And wow do they want him. “I…” he says, laughing, unsure what to do with that information. It should be noted that Chalamet’s default setting is uncertainty. Thoughtful, courteous, smart? Absolutely. Able to articulate a definite opinion about anything? Absolutely not. Never mind. The charm is very real: “We met before,” he says, recalling some 3am dance floor-adjacent small talk we had a few years ago. Far from the navel-gazing “f**k boy” the internet occasionally likes to paint him as, he’s checked my Instagram and read some past interviews. Immediately he wants to talk about Lady Gaga, who he doesn’t know but finds “fascinating!” He is a rare interviewee – albeit a classic deflector – in that he much prefers to ask the questions: “Where are you staying?” “What did you think of [the London production of] Cabaret?” “How are you feeling?” Of course, once the recorder is running, the fidgeting begins in earnest. “But for Luca, anything,” he says of Luca Guadagnino, auteur supreme, in whose Bones & All Chalamet stars this autumn as cannibal drifter Lee. Part road movie, part addiction allegory, he plays opposite Taylor Russell on a bloodied, nomadic flee through America. It is a performance so pristinely heartbreaking, so tenderly horrific, so violent and vulnerable, it feels – as his work so often does – like he’s carved out a new genre of man.
Call it the Timothée effect. It’s everywhere, bewitching fans, directors, fellow actors, fashion houses and now British Vogue, for whom the half-French, half-American, fourth-generation New Yorker becomes the first man to appear solo on the print cover. We meet again the following day in SoHo. He keeps a rental apartment in the city, and his parents only live uptown, but he prefers staying in hotels, so we head up to the pool deck of The Dominick, his current bolthole, where the hostess leads us to some lounge chairs, her eyes bugging silently at the celebrity angel who has touched down to earth in the middle of her shift.
Eyes bug a lot with Timmy. In return, you occasionally spot a flash of kindly exhaustion in his. His manners are almost comically superb and an antenna attuned to the energy of absolutely everyone around him at all times is a terrific resource for an actor – enervating for a human, though. “I hate talking about this kind of stuff, but like the pressure of, you know, being in the public eye, whatever the f**k that means,” he says, annoyed by the concept even. He finds the world too desperate for answers to questions he doesn’t have answers for. “It’s always like, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Do you know who you are?’” It’s possible he does not. To be honest, after a while in his company you start to wonder if you know who you are either. His small talk has this habit of pulling at the fabric of time and space. “You’re the captain of your fate,” he says excitedly at one point. “Master of your fate and captain of your soul. Like those things where you can, like, draw with both knobs.” An Etch A Sketch? “Exactly. You shake it up and then it’s all gone. You can’t just keep building on the same Etch A Sketch.”
This analogy ends up haunting me for days. Not that there aren’t flashes of more earthly self-reflection: “I had a delusional dream in my early teenage years to have, in my late teenage years, an acting career,” he says. “And in my late teenage years, working on Homeland and starting to do theatre in New York, I felt like I reduced my goal to something more realistic, which was to work in theatre and hopefully make enough money doing either a TV show or something I could sustain myself [with]. And then it felt like every dream came true, exponentially. And then life is moving at six million miles per hour.”