie experience.
“The story was just as I had imagined, but the presentation was on a whole different level,” says Chalamet.
“The films I’ve made are smaller.”
The key was not lost with such a large production.
“Timothée is a very intellectual, very mature young man,” says Villeneuve.
“He has an old soul. For his age he has far more wisdom than normal children. At the same time, he looks very young. Sometimes he looks like he’s 14 years old in front of the camera. So it’s the perfect combination. “
Chalamet, who today wears a white jacket with brown cuffs and a chain around his neck, laughs when he hears Villeneuve’s thoughts on his appearance.
Does that bother him? “The honest answer to that is: a) No, that’s not bothersome. And b) I accept any uncertainty that arises from thinking about the insecurities I had when I was not lucky enough to work as an actor and didn’t know that I was going to have a career and that I ‘I have lucky enough to sit with the Zendayas, Denis
Villeneuves and Javier Bardems of the world. “
Zendaya and Bardem are part of a stellar cast that includes Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. Chalamet seems really taken with his co-stars. “They are all pieces of a bigger puzzle and I felt like I had a sign of growth. You learn to trust yourself. “
At 25, Chalamet seems remarkably calm to a young man who was confronted with something like Beatlemania on the red carpet in Venice when teenage girls (mainly) – aka “Chalamaniacs” – screamed for him.
Even so, he takes advice wherever he can.
He is currently reading Matthew McConaughey’s memoir Green light, and is enthusiastic about the “outlaw wisdom” of his former co-star, as the book is subtitled. “He says [that] You have to live in paradox, not contradiction. I got involved creatively. “
His youthful aura seems more appropriate for the role of Atreides than when Kyle MacLachlan (only a year older than Chalamet at the time) played the role in David Lynch’s defamed 1984 version.
Chalamet watched the film before it went into production and diplomatically says he has “great respect for Kyle’s performance.”
Crucially, Villeneuve only adapts the first half of Herbert’s huge tome before Atreides becomes a messiah-like figure. A sequel is planned.
“But the most important thing for me was getting that first part right – the idea of who Paul is before he starts that on that trajectory.”
The New York-born chalamet’s own trajectory may seem predetermined. While his French father works for Unicef and a former New York correspondent for The Parisian, his American mother (of Russian and Austrian roots) is a former Broadway dancer.
His older sister Pauline also plays. His aunt is Amy Lippman, who helped develop the popular teen drama Party of fivewhile his uncle Rodman Flender wrote films for low-budget indie king Roger Corman.
Despite being steeped in showbiz, Chalamet was more interested in playing football in his youth. He tried commercials, but it wasn’t appealing.
“It seemed to me that the audition was, ‘Who can smile the most?’ And that was a big distraction for me. I didn’t want to belong. “