Fresh off Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his breakout 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Hal Chalamet is once again showcasing his formidable talent in the award season race; this time for his powerful performance as Nic Sheff in Beautiful Boy. The 23-year-old native New Yorker is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture playing a teenager battling not only addiction but a crisis of confidence.
“This disease, addiction, knows no race, no class, and no gender,” the actor told the HFPA this past September. “I am confident that we all know people who are affected and there is a crisis in our country right now. That is why I felt it was imperative to be a part of it and bring truth to this story.”
Beautiful Boy is based upon separate memoirs written by father and son David and Nic Sheff, who put aside their personal family secret to share this no-holds-barred examination of the cost addiction has to a family. While many actors have played victims of addiction (a few just this year!), Chalamet knew he had to steer clear of stereotypical behaviors that have become somewhat cinematically cliché. His mantra throughout the filming process was to ‘look for the light.”
“I didn’t want audiences to watch this film and go, wow, here is an actor who was playing an addict and threw every curveball at it that he could,” he explains. “As much as this film might be about using drugs, to me it feels more about recovery. Primarily, this to me is a film about family and I believe that is where people can find their relating quality to it.”
Family is important as well to the actor, who has quite the showbiz lineage. His grandfather Harold Flender was a screenwriter; his uncle Rodman Flender, a director; his sister Pauline is an actress and his mother Nicole was a dancer. It almost seemed predestined this would be his path. After appearing in commercials at a young age, Chalamet enrolled in the prestigious LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, performing in numerous plays and musicals such as Cabaret and Sweet Charity. During his senior year, he was cast in the TV series Homeland, then a few years after graduating, made his film debut in 2014 in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women And Children followed by playing Matthew McConaughey’s son in Interstellar later that same year.
In 2016, Chalamet moved to the New York Stage where he appeared in the play Prodigal Son by John Patrick Shanley; a role which earned the young actor the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Actor in a Play.
But it was his portrayal of Elio in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, a coming of age story that required him to learn Italian and the guitar, that brought him worldwide acclaim and his award recognition, including his first Globe nomination. While many young actors could have let the accolades and attention propel their ego, Chalamet, whom many of his co-stars liken to an ‘old soul’, kept himself grounded and focused.
“Maybe through all of the recent attention, I have become more of an adult,” he confesses. “But I think my greatest strength came from lessons of failure. In high school and drama classes, I was terrible a thousand times. So, what I learned was to just keep a childlike attitude toward that. They say the male brain develops until you are 25, so I only have a few years left to give myself room for that.”