Timothée Chalamet’s November GQ cover story and photos were released last week, the third in what’s turning into a series between the publication and Timmy, kinda like a magazine version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
GQ is checking in with Timothée every few years or so and collaboratively tracking his career and celebrity. The last time they talked to Timmy it was 2020, when he was still at the breakthrough stage, and coming to terms with his fame. That process continues three years later but now, at least from my read of the profile, it seems as though Timmy, now in the later part of his 20s, has been reflecting on his identity and in the process of redefining himself. This happening in tandem with how the public, his fans, are redefining him. And there seems to be an interesting disconnect, which revealed itself in the discourse about his relationship with Kylie Jenner.
It's a lengthy piece, once again written by Daniel Riley, and Timmy has been generous with his time and his energy. Much of the interview takes place in New York, where Timothée grew up, and that setting has been essential to his public image. He’s the NY City theatre kid who went to performing arts school, he’s a fanboy, an indie film actor, a polyglot who’s as comfortable at an underground hip-hop show as he is at a Broadway musical.
Timmy intimates in GQ that he too was clinging to that self-portrait but started to wonder if it was restrictive. And so he now spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, he has a home there – in other words, Timmy’s gone Hollywood, and that’s an expression that is often used with derision. When you combine going Hollywood with dating a Kardashian-Jenner, well, the path quickly leads to criticism. This is what the internet, the fandom, is pushing up against. Because it feels incongruous to that whole New York vibe that defined the first phase of Timmy’s celebrity.
I can’t say for sure whether or not this was his intention during the interview, to address that pushback, which, for an artist, can feel like a restriction. But this is not an uncommon phenomenon in the study of celebrity – the culture can freeze a young star in one phase of their development, and it tries to keep them there forever. All the popstars have been through this, from Madonna to Britney to Miley and more. Timmy seems to be experiencing a version of this, and this GQ piece, to me, is an attempt to diplomatically plead to be allowed to grow and try new identities, try new versions of himself. So that, in the end, he can expand his creative range. It doesn’t mean New York Timmy is gone forever; it just means that New York Timmy and LA Timmy can co-exist.
Here's LA Timmy yesterday reportedly leaving a dermatologist clinic, the same derm who treats Kylie and Hailey Bieber and other influencers. Also seen in LA yesterday – Florence Pugh, who co-stars with Timmy on Dune: Part Two and is mentioned in his GQ piece as part of what Timmy calls “a community… of people who care about the right things”. That includes Zendaya and Austin Butler.
As we have said, Dune has assembled an impressive cohort. Those four are basically the jewels of their generation, and the fact that they’re all in one film – on the gossip side, we’re obviously getting treated to some great red carpets and junket material, whenever the strike is over and they can actually promote the film. But behind the scenes, where it matters, what these four can do for each other is not only support but challenge.
I love the way Timmy talked about Austin Butler:
--Something else happened in the run-up to filming related to one of his new costars, Austin Butler. “It started on Zoom,” Chalamet said, “when we did a cast reading.” Was Butler still talking like Elvis? I asked him. “No, here’s the thing, he was already talking like Stellan Skarsgård.” That is, on day one of the first read-through, Butler had already dialed his way all the way into the character, the heir to Skarsgård’s Baron Harkonnen. “And you could see everyone was, like…”—he laughed a little nervously—“I can’t overstate how inspiring it was to me personally.” It persisted throughout the production. “Because here was someone who’s a little older than me, but generationally we’re similar, and I don’t know how he would put it, but his journey was different than mine.” Butler had come up via Disney Channel and Nickelodeon before breaking out in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and getting nominated for an Oscar for last year’s Elvis. “But he takes the work incredibly seriously. And I feel like I hadn’t seen that among someone my age, whether it was in drama school or on set, that did take the work that seriously but then after ‘cut’ wasn’t, you know, in some show of how seriously they took it—and instead is this tremendously affable, wonderful man.”
What Chalamet instantly recognized in Butler was someone who would challenge his own commitment—and force him to raise his ceiling. I suggested to Chalamet, a basketball fan, that the dynamic was like a star in the NBA who’d dominated straight out of high school but was suddenly confronted by a rookie who’d maybe cut his teeth in Europe and threatened his perch in the league. “Okay! Exactly!” he said. “I love that metaphor!” This was all just acting, of course. But here was someone who Chalamet felt could push him. Like: Man, I’d better practice harder.--
That’s a Show Your Work hard-on right there. It’s professional and creative competition. Healthy competition. And it’s essential. It’s essential in sport, which is why there’s a sports analogy, but it can also be tremendously rewarding in art. You see someone doing great sh-t, and you want to level up too. It’s inspiring, it’s motivating, this is what Austin did for Timmy, and the fact that he’s acknowledging it, talking about it, sharing it is wonderful. Because they have egos, so many of them, most of them. And they’re insecure. And Hollywood can make them petty. But here we have an example of artistic generosity, which can only benefit a project. That raises the anticipation – already high – for the film.
I can’t wait to see those two face off.