For a young man in the grip of major stardom, Timothée Chalamet embodies nonchalance as he eases back in his hotel suite sofa. But he does admit that he's still processing the attention that has been coming his way over the past couple of years.
He’s also still keen to learn, and promises he won’t get dragged into box office blandness, despite the offer of some eye-watering contracts. His new movie, Bones and All – a story about cannibalism – appears to back that up.
**RSNG You’re filming Bones and All, which hooks onto the rather dark subject of cannibalism?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, ACTOR** “It’s a project that reunites me with [director] Luca Guadagnino, from Call Me By Your Name. Straight away that feels special, and the subject matter is dark, but not new.”
**RSNG A lot of people are talking about your co-star Taylor Russell?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “She is a great actress with a big future and it has been fun comparing early experiences we had of the industry, and mistakes made … not that I made that many! She has a real spirit and spark, as was seen in the Escape Room films.
“Bones and All is a road trip movie based as much on a mental and psychological journey as it is a geographical one. It is a story that teaches you it’s possible to travel huge distances, yet unless you come to terms with what’s in your mind, you will find you haven’t traveled anywhere at all.”
I don’t think it’s in the human condition to settle for what you have
**RSNG Can you relate to that on a personal level?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “A bit. I can imagine when I am 40, or perhaps when I start a family, I may look back and start assessing and reimagining parts of my life. To answer the question, though, I think we all feel like that.
“The film has a dark undercurrent but the story is essentially one we all relate to. We are all searching, striving for something. Think about how many times you find someone who says they have actually reached that end point or end goal.”
**RSNG See… you are a deep thinker!
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “I think most people in film are there because they are creative and open to influence and interpretation. At the end of the day it’s art, and if you didn’t connect on that level I guess you’d end up doing something else in life.”
**RSNG What do you feel you have achieved in your career so far?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “I haven’t achieved anything yet. I’m still finding out about myself and my career. I’m at the point now where I want to step back to darker subjects and explore small projects as well as big ones. It’s all evolution; all necessary.”
**RSNG I understand you have been stretching your linguistic and language skills further into Italian… is that influenced by Luca at all or the Italian/ American backing of this film?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “No, that’s just a coincidence. I think for most actors the challenge is to go cross-genre and try a variety of different styles and characters. Of course I feel that too, but I was brought up with such a rich and diverse range of languages all around me, that my own natural progression is to move just away from American or English culture.
“I loved The French Dispatch because it really reminded me of my father’s heritage and how he met my mother.”
**RSNG How is that?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “My father was on a business trip to New York while he was working as a journalist for Le Parisien, the French newspaper. Now he works at the United Nations. My mother was a dancer when she met my father, and now she's working in real estate. But you could see the parallels…”
**RSNG Is it true you can speak Italian, as well as French and English?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “No, not really. I grew up speaking both French and English since my father comes from France. Italian is much more difficult – I guess I can speak it to a certain level – I’ve taken Italian classes for a few years but there is always more to learn.
“I love Italians for the fact they are so different to the French, albeit with a similar love of food and wine. I love the fact Italians have a strong sense of family and are very warm in the way they behave together and how they greet you as a foreigner.”
**RSNG Which actors did you look up to before you go into the industry?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** None really. I always felt it was too distant and I had my own ambitions to compete with actors rather than be like them. I know that sounds quite strange doesn’t it? In actual fact, I only really began to appreciate the true talent of actors when I was working alongside them.”
I feel I owe an awful lot to Matthew McConaughey… in avoiding a lot of the traps that young male actors tend to fall into when they're starting out
**RSNG Like who?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “If I had to name one it would be Matthew McConaughey – obviously we worked together on Interstellar. From day one he was someone willing and happy to steer me in the right direction.
“I actually feel I owe an awful lot to him, not so much in what I have done, but in what I haven’t done, and by that I mean avoiding a lot of the traps that young male actors tend to fall into when they're starting out.
“I've benefited a lot from his advice. He was the person who really showed me the value of preparing properly for a role. And I don’t mean reading a script – he was the one who told me how to properly immerse myself in a character, in the history, in the era, in the architecture… the whole thing. I came to realize that a movie was about so much more than the actions and the dialogue of those in shot.
“It was also interesting to see how he handled the press – he’s even helped me with the business side of acting.”
**RSNG Is that experience something you can now pay forward, now you are an established actor?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “Having someone young actors can talk to and who understands the industry well is very reassuring. Agents and publicists will pretend they do that, but let’s be honest there is often an ulterior motive. An actor can only really fully trust another actor. They are the only people who can empathize with each other.”
**RSNG Did you have any other people you confided in?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “I'm very close to my sister who's a few years older than me. I have always spoken to her a lot. I never hide anything from her.”
**RSNG Do you feel that you're a mix of both French and American culture?
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET** “I can't say if my sister and I feel more French or more American. We love both cultures and it's always interesting to have both perspectives and be able to enjoy the kind of life that a city like New York or Paris has to offer. Both cultures place a heavy emphasis on the arts, which is obviously something I appreciate. I spent almost every summer in Paris and in France until I was 15 years old although my base has always been New York.”
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Photos: Rex, MovieStillsDB