TV Editor Kylie Clarke charts the spectacular rise of actor Timothée Chalamet, from simple beginnings to sandworm-sized success on the big screen
Topping the list of Hollywood’s currently most talked about and sought after heart-throbs, it is fair to say that one actor’s name is something of a buzzword in the popular celebrity culture of the 2020s: Timothée Chalamet. Whether you know him as Kylie Jenner’s most recent romance, have seen the viral clips of him as “Lil Timmy Tim” in his youth, or to you he is simply another “white boy of the month”, it is undoubted that Timothée Chalamet’s rise to fame has been unprecedented for an actor who was relatively unknown less than a decade ago.
Amongst the media fixation and the fan obsession with the charming actor’s private life, it seems that often his acting work becomes disappointingly overshadowed. In taking a look at his best work, I hope to reaffirm the fact that Timothée Chalamet is one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood today.
Studying his craft at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts and then continuing at NYU, the half-French actor began his career on stage, before moving on to television in Homeland (2011-2020) in 2012. He then appeared on our screens in small film roles such as Interstellar (2014), Love The Coopers (2015) and Miss Stevens (2016). Chalamet would not have his big break however until he first gained recognition for his role in Call Me By Your Name (2017), in which he plays the lead, Italian teenager Elio Perlman.
It is hard to believe that it has only been seven years since a fresh-faced 21-year-old Chalamet starred in the critically acclaimed indie film, and even more unbelievable that his acting was already so skilled, affording Chalamet the chance to introduce himself as a serious actor. The range of emotion and authenticity of the performance displayed by Chalamet gained him a lot of attention, even securing him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, an incredible feat for any actor of his age, let alone in their breakthrough role, establishing his place as a rising talent in Hollywood.
In the same year, Chalamet would go on to appear in another popular indie film, the first of many films in which he co-stars alongside Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (2017). Here, Chalamet perfectly pulls off the douchey, pretentious, bass playing teenage boy character, which viewers will both swoon and cringe at. A completely different characterisation to his role as Elio, Chalamet’s performance as Kyle proved early on that he was no one trick pony.
I personally believe, however, that Chalamet’s best piece of acting to date would appear the following year, in his role as Nic Sheff in Beautiful Boy (2018), a drama based on a memoir of the same title. Starring alongside Steve Carell in a father-son duo, the young actor took on a complicated and emotional character who is navigating their way through addiction and the relationship strains which come with it.
Chalamet’s grip on emotion makes the film a heart-wrenching watch and I would applaud anyone who manages to not be moved to tears at many parts of the film. For this role, Chalamet also received nominations, including at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes, yet I would argue it is still his most underrated performance.
In 2019, Chalamet would go on to deliver yet another emotional performance, this time as the mischievous Laurie in another of Gerwig’s successes, Little Women. A highlight of his performance is in the famous proposal scene, where his acting communicates perfectly Laurie’s sense of desperation and longing. In the same year, Chalamet gave us yet another incredible, but very different performance in his lead role in The King, where he plays the troubled King Henry V, once again demonstrating his acting range and ambition in the roles he takes on.
2021 would be a busy year for Chalamet as he starred in three major films: The French Dispatch, Don’t Look Up and Dune, which is perhaps the most popular and acclaimed film he has starred in, hailed by many as an epic film and a masterpiece. Here, Chalamet tackles multiple opposing genres and character types with ease, as the demand for his acting only grows and grows.
Chalamet would see a return to his indie film roots and a slight change of appearance the following year, via his role in the thriller Bones and All (2022), directed by Luca Guadagnino, the same man who directed Call Me By Your Name. Playing another romantic lead, but with a twist, Chalamet pushes the boundaries of his acting, simultaneously moving and disturbing audiences with his subtle yet powerful performance.
Finally, we come to Chalamet’s most recent and most commercial role as a young Willy Wonka in the 2023 blockbuster Wonka. With Chalamet’s casting in this role being the subject of a lot of controversy and by extension a lot of hate, he certainly had a lot to prove in this role. Despite this pressure, I do believe that Chalamet’s performance is charming and shows a more playful side to his acting that we are rarely able to see in his more serious roles. It also gives him the chance to prove that he can sing as well as act, which can potentially open up even more doors for him in the future. I believe that despite the hate, this film will certainly lead to more attention for Chalamet and more mainstream roles in the future.
Timothée Chalamet has had an illustrious film career thus far, and it shows no signs of stopping. Marking his place as a household name, both his roles and acting skills get bigger and better, and with Dune: Part Two being released this year, I have no doubt that we will continue to see more from the actor, as this generation’s golden boy of cinema.
Craving more Chalamet in your life? Check out our full-length reviews of his most recent films: