De­pic­tion of ad­dic­tion less than ‘beau­ti­ful’

Cha­la­met mas­tered ag­i­tated ges­tures of a meth addict for “Beau­ti­ful Boy”

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ryan

NEW YORK – What’s the first thing you do af­ter drop­ping 18 pounds for your lat­est Os­car-touted role?

If you’re “Call Me By Your Name” break­out Ti­mothee Cha­la­met, who re­turns to the awards race this fall with Steve Carell in “Beau­ti­ful Boy,” you hit up Los An­ge­les’ Larch­mont neigh­bor­hood for some hearty Ital­ian food.

“I got this big thing of spaghetti Bolog­nese and im­me­di­ately felt like I was go­ing to hurl,” Cha­la­met re­mem­bers. Af­ter weeks of sub­sist­ing off high-pro­tein, low-calo­rie mini-meals, “my body wasn’t re­ally ready for it. I had to build my ap­petite back up.”

The dras­tic weight loss was a gru­el­ing necessity for ad­dic­tion drama “Beau­ti­ful Boy” (in the­aters Fri­day in New York and Los An­ge­les; ex­pands through Oc­to­ber, goes na­tion­wide Nov. 9), which is based on the real-life mem­oirs of fa­ther and son David and Nic Sh­eff.

Cha­la­met plays Nic, a bright and sen­si­tive teenager from an up­per-mid­dle­class fam­ily in San Fran­cisco whose col­le­giate dreams are curbed by his spi­ral­ing meth ad­dic­tion. Carell co-stars as his con­cerned dad David, who strug­gles to un­der­stand when and why his el­dest son turned to drugs and whether he could have done any­thing to pre­vent it.

“A big part of the movie is that (ad­dic­tion) doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate: Any­one can fall vic­tim to it and there aren’t any easy so­lu­tions,” Carell says. The film charts Nic’s var­i­ous re­hab stints and re­lapses over mul­ti­ple years “and doesn’t wrap

“A big part of

the that movie (ad­dic­tion) is

doesn’t

dis­crim­i­nate:

Any­one can fall

vic­tim to it and

there aren’t any

easy so­lu­tions.”

Steve Carell

up every­thing neatly. It por­trays these char­ac­ters as flawed, and David, in par­tic­u­lar, makes mis­takes along the way. He doesn’t do nec­es­sar­ily what you want the fa­ther in the movie to do.”

One of the most emo­tion­ally bru­tal mo­ments for Carell, 56, comes to­ward the end, af­ter Nic watches a friend (Kait­lyn Dever) nearly die from an over­dose fol­low­ing a weeks-long ben­der. Nic calls his dad cry­ing, ask­ing if he can come live at home again, but David achingly re­fuses, say­ing “I love you and I hope that you get your life to­gether.”

As a par­ent in real life of teens Elis­a­beth, 17, and John, 14, with his ac­tress/writer wife, Nancy, Carell “found it dif­fi­cult to wrap my head around the con­cept of deny­ing a child any­thing, be­cause when you have kids, all you want to do is pro­tect and nur­ture them,” he says. “When you see a child spi­ral­ing out of con­trol and hav­ing no re­course, I can’t imag­ine any­thing more ter­ri­fy­ing. As a dad, it was some­thing I could relate to and pray that I never ac­tu­ally have to (deal with).”

For Cha­la­met, 22, one of the trick­i­est as­pects of play­ing Nic was be­liev­ably em­u­lat­ing the ag­i­tated phys­i­cal­ity of some­one com­ing down from am­phet­a­mines (twitch­ing, slur­ring and gig­gling – man­ner­isms he stud­ied in YouTube videos). View­ers see Nic in his di­sheveled, drug-ad­dled state dur­ing a heart-rend­ing con­fronta­tion at a diner, in which he tear­fully begs his dad for money and con­fesses to feel­ing “hor­ri­ble” about his ad­dic­tion.

It’s an emo­tional two-han­der that Cha­la­met com­pares to be­ing “a ten­nis net of sorts, re­act­ing to every­thing the other per­son is do­ing” and one that could clinch him his sec­ond Os­car nom­i­na­tion in a row af­ter “Call Me.” (Twenty-one of 23 awards prog­nos­ti­ca­tors on GoldDerby.com pre­dict he’ll earn a best sup­port­ing ac­tor nod.)

The New York na­tive has quickly be­come an in­ter­net heart­throb, at­tract­ing a le­gion of de­voted fe­male and gay fans and the at­ten­tion of pa­parazzi, mak­ing him a sub­ject of tabloid fod­der. (He was re­cently linked to Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s daugh­ter and his costar in up­com­ing Net­flix movie “The King.”) But the ac­tor in­sists that not much has changed for him this past year.

“I’ve read in­ter­views with artists that I re­ally ad­mire where they describe this overnight feel­ing, and I haven’t re­ally (felt that). It’s not like I don’t rec­og­nize my life,” Cha­la­met says. It helped that he went right from the Os­cars ear­lier this year to film­ing “King,” a his­tor­i­cal drama in which he plays King Henry V op­po­site Robert Pat­tin­son and Joel Edgerton.

“Maybe there’s irony that it was a film set with cam­eras, but that was ac­tu­ally a very ground­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Cha­la­met says. “I lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally got to get back in the mud and do a bunch of bad takes.”

Carell, who him­self was Os­car-nom­i­nated in 2015 for “Fox­catcher” and plays Don­ald Rums­feld in the hotly an­tic­i­pated Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” (in the­aters Christ­mas Day), thinks Cha­la­met is han­dling fame just fine.

From Day 1 of shoot­ing “Beau­ti­ful,” “I would tell my wife about this guy who’s play­ing my son who’s re­ally spe­cial, not just be­cause he’s su­per-tal­ented but be­cause he has his head on straight,” Carell says. “Ev­ery­one who is fall­ing in love with him wants him to be a cer­tain way, and he is that way. He’s an in­cred­i­bly de­cent guy.”

ROBERT DEUTSCH/USA TO­DAY

Steve Carell and Ti­mothee Cha­la­met are back in the Os­car race with “Beau­ti­ful Boy.”

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