Long before I became a professional writer and was forced to start growing up, I spent far too much of my teenage years in the messy corner of the internet known as Stan Twitter. For most of that time, my Twitter account was dedicated to expressing my immense love for Timothée Chalamet, a name that has become so instantly recognizable that it needs no introduction. It started one random day in 2017 when a paparazzi photo of an actor hit my timeline; It was love at first sight. The rest is history.
That’s the power of a true heartthrob: The ability to stop a person in their tracks and capture their full attention (and heart). Chalamet comes across as someone who is effortlessly cool and sexy (bonus points for speaking French!) but also approachable. This is the key to its breathtaking appeal.
In the past year, I’ve had countless discussions with friends about the apparent death (or at least the alarming decline) of a breathtaking Hollywood heartthrob. Every time we try to think of actors who might fit in – Jacob Elordi? Miles Teller? Tom Holland? – the only name we could agree on was the one actor who could make hearts flutter 365 days a year: Timothée Chalamet.
While he played for many years, with small but memorable roles Country and Christopher Nolan Interstellar2017 was a game-changing year for Chalamet. He was just 21 years old at the time and was starring in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. Lady Birdin which he plays an aloof bass-playing high school student and Call me by your name– both were nominated for Best Picture.
Lucy Guadagnino’s sun-drenched coming-of-age romance Call Me By Your name remains the greatest display of Chalamet’s emotional flexibility and subtle yet impressive physicality. As Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old American vacationing in Italy who falls in love with a graduate student played by Armie Hammer, Chalamet conveys an intense longing that permeates the entire film. He earned an Academy Award nomination, making him the youngest actor to be nominated for Best Actor since 1939. Since then, he’s been busy and busy with a number of A-list projects, never compromising those rare (at least in our day and age) qualities that have influenced his star status.
While Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan were rightfully heralded for their performances in the 2019 Greta Gerwig adaptation Little woman, Chalamet is the film’s secret weapon. As Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, his soft-boy energy, perfectly captured in the iconic proposal scene between Laurie and Ronan’s independent Jo March, was never put to better use than here.
This month there will be a Chalamet sandwich Dune and a highly anticipated double bill next year Dune: Part 2 and Wonka with a very welcome return to its indie roots: a new film Bones and all. Reunited with Guadagnino, he wears a red-dyed mullet and plays a cannibal in the gory tale of young outsiders alongside rising star Taylor Russell. He delivers a performance that’s on par with his best-known turns (he hasn’t given a bad performance yet), with critics praising his magnetic presence and dazzling chemistry with Russell.
Of course, the heartthrob is by no means an invention of the millennium. Over the past few decades, the likes of River Phoenix, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Heath Ledger, and the ultimate dreamboat Leonardo DiCaprio have become objects of intense adoration. At their peak, these were actors who embraced their soft sides and weren’t afraid to play characters that expressed their rawest emotions and vulnerability. Although they might initially gain attention due to their attractiveness, they were also endearing due to their charming, down-to-earth personality and self-awareness.
The traditional idea of a heartthrob has shrunk as social media has taken over our perception of almost every aspect of life and culture. So the heartthrob has been replaced with an “internet boyfriend”, which is typically an actor (like Austin Butler and Noah Centineo) who is popular during a certain time period that the Extremely Online people fixate on in phases. They are rarely a long-term obsession. Chalamet is truly an internet friend at his core, but he has a longevity that his peers don’t.
Since gaining international recognition, Chalamet has been compared to DiCaprio, who set the gold standard for Hollywood leading men to follow in his footsteps. In a way, Chalamet’s career choices mirror those made by DiCaprio when he was younger. The 48-year-old shied away from big franchises, favoring roles that emphasized his talent and good looks. Titanic and Romeo and Juliet turned DiCaprio into a dreamy megastar that you couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with, much like Call me by your name and Little woman did with Chalamet.
With his boyish charm, luscious locks, chiseled jawline and edgy energy, Chalamet fits the heartthrob mold seamlessly, but he’s challenged the concept of traditional masculinity and carved out a niche of his own.
Unlike most of his peers, Chalamet took a different route to stardom, sticking to a filmmaker-driven approach to choosing roles regardless of their size. In less than a decade, he’s worked with everyone from Christopher Nolan to Greta Gerwig and Denis Villeneuve, and fits seamlessly into the vivid worlds created by Wes Anderson (as depicted in French Expedition). If we were living in an alternate universe, the actor would have been cast as our beloved Spider-Man, a role he lost to Tom Holland. But since then, he’s followed DiCaprio’s controversial but wise advice to avoid superhero projects altogether, and it’s working in the best possible way.
Just a few years ago, box office numbers were a key factor in a celebrity’s status. Actors like DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Pitt and Depp have been able to land spots in the cinema on the strength of their household names alone, and this in turn has helped build their star persona. Lately, the concept of the movie star seems to be in crisis. In addition to Tom Cruise, who carried Top Gun: Maverick at the beginning of this year, the idea of a box office megastar seems to be gone. Sure, there are names like Channing Tatum, Ryan Reynolds, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But even among the three, Tatum is the only person who has proven that he can carry studio-backed films that aren’t formally connected to superhero universes.
Chalamet exists in a Hollywood gray area. It’s true that thousands will flock to theaters to see his handsome face on the big screen, but he’s yet to prove that his popularity among wild young women on the Internet can translate into ticket sales.
Denis Villeneuve last year Dune served as the perfect introduction to the world of blockbusters for Chalamet and gave us a taste of how well he can handle a mass mainstream film. Chalamet appears in almost every scene of the sprawling 2.5-hour film and makes his presence felt. Released amid the pandemic after a series of delays, Dune was a box office hit, grossing over $400 million worldwide.
It would be impossible to talk about Chalamet’s appeal without mentioning his bold sense of style that sets him apart from most of his fellow A-listers. From what looked like a glittery Louis Vuitton harness at the 2019 Golden Globes to a backless red jumpsuit at this year’s Venice Film Festival, she’s constantly making bold fashion decisions. And more importantly, he never lets them down. He seems to relate to the clothes he wears rather than dressing in a certain way to provoke discourse.
He clearly adores the people who helped him get to where he is now, giddily greeting and taking selfies with fans at movie premieres and graciously stopping to take photos with those lucky enough to meet him along the way. At the premiere in Milan earlier this month Bones and all, the red carpet was unexpectedly closed due to the large number of fans eagerly waiting for it. Not many actors today have that kind of power.
Despite his immense fame, Chalamet is still the type to make every role his own. Unlike actors like Pitt and Depp, who are so famous that their fame can no longer be distinguished from their screen presence, Chalamet disappears into each of his characters.
As the concept of the leading man continues to evolve, Chalamet remains at the forefront of a massive cultural shift. In an age where male celebrities who amass a modicum of popularity are immediately labeled “internet sweethearts,” regardless of whether they’re talented or charismatic, Chalamet triumphs as a swoon-worthy celebrity who perfectly embodies the spirit of a heartthrob.