Audiences have thirsted over Timothée Chalamet since his breakout Oscar-nominated performance in “Call Me By Your Name.” But will they thirst over a character who grows hungry for human flesh?
Chalamet exudes his typical, tender charisma – even as a cannibal – in “Bones and All” (in theaters Wednesday), directed by Luca Guadagnino (“Suspiria,” “Call Me By Your Name”). The movie, a romantic thriller set in the 1980s, tells the blood-soaked love story of star-crossed cannibals Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Chalamet), bonded by their shared history as nomadic “eaters.” The pair travel across the U.S., at first in search of Taylor’s estranged mother; the film was shot in Maryland, Ohio, Nebraska, Indiana and Kentucky.
“You see this very beautiful love against this amazing backdrop of America,” Guadagnino says in an interview. “What’s better and bigger than that, in a way, against all odds?”
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Be prepared for many a people-eating scene – and to look away if you’re at all squeamish. Chalamet, sparkling and spritely in an interview, says he revels in lurking at screenings to peek at audience reactions to the moments of cannibalism.
“It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, because the gore and the cannibalistic elements are handled with such care,” Chalamet says. “And yet when they happen, they happen. When you watch with an audience for the first time, you can feel it.”
The guts you see in the film include a mix of Fruit Roll-Ups, cranberries, rubber and corn syrup. Lee gets a rush from eating human flesh, but he also enjoys more traditional gustatory highs from junk foods like Lucky Charms and bacon. (Stop scratching your head – there’s a connection.)
“Lucky Charms and sugary cereals are in some sense the most childish but also the most sugar-rushy, instantly gratifying foods that are available to us,” Chalamet says. “And there’s something ironic about someone who’s successful at living on the fringes of society without getting caught eating humans (and) having an appetite for Lucky Charms, and the bacon had an element of that too, because it’s just gross and off-putting to imagine what this guy’s putting in his body.”
What scared Chalamet even more than the guts, though, was a rope of hair that fellow cannibal Sully (a devilish Mark Rylance) keeps from everyone he eats. “More than any gore on set, that visual I thought was so freaky,” he says.
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The childish nature of the role is a fitting dynamic for Chalamet and Guadagnino, who worked together and earned Oscar nominations for their work as lead actor and producer on “Call Me by Your Name.” Chalamet, 26, was only 17 when he first met Guadagnino nine years ago; the director knew Chalamet was the right choice for the coveted part.
How do they work so well together? “It’s easy,” Guadagnino says. “We understand one another.”
Chalamet adds: “Luca – and I’m very grateful for it – always made space for me, even before I had any momentum as an actor.”
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To Chalamet, to act is to grow and to grow is to act. “It’s just new textures of life that you’re able to express,” he says.
He also credits Guadagnino and Michael Stuhlbarg, his co-star in both “Bones and All” and “Call Me by Your Name,” with shaping his work.
Chalamet has many a project on the horizon, including “Wonka,” another remake of 1971’s “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” in which he plays the title role, and “Dune: Part Two,” both due next year.
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“It’s a total dream come true,” Chalamet says.
Might we see Guadagnino and Chalamet pair up again? They’ve discussed a new project at the “Bones and All” premiere in Venice earlier this year, Chalamet teases. “It would somehow be totally unlike the first two things that we did.”
Whatever that venture becomes, expect the thirst to endure.
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