Timothée Chalamet: From Promising Stage Actor to Promising Screen Superstar
In 2016, I grabbed a last minute ticket for John Patrick Shanley’s Prodigal Son playing at Manhattan Theatre Club. I was (and still am) an enormous fan of Shanley’s Doubt and was excited to see what else this playwright had in store. Chiefly, however, my reason for seeing Prodigal Son was ignited by word on the street, of one particular young actor named Timothée Chalamet who playing the lead role in the show. Playing a troubled kid from the Bronx on scholarship at a New Hampshire boarding school, Chalamet had been hand-chosen by the playwright to play a younger version of Shanley in this semi-autobiographical play. The young actor struck a chord with me, giving a performance both refined and raw, brimming with emotions that could turn on a dime. In fact, although Prodigal Son turned out not to be Shanley’s best work (by a mile), I walked out of the theatre thinking that this young man had taken a mediocre script and elevated it to something far more than what was on the written page. I knew I had just witnessed a performer who would someday light up the firmament with his talent. (He would, in fact, win a Lucille Lortel Award for his work in Prodigal Son).
Unbeknownst to me, Timothée Chalamet had already made appearances on several TV shows and TV movies including Law & Order (2009), Loving Leah (2009), Royal Pains (2012) and Homeland (2012). In 2014, he had also appeared in films such as Men, Women & Children, Interstellar, and Worst Friends. 2015 brought roles in One & Two, The Adderall Diaries, and Love the Coopers. Going back and examining some of these early performances, Timothée Chalamet is no flash-in-the-pan child performer. He is, in fact, a performer who is getting stronger and more varied with age.
Born on December, 27, 1995 in Manhattan, New York City, Chalamet began doing commercials at a young age. Timothée studied acting at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City where he found himself in leading roles in many of the school’s productions including Cabaret and Sweet Charity (wouldn’t we all love to see him in a stage or film musical?). The young actor (who is now 22) attended college briefly at Columbia University and then transferred to NYU where he is enrolled in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
The end of 2017 proved to be a pretty amazing year for Timothée Chalamet, finding himself in two films that have Oscar buzz orbiting their reception. One of them, Lady Bird, finds Chalamet in a memorable supporting role. The other, Call Me By Your Name, finds Timothée an odds-on-favorite for a Best Actor nomination, playing a 17-year-old teenager named Elio whose sexuality is awakened when he finds himself falling for an older man. Chalamet, once again, finds himself elevating what could have been a fine film to a great one. His performance weaves in and out of petulance, puppy love, self-doubt, brooding, exhilaration, petrified frenzy, flirtation, true love, and heartbreak. Each moment is carefully calculated by the performer to appear as an effortless avalanche of teen angst. Chalamet’s Elio takes us all back to a time in our life when we loved someone and didn’t know how to express it. The bare bones of the screenplay could be any love story, which makes the story universal, but it is Timothée Chalamet’s interpretation of it that is elevating this film to greatness. I hope, if you have seen this film, you stayed through the credits to the end. If that short moment doesn’t earn Chalamet an Oscar nomination, then nothing will.
Timothée Chalamet is a star on the rise. Though he may not win the Oscar (I think it will be Gary Oldman’s year for his expert work in Dark Victory), the good news is that Chalamet in only 22 and has years ahead of him to continue astounding us with his talents. Remember how young Leonardo DiCaprio was when he was nominated for his finest performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It wasn’t until twenty-two years later he would actually-win for The Revenant. Chalamet has time and, if he keeps delivering like he has in Prodigal Son, Ladybird, and Call Me By Your Name, we can expect to trophy or two will eventually stand on his mantle. Until then, we look forward to what the future of his career will bring.