Exclusive interview with the cast and crew of Beautiful Boy (Steve Carell, Thimothé Chalamet…)

Image: WHBL
Image: WHBL

On the 18th of October I was lucky enough to get to interview some of the cast and crew as well as the people who inspired the story of Beautiful Boy at the film’s UK premiere at the London Film Festival. Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with drug addiction over many years. 

Can you explain what is Beautiful Boy about?

Luke Davies (writer): It’s a father son anxiety movie about the destruction caused by addictions but also about family, anger, fear, guilt…

How was it to adapt a true story?

Felix Van Groeningen (director): We wanted to make it true to have the most authentic portayal possible on screen

Luke Davies: These are all real people so of course there is a moral responsibility to pay tribute to the real people behind this.

How did it feel to be played on screen?

David Sheff: Yeah they really went bent over backwards to represent us well. They spent a lot of time with our family to understand who we were and they were able to get it right in a way that truly is impressive. And seeing Thimothee Chalamet playing my son and Steve Carell playing me was impressive. Even though the story was condensed, it feels so real, it feels like our home, which is why it’s amazing but also a bit scary, a bit surreal.

Nic Sheff: Thimothee had the most authentic portrayal of addiction that I have seen on screen. He worked so hard to make it seem realistic

Thimothe how does it feel to be part of this film?

Thimothee Chalamet: I feel full of gratitude, so honored to be part of this project. I am so happy that all these people want to watch the movie.

How was the casting process?

Felix Van Groeningen: We reached out to Steve, he read the script and he wanted to do this because he’s a father himself and he’s such a great actor and it was such an honor working with him. And Thimothe he went through a classic audition process. He wasn’t the star he is now or becoming. I hadn’t seen Call Me By Your Name yet. He came back a couple of times, he worked really hard and you know his talent is amazing. I think that his genius lies in his fearlessness.

Steve was incredible. He’s super talented on so many levels. He’s so sincere and he’s a very dedicated father. We had several meetings and I felt like he was the right guy cause he is a dedicated father.

Luke Davies: We’re blessed to have these two gems: Steve Carell and Thimotée Chalamet. I saw Call Me By Your Name and like everyone I was like “Oh my god”. And for Steve, with his previous work we already knew thanks to Foxcatcher that he could make a transition from comedy to drama but in Foxcatcher his character is a bit lunatic, in this film he is a father and a very normal kind of everyman character. Maybe that’s Steve’s first role where he is actually a very normal character put against very abnormal circumstances.

His character was very well written! Simple but also complex…

Luke Davies: Thank you! Yes this movie is about a guy, the father who is very alpha male, and is used to solve all problems. Suddenly, he comes up against this problem that he has never come up against before and he cannot defeat it and all the movie is about his anger in trying to beat this thing that you can’t beat.

Steve, how was it to work on a project like this, with a very serious character?

Steve Carell: I felt very touched by the story. It’s scary to watch your child spiral. For parents it’s a frustrating thing to have to be patient, by the side of the child. This film shows how important it is to have people who care for you by your side. And honestly this film, it’s just a good story. Drug addiction is a national epidemic. So yeah I thought it was so well written. It doesn’t tie everything up in a nice bow like it is supposed to.

How was the writing process? It must have been difficult to adapt two Memoires into one story…

Luke Davies: That was very tricky. The process with co-writing the script with Billy who is the director was about trying to put two different stories into one film it’s chaotic the film but we never wanted viewers to feel like there were two different stories.

Is it true you hesitated to write this film?

Luke Davies: Yeah, I wrote this novel Candy a long time ago which was about my life as a heroin addict in my twenties and a few years later I wrote the adapted screenplay of my book so I didn’t want to do another film about drugs. And then, I had an email from my dad about how proud he was of me and it was totally out of the blue this email and it made me think, you know what? I should really try hard to get this job. Because in Candy, there’s nothing about the father-son relationship. When I was writing it, I found it was too problematic and hard to write about that. Suddenly out of the blue there was this chance to go O.K., maybe I can put my input into a story about father and son.

I don’t know how it is to be a parent but I’m a son and I gave my parents hell a long time ago.

Steve, you know how it is to be a dad!

Steve Carell: Yeah. My life completely changed when I became a father. I think it’s very important to have people hear about these kind of things. It changes your life, it’s inspiring, beautiful  It’s very inspiring, did I say inspiring twice? I think I did.

Felix, can you tell us about the very cool soundtrack?

Felix Van Groenigen: The songs of the soundtrack came from different places. David and Nic, the real people who this story happened to, are music lovers and they have a very eclectic taste. A lot of songs came from them because the whole idea was inspired by their lives so we liked the idea to have the soundtrack of their life.  Also, some songs were very dear to me or the editor so you know it was fun to put David Bowie in for example, that we love.

Why do you believe that this film is important?

Luke Davies: I hope it is a good film that is an emotionally gripping experience. But also it’s really affecting people whose lives  have been transformed because of addiction. We’ve been realising that nearly everybody is one or two degrees away from that kind of chaos caused by addiction.

David Sheff : I learned that because of our experience, because we survived our experience, we are very lucky. So many kids don’t survive this. And with this movie, I saw it as an opportunity to spread that word. To explain what addiction is, to explain that it is not a choice.

Nic Sheff: Yeah for me it’s the same, I saw this as  a real opportunity to talk to people about this issue. And with this incredible team to develop the story. Having a young actor like Thimothee will hopefully make young people interested in this issue.

Thimothee Chalamet: It’s like there’s a comfort in thinking drug addicts or addiction can’t affect your family or yourself but actually it’s a very human disease, it  does not discriminate.

What advice would you give to people who go through this experience?

Felix Van Groeningen: To love unconditionally, cherish the beautiful moments and to know that it’s normal that life goes up and down, you just have to live with that. Keep fighting and moving and also embrace and appreciate the beautiful things around you.

Beautiful Boy comes out in theaters on the 18th of January 2018.

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Rebecca Gallon

Third year Film and Television production student at the University of York. Film and TV editor at the Yorker 2017-2018.

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