The early, astronomical success of the 22-year-old Timothée Chalamet can be attributed in part to a conversation he had backstage at a concert in Montreal with rapper Kid Cudi.
The breakout star is featured in two Best Picture contenders this year: Chalamet's lead role as the heartthrob in "Call Me by Your Name" earned him an Oscar nomination, and he also plays an aloof boyfriend in Greta Gerwig's indie darling "Lady Bird." In GQ's March 2018 cover story by Daniel Riley, Gerwig calls him "a unicorn" and Riley calls him a "once-in-a-generation talent" — but he still once needed, and got, some advice from Cudi.
The rapper, a "personal god" to Chalamet, also rose to the height of his industry in his early 20s and faced hurdles along the way. He has opened up to the public about stints of depression. Yet his drive and his passion for his work has sustained him.
During his conversation with Chalamet, Cudi "described his own lows and the single-minded determination that forced him to double down on his efforts to perform his way out of trouble," writes Riley. Chalamet reportedly ran home to write down everything he had learned.
"The takeaway was: Are you, Timothée, the sort of person who can't possibly live any other way? 'F--- yeah.'"
He still keeps notes of the conversation in his phone.
According to Charles D. King, the CEO of Macro Ventures, a media company that finances and produces multicultural content such as the recent films "Mudbound" and "Fences," there is no other way to make it in Hollywood.
"In this industry," he told CNBC Make It, "you literally have to have that feeling like I'm going to die if I don't do this."
You also have to expect to experience failure, said Will Smith recently on Instagram. Smith is another star who rose to worldwide fame at a young age. "Failure actually helps you to recognize the areas where you need to evolve. So fail early, fail often, fail forward," he said.
Chalamet knew failure: When his interaction with Cudi took place, the actor had been frustrated by series of rejections. Although he was experienced for his age, with roles in theater, television and film, his career had yet to take off. He had even played a younger version of Casey Affleck's character in Christopher Nolan's 2014 space-epic "Interstellar," which Chalamet hoped might open some doors. "When it didn't, he was broke and struggling in ways he hadn't expected," Riley writes. "He auditioned and auditioned and collected perfunctory Nos."
But the lesson from Cudi helped him overcome such trials. He simply decided that he wanted success enough to keep going no matter what.
"I wasn't one of these graceful people who could just go see movies with contemporaries, or movies in general, and love it," the actor tells GQ. "I want to be in them."
"Call Me by Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino recalls thinking immediately upon meeting him that Chalamet "had the most intoxicating ambition to be a great actor." And, by resolving that he is willing to do whatever it took to make it, Chalamet found his way forward.
Cudi's isn't the only advice Chalamet says he has taken to heart. For instance, he acted in a third movie this year, "Hostiles," alongside Christain Bale. According to GQ, when Chalamet noted to Bale that it might be challenging to act now that he is under the spotlight, Bale told him "Be oblivious to it" — and that wisdom has brought him peace.
He'll have no shortage of quality advice to draw on going forward, either. He's been spending time on the award circuit with fellow Oscar nominees, an illustrious group of talent comprised of Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, Daniel Kaluuya and Denzel Washington.
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