Carell and Cha­la­met on bond­ing for the film ‘Beau­ti­ful Boy’

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - LIVING - By Jake Coyle AP Film Writer

TORONTO >> Steve Carell and Ti­mothee Cha­la­met both knew the ad­dic­tion drama “Beau­ti­ful Boy” hinged on the fa­ther-son re­la­tion­ship.

The movie is based on the twin mem­oirs of David Sh­eff and his son, Nic, about each’s per­spec­tive on Nic’s decade-long, nearly fa­tal plunge into meth ad­dic­tion. Tog­gling be­tween night­mare and me­mory, “Beau­ti­ful Boy,” fluc­tu­ates be­tween ad­dic­tion and re­cov­ery, be­tween the love and an­guish of a fa­ther and son.

So when the two first met at Cha­la­met’s fi­nal au­di­tion to read as Nic, it was a preg­nant mo­ment.

“I think it was an ope­n­armed hug,” re­called Cha­la­met of his even­tual costar’s greet­ing. “I was very ap­pre­cia­tive of that be­cause I was re­ally quite ner­vous go­ing in there.”

The meet­ing is vivid to Carell, too. For him and ev­ery­one else in the room, it was in­stantly clear Cha­la­met (whose break­through Os­car-nom­i­nated role in “Call Me By Your Name” hadn’t yet come out) was the right choice.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bet­ter au­di­tion,” said Carell.

A year af­ter Cha­la­met im­pressed au­di­ences in his chem­istry with Ar­mie Ham­mer in “Call Me By Your Name,” ‘’Beau­ti­ful Boy” teams him with an­other vet­eran ac­tor who has like­wise been some­thing of a men­tor to the 22-year-old Cha­la­met. The two found they had a nat­u­ral affin­ity for each other de­spite be­ing gen­er­a­tions apart. Cha­la­met grew up an “Of­fice” fan and in an in­ter­view last month over cof­fee, was most eager to hear the 56-year-old Carell’s “Daily Show” sto­ries.

“It was nat­u­ral,” said Cha­la­met. “I felt like we had a phys­i­cal di­a­logue that was akin to what a fa­ther and son’s phys­i­cal di­a­logue would be.”

“I feel ab­so­lutely the op­po­site,” Car­rell dead­panned, crack­ing up his co-star. “He’s some­body you want to be around. He’s some­body you want to talk to. He’s such a com­mit­ted ac­tor and takes it se­ri­ously but at the same time is en­tirely open.”

Ad­dic­tion has rarely been seen on­screen as it is in Felix Van Groenin­gen’s “Beau­ti­ful Boy,” which opens in the­aters Fri­day. Whereas Hol­ly­wood has of­ten con­cen­trated on the tail­spin of ad­dic­tion or swift re­cov­ery, “Beau­ti­ful Boy” stays true to the cy­cles of re­lapse. As Nic’s ad­dic­tion threatens to de­stroy him, David is racked by des­per­a­tion, guilt and hope­less­ness.

When ac­quir­ing the rights to David’s “Beau­ti­ful Boy: A Fa­ther’s Jour­ney Through His Son’s Ad­dic­tion “(which grew out of a New York Times Mag­a­zine story) and Nic’s “Tweak,” pro­ducer Jeremy Kleiner of Brad Pitt’s Plan B con­vinced the Sh­effs that they would honor the re­al­ism of their story.

“To put this in some­one else’s hands was re­ally scary,” said David Sh­eff, an au­thor and jour­nal­ist. “What con­vinced us was what Jeremy said: Ad­dic­tion has al­ways been por­trayed with the same few cliches over and over again. He said that he was com­mit­ted to show­ing ad­dic­tion the way it is: no easy an­swers. Ev­ery­thing about it is com­pli­cated.”

An es­ti­mated 21.6 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are ad­dicted to drugs and an­other 16 mil­lion to al­co­hol. With the rise of opi­oids, deaths from drug over­doses have dou­bled in the last decade. It’s an Amer­ica that the Sh­effs have got­ten a close look at since their books came out — a re­sponse they hope will only be mag­ni­fied by the movie.

“Af­ter shar­ing our sto­ries, we’ve been able to re­ally con­nect with all these dif­fer­ent peo­ple that have ei­ther had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences or know some­one who’s gone through some­thing like this,” said Nic, now 36. “It’s been an amaz­ing ex­am­ple of how be­ing open and shar­ing can fa­cil­i­tate those kind of con­ver­sa­tions.”

Be­ing on book tours to­gether and now with the movie has given both fa­ther and son time to talk through ev­ery­thing. Both say they’ve never felt closer.

“A lot of peo­ple have been through hell,” said David Sh­eff. “A lot of peo­ple feel the dam­age is repara­ble. I hear about it all the time. Peo­ple say: ‘I’ll never be able to speak to my par­ents again,’ ‘I will never speak to my chil­dren again.’ We were there once. And we’ve shown that with hard work and time, re­la­tion­ship can be re­newed. So when we’re to­gether in these places, I look over there and just feel so lucky that Nic is here.”

Be­fore shoot­ing be­gan, Cha­la­met had lunch with Nic, and Carell met David, who also vis­ited the set sev­eral times.

“They both very bravely sup­ported the movie,” said Carell. “There was a great sense of trust on both their be­half. They had no idea how it was go­ing to turn out, whether it was go­ing to be some trea­cly de­pic­tion of the af­ter-school spe­cial ver­sion of this story.”

For the role, Cha­la­met dropped 18 pounds. But both he and Carell are cau­tious about play­ing up any of their ef­forts to au­then­ti­cally por­tray ad­dic­tion and its toll.

“In ad­di­tion to get­ting all the speci­fici­ties of us­ing right, it was first and fore­most about the fam­ily and the re­la­tion­ships within that,” said Carell. “It’s not about man­ner­isms but rather the emo­tional truth they were liv­ing. And try­ing to get the mo­ments where I’m us­ing or high on­screen as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble with­out be­ing so cav­a­lier as to think that’s what the true ex­pe­ri­ence of an ad­dict would be.”

And as much as Carell and Cha­la­met fo­cused on David and Nic, and their books, they drew as heav­ily from their own ex­pe­ri­ences with their fa­thers and, in Carell’s case, with his kids. For Carell, the film res­onates most deeply as a story about a fam­ily that is flawed but full of love. In other words, most fam­i­lies.

“It was as deeply as I have felt for some­thing and for a story of any­thing I’ve ever been in­volved with,” said Carell. “You can la­bel this a story about ad­dic­tion, but it’s re­ally a story about the love be­tween these peo­ple.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ti­mothee Cha­la­met, left, and Steve Carell ap­pear dur­ing a por­trait ses­sion at the Omni King Ed­ward Ho­tel to pro­mote their film, “Beau­ti­ful Boy,” dur­ing the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val in Toronto.

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