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Long live the King: an interview with Timothée Chalamet

We met the actor along with director Joel Edgerton following the release of their latest movie

Long live the King: an interview with Timothée Chalamet We met the actor along with director Joel Edgerton following the release of their latest movie

Timothée Chalamet has taken the world by storm since he arrived on our screens in the shoes of the young Elio with Call Me By Your Name. Instantly, the young actor has been catapulted to the highest peaks of the international stardom. His fame has expanded not only in the world of cinema but also in that of fashion and music. He immediately became the darling of Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton, launched his first and acclaimed Netflix film, The King, and recent photos have seen him rubbing shoulders with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the birthday of the mutual friend Kid Cudi. At the Kid Cudi concert, held at ComplexCon last Saturday, Chalamet read these words before the artist came on stage along with Pusha T on the notes of Feel the Love: “We live in a world where it's more okay to follow than to lead. In this world being a leader is trouble for the system we are all accustomed to”.

Between increasingly frequent appearances on the screen and in tabloids (for his loves with daughters of celebrities such as Lourdes Ciccone, daughter of Madonna, or lately Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny and Vanessa Paradis), in the last two years young Timmy has not stopped for a second. So, after making us fall in love as young Elio, stunning us with his outfits on the red carpet, making us cry in Beautiful Boy alongside Steve Carrell and announcing, at just 23 years old, his first break from acting, young Chalamet is back on screens around the world with his first costume film (the second, Greta Gerwig's Little Women, will be released in theatres at Christmas): David Michod's The King, on Netflix from November 1st.

Co-written by the director himself and Joel Edgerton, actor (among the protagonists of the second trilogy of Star Wars and hits such as Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann, Loving by Jeff Nichols) and recently director of Boy Erased – Lives erased (with Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Xavier Dolan), The King, inspired by William Shakespeare's Henry V, is the "coming-of-age novel" of the young and rebellious Prince Henry V (Chalamet) who, following the death of his father, must abruptly take on the role of King of England.

For its world premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, in front of an adoring audience, Timothée Chalamet, in a silk suit by Haider Ackermann, spared no selfies or greetings. By his side, girlfriend and co-star Lily-Rose Depp and friend Kid Cudi. Right on the Lido, between engagements, Timothée and Joel Edgerton (who in the film plays John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare's greatest characters) stopped for a few minutes to discuss with us about the film and their idea of cinema.

A question to the young star. How does it feel to be Henry V?

Timothée Chalamet: [smiles] Well, what a great opportunity and a great character, and time period and a language to explore. Just a great, great experience.

Al Pacino in Looking For Richard said that “whatever you want to say, Shakespeare said it first”. How do you approach Shakespeare and this kind of story today - as a screenwriter and as an actor?

Joel Edgerton: It is interesting. In drama school they teach us the “greatest hits” of Shakespeare which is a kind of a work that dives into so much, so many different people and situations and personalities and drama. The way we talk about every kind of story in grand scale has a Shakespearian sort of structure or feeling to it. So many people have done Henry V as a film, so wonderfully: I had a link to the play, but David (Michôd) and I were just interested not in re-doing the same play, to take the character of the prince who becomes a king and the examination of how he handles that state of power – and to tell about it in our own way.

Which way?

Joel Edgerton: We made a decision that if we were going to deviate from Shakespeare, then we weren’t allowed to use any of Shakespeare’s words at all. Not because we thought we could write something better! It’s really about just having the freedom to frown their own pieces of wisdom in a simple way that could tell a different story.

Timothée Chalamet: It’s not the actual Shakespearean language but I think Joel and David (Michôd) did an amazing job. It’s not that sort of – kind of production where you’re sitting there and you want to like it – you want to be smart enough to like it – but you don’t really know what’s being said and what’s going on! And I think they did an amazing job finding a language that felt so pretty appropriate without bugging it down.


And, Timothée, were you inspired by any other depictions of Henry V?

Timothée Chalamet: Yeah, yeah, but maybe I’ll keep them close to the chest… I focused less on films or works about the period that were “medieval” and David had some references for me. Not even necessarily young people, but just people in positions of power, and how that can become a game of detrition on that person’s morality, general well-being, mental health.

You’re two of the biggest stars in our industry and in cinemas. What is the meaning of being a star and its purpose?

Joel Edgerton: [looking up to the roof] Wow…

Timothée Chalamet: [laughing and looking at Joel]

Joel Edgerton: You know, I’ve never really… Ok. I’ve always seen myself as an actor, as a writer and as a director. I’ve always seen myself as a blue-collar worker for films. But that’s the way I feel, I want my hands dirty, I’m always trying to make something and to get something in the shape… I’ve always wanted to be Gene Hackman, I never saw myself as Tom Cruise, you know what I mean? And I think it’s quite evident… but to be a character and to jump all over the places … as a filmmaker I’m really interested in not telling the same story in the same way as I’m not interested in displaying the same character over and over again. My responsibility is more to myself: is to find something that has nutrition of value that hopefully is entertaining as well – and I just have to fall in love with the story before I’m willing to get involved as an actor or as a filmmaker. I’m just looking for this thing that pulls me into it – and I try to cut my ego out of the result – that’s the struggle. But I want to hear him next! [pointing to Timothée]

Timothée Chalamet: It’s a responsibility. I feel gratitude for the ability – hopefully – to work on projects that are dramatic and that are challenging both to do, to us and to the audience as well – in a way where you have to work to pull off a meaning. My favourite kinds of movie are the ones where you’re pulled in and you’re suspicious and ultimately you’ve helped the movie make that leap, you know?

Thank you very much, and congratulations. But a special thank you to you, Timothée, because thanks to you yesterday night I’ve been able to see Kid Cudi.

Timothée Chalamet: Are you a fan?

A huge fan!

Timothée Chalamet: Wow, me too!

I know, Timothée, I know…