Depiction of addiction less than ‘beautiful’
Chalamet mastered agitated gestures of a meth addict for “Beautiful Boy”
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
Anyone can fall
victim to it and
there aren’t any
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.”
Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet are back in the Oscar race with “Beautiful Boy.”