Bwog sat down with Timothée Chalamet, CC’17, who recently finished filming a role in Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar (in addition to guest starring in Homeland on Showtime and Royal Pains in USA). After missing NSOP for the movies, he’s settling into his first year and planning to limit shoots over breaks. Movie-obsessed senior staff writer Alexander Pines caught up with him.
Bwog: Have you always wanted to act?
Timothée Chalamet: No, actually I really didn’t like acting growing up because I was doing commercials and things like that as a kid. I think it’s probably healthy that I didn’t like it. It must imply something about my character that I didn’t enjoy just standing around smiling for five hours in front of a camera. It’s all so fake, as it should be when you’re five–you don’t really have anything to add artistically yet, or you really shouldn’t at five years old. Once I got to high school–I went to a performing arts school called LaGuardia–I had some excellent teachers and really fell in love with it. I saw that it could be and should be treated as a craft, it doesn’t have to be this kind of machine of fakeness or anything like that.
Bwog: So around how old were you when you started spending regular time with fairly famous people, what was that like?
TC: I was thirteen or fourteen when I started doing Royal Pains. I actually grew up a big sports fan and not a huge movie buff or TV buff by any means, and if I ever saw an athlete in the street–to this day–I get very excited and nervous and don’t know how to approach them. As far as actors or entertainers go, I don’t really get that. I’m thankful that I don’t flip out, since I have to work with these people. It does me a disservice if I look at them and treat it as if I’m working with a god or a legend.
Bwog: Do you ever get recognized and what is that like? Any funny stories?
TC: Yeah, and it’s flattering. I appreciate it when people have something nice to say about my work. In terms of funny stories, here’s one: about a week ago I was outside of 1020 meeting some friends and this senior dude comes up to me, really nice and friendly–but also quite intoxicated–and says something like, “dude, thanks for coming to my party last week, thanks for setting it up with me, it was such a big help, you’re the man” and I was like, “uh, I don’t think I was there,” and he gives me a look and goes, “wait a second!” Which was kinda funny.
Bwog: What’s up next for you?
TC: There’s this movie called Interstellar that’s coming out in November, 2014 that I shot over the summer which has some very cool people in it. And I just did a short called Spinners that hopefully is going to hit a couple of festivals–hopefully even TriBeCa so I can go see it. Besides that I’m trying to focus on school for now.
Bwog: Do you see yourself continuing acting?
TC: Yeah, I see school as a supplement to better learn my craft. I’m not here for drama program, I’m here to get some life experiences to draw from when I act. I can’t have a point of reference for what real life is if at fifteen and sixteen I’m living in a bubble. From a social and educational point of view, I really value getting the time to learn about the stuff I want to learn about–anthropology, music production, the Core stuff. And socially, I’m in an environment where it’s okay to fuck up, to some extent. This is the place to figure things out.
Bwog: What kind of actor do you see yourself being?
TC: I wish I could answer that, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. Overall, I want to be in anything good, especially since there’s so much great TV on–shows like Homeland, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Downtown Abbey.
Bwog: Okay, I’m dying to know: what is Claire Danes like?
TC: She’s the man! She’s an extremely hard worker, an incredibly gifted actress. And there was a moment where I was trying to figure out if I wanted to jump into acting right away or go to college and she–she went to Yale, actually, which is obviously inferior to Columbia–really recommended that I go to college.
Bwog: Did you feel accepted amongst your cast mates?
TC: Yes and no. I wasn’t able to vibe with some of the older people, but it makes sense that a 30 year old wouldn’t want to hang with some sixteen year old. And on my end, it would sorta be like hanging out with one of my dad’s friends. Plus, I was a guest on the show–I got close with the people playing my parents, but it was clear that I wasn’t a regular. It was weird being that young–Interstellar and Spinners were the first times I’ve ever been on a set alone, without my parents or a guardian. They don’t teach you in drama school how to be on a film set when you’re working and twenty years younger than everyone around you. And then you’re there with your mom or you grandmother–because I had to have an adult with me–which gets awkward. That being said, all of the older actors were really nice, especially on Interstellar. I’m really glad to be around people my own age now, though. I think it can get unhealthy to be sixteen years old and have people everywhere giving you unnecessary praise–that’s a lot of why I’m here.
Bwog: What’s your favorite project?
TC: Definitely Interstellar. I mean, Chris Nolan is the man–you can feel the brilliance radiating off of him. Everything he does is just a great mindfuck, especially this one. And Matthew McConaughey was amazing and John Lithgow was amazing–he went to Harvard and encouraged me to come here as well, and there’s this little actress called Mackenzie Foy who was twelve and so, so talented. Such an amazing soul–her mom, too. I spent a month in a half in a suburb of Calgary alone doing the film, which was great before coming to college.
Bwog: Okay, last one. If they remade Troy, which character from The Iliad would you want to play?
TC: I would want to play Paris, so I could work with whoever plays Helen.
Interview edited for clarity and brevity.