Timothée Chalamet: how the prince of indie became a star of the multiplex | Timothée Chalamet

In September, the Met Gala in New York – Anna Wintour’s annual merger of fundraising gala and celebrity parade – was redesigned for Gen Z. Instagram sponsored the event, Justin Bieber was its lead performer and four young whippersnappers were drafted as co-chairs: singer Billie Eilish, tennis player Naomi Osaka, poet Amanda Gorman and – the quartet’s eldest statesman at 25 – Timothée Chalamet.

Chalamet showed up, usually with tousled hair and puppy eyes, in an outfit of two halves. At the top, a short, fitted satin tuxedo jacket from avant-garde designer Haider Ackermann, with a tuxedo belt and blingy brooches. Below, loose cream jogging pants, tucked into white socks and Converse sneakers. Half princely movie star, half child at play: it’s a look that sums up the character of the biggest teenage idol most hysterically obsessed with movies since the heyday of dusk.

It’s been 13 years since this emo vampire saga launched Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson into the stratosphere, providing them with the platform to build increasingly quirky careers in independent film and arthouse. Chalamet, however, did the opposite. Few actors have been propelled to mass market stardom by a film as unlikely as Call me by your name – The gay and wet love story of Italian director Luca Guadagnino between Elio, the precocious teenager of Chalamet and Oliver, the suave graduate student of Armie Hammer.

Released in 2017, the film grossed £ 30million worldwide, but Chalamet’s portrayal of gangly and confused first love – sealed by a scene in which Elio masturbates in a ripe summer peach – has become the object of instant, obsessive, and very online fandom. Before the end of the year, a supporting role as High School Dream Boat in Greta Gerwig Lady Bird cemented its next big thing status. Then came an Oscar nomination for Call me by your name, making Chalamet, then 22, the youngest nominee for best actor since Mickey Rooney in 1940.

Chalamet was not badly prepared for the case. Son of an American mother who played on Broadway and a French father who works at Unicef, he grew up comfortably in New York, spending the summer with his grandparents in Chambon-sur-Lignon in Auvergne, and attended the renowned LaGuardia School of the Performing Arts. He briefly enrolled at Columbia University but dropped out for high-profile acting opportunities. In 2014, he made his film debut in Jason Reitman’s most forgotten film. Men, women and children, before making a stronger impression in Interstellar, directed by his favorite filmmaker, Christopher Nolan.

Chalamet, right, as Paul Atreides with Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck in Dune. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy

Most young stars, after improving the status of Call me by your name, would be written straight into the studio massive fodder. Yet Chalamet bided his time, taking a selective, even organized, approach to his career. He will happily play a supporting role (he was an endearing and troubled Laurie in Gerwig’s Little woman) if the film around it reflects it well. Even her singular red carpet style – lots of editorial and fuzzy fashions, not a standard costume to behold – plays into this elective tune.

“We started calling him ‘Prince Timmée’ in our posts because there is a sort of aristocracy, a cosplay element in his style, very The little PrinceSays Lorenzo Marquez, co-editor of fashion commentary site Tom + Lorenzo. “He and his team know how to play with his perceptions: when you have a name like Timothée Chalamet, American audiences in particular are likely to see you as more sophisticated and privileged than the usual movie star. “

It is only now that he is playing his first leading role in a blockbuster, in a project no less extensive than Dune. Denis Villeneuve’s lavish adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi stopper centers on Chalamet’s nascent interplanetary warrior, Paul Atréides; a sequel has just been lit, confirming him as the lead man in a true Hollywood franchise. He is currently touring Wonka, a musical prequel to Charlie and the chocolate factory, in which he plays the eponymous young confectioner. If he hit the big time four years ago, it still looks like the biggest moment.

“It’s cool to think about that trajectory,” says filmmaker Julia Hart of her journey from independent icon to multiplex brand. She directed it in 2016 Miss Stevens, the last movie he made before Call me by your name: a sweet and affectionate character drama, he aptly presents him as a gifted and nervous drama student, culminating in a killer monologue of Death of a seller. “He’s someone who knows what little movies are like, how hard they can be to make, and you have to really love the material not to care,” Hart said. “There are a lot of working hours. Lots of gratitude.

Admittedly, Chalamet’s turn towards blockbusters has not yet come to the detriment of his taste for the alternative: opening on the same day as Dune Last Week Was Wes Anderson’s Hyper-Precious Ensemble Piece The French dispatch, a part of which is directed by Chalamet as a young revolutionary during the riots of May 68. (“He speaks French and it looks like he may have come straight out of a film by Eric Rohmer”, declared Anderson on his casting.) In December, he’ll be back in Oscar territory with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio in Satire of Adam McKay. Do not seek; he recently reunited with Guadagnino to shoot the cannibalism drama Bones and all. (A formerly evoked suite of Call me by your name, however, is now on ice.)

Chalamet and Khoudri leaning on a jukebox, turned in opposite directions on a French street
Chalamet with Lyna Khoudri in a scene from La Dépêche française. Photography: AP

This word Hart uses – “gratitude” – comes up a lot in Chalamet’s interviews, where he showcases his youth and inexperience, and his wide-eyed wonder at being a part of it all. “I understand,” he said recently. Time. “In my worst days, I feel a tension to find out. But on my best days, I feel like I’m growing up just in time. At other times, he indulges in a serious luvvie language – easier to get along with when you’re young. “I really feel like I’m thriving as a community of comedians, as opposed to actors,” he said in a GQ profile last year, adding that he feeds off the uncertainty in his acting: “I want to go back to undefined space again. I hunt a feeling.

According to Hart, this naivety masks more decisive instincts: “Sometimes with these young actors, you worry. They are so young, so beautiful and so talented, and our industry can devour them. But I watched him take control. Ask for what he needed. And I felt he would be fine.

Chalamet’s public image is also controlled, but not on the sidelines: he has always been able to satisfy fans while skillfully avoiding controversy. Give or take a few snaps with apparent girlfriend Lily-Rose Depp, he’s no tabloid staple, while his interviews and social media accounts mix standard self-promotion with checks of his own privileges. , as well as thoughts on mental health and social justice. He participated, incognito, in the George Floyd protests last year (“People might find that fallacious, but I found it really entrenched,” he said. GQ), and even publicly expressed remorse for playing a role in Woody Allen’s film A rainy day in New York, by donating their fees to Time’s Up, among other charities.

It plays into the image of Chalamet – backed up by his airy, androgynous beauty – as a new type of leading Hollywood man, rejecting macho stereotypes in favor of a softer, healthier delicacy. “He’s very savvy about avoiding the one thing that trips so many young male stars when they are successful: he doesn’t try to grow tall or grow too fast,” says Tom Fitzgerald of Tom + Lorenzo.

“While promoting the mainstream film of his career, he still wears the same kind of beautiful fictionalized, non-genre-conforming fashion that suits him best. So many male stars in his position would have ditched the queer coded image to wear action movies ASAP. He and his team realize that it’s best to stick with what made you famous in the first place.

At 25 years old with a young look, Chalamet still has a lot to do: beyond Paul Atreides and Willy Wonka, it is difficult to anticipate the choices he will make once his natural childish side has passed. Still, it’s hard to see him turn to old-fashioned masculinity, especially as a poster boy of a generation defined by open vulnerability. Hart certainly hopes not. “When I watch an actor play a man, I don’t mean tough,” she says. “I hate tough guys. I want honesty, I want transparency, I want tears. Timmy does all of this. And it is wonderful.


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