Simply put, the 25-year-old actor is everywhere. He is to Hollywood what Bella Hadid is to the modeling industry, a genial talent who has attracted comparisons to predecessors — in Chalamet’s case, Leonardo DiCaprio — but tucked enough notable work under his belt to evade some of the professional pitfalls of “It Boy” status. He currently appears in a pair of hit films, Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” and Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” both released last week, and is in the midst of shooting a Willy Wonka prequel. Whether the world actually needs another version of Wonka is beside the point, because enough important people deemed Chalamet’s take worthy of an audience.
Plenty of actors his age have their days in the sun, often boosted by savviness on social media (which applies to him as well). But few are entrusted with carrying a blockbuster film the same weekend they figure into another star-studded ensemble cast, assembled by an esteemed indie filmmaker.
The comparisons to a young DiCaprio go beyond their shared cheekiness and youthful gangliness. Chalamet is also on track to reach DiCaprio’s level of movie stardom, in possession of what “Dune” producer Mary Parent recently described as “that intangible thing that doesn’t come along very often.” Box-office returns on the sci-fi epic support the notion; although it may not be Chalamet’s “Titanic,” “Dune” opened to an encouraging $40 million stateside, even with a simultaneous streaming release.
Chalamet’s intangible quality has arguably made selective appearances on screen, often apparent when he riffs off his established persona. “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig recognized as much, exaggerating him into the too-cool guy onto whom Lady Bird projects her heart’s desires. It wasn’t too far a stretch for Kyle to be played by an immensely popular celebrity whose fans used to beg him to run them over with a truck.
Anderson similarly pokes fun at a game Chalamet in “The French Dispatch,” casting him as a fiery young revolutionary. Even if the actor falters at times with the precise, witty tone mastered by Anderson’s most trusted players, it works in his favor — the character, too, is a bit unsure of his abilities. Chalamet leans into that naivete and Zeffirelli comes off a certified charmer, bashful about his “new muscles.”
Perhaps Chalamet was destined for ubiquity. He has always exhibited the zeal of a theater kid, likely a product of his time at LaGuardia, the famous New York performing arts high school. When he isn’t playing an alt-universe version of himself, his stronger performances still tap into that earnestness.
Such is true of the precocious, lovestruck teenager he portrays in “Call Me By Your Name,” which made him, then 22, the third-youngest person to earn an Oscar nomination for best actor. Though he carries the conviction differently, the same goes for Paul Atreides in “Dune”; the mysterious messiah is forced to shed his reluctance toward taking on a lead role in the war over a treacherous desert planet.
Some critics found Chalamet’s performance effective; Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the actor is “always good at suggesting both youthful callowness and limitless potential,” making him an ideal person to play Paul, “both a coddled heir and an intriguingly unknown quantity.” (The assessment would also explain why he was cast as a Shakespearean hero in “The King.”) But others, such as the New Yorker’s Richard Brody, took issue with how “Dune” handled the Chalamet of it all.
“Chalamet, whose theatrical specificity is both an art and a liability, is onscreen for much of the film and yet reduced to a mask of his own appearance,” Brody wrote. “Stuck with a script that denies his character variety and complexity, he delivers a performance that never gets to take shape. What he can do with the role in a second installment may be the biggest cliffhanger of all.”
We’ll get to find out eventually. The sequel to “Dune” was greenlit this week — as Chalamet shared Tuesday on Instagram with three blushing emoji — and is set to hit theaters two years from now, just months after audiences will be treated (or subjected) to a Wonka-fied version of him.
It would appear another Chalamet season is already underway.