Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet On Their New Film, 'Beautiful Boy'

Oct 13, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Was living on the street addicted to crystal meth. He drove all over San Francisco to look for him. He eventually found Nic and enrolled him in a rehab program and then another and then another. The story of the Sheff family's struggle with addiction became the subject of David Sheff's best-selling book, "Beautiful Boy" and Nic Sheff's own memoir of his time on drugs, "Tweak." These two books inspired a new film called "Beautiful Boy." It stars Steve Carell as David Sheff and Timothee Chalamet as Nic.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BEAUTIFUL BOY")

STEVE CARELL: (As David Sheff) I thought we were close. I thought we were closer than most fathers and sons.

TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: (As Nic Sheff) Yeah, I feel like you're always disappointed in me. You're disappointed I didn't go to college.

CARELL: (As David Sheff) Can you blame me? Just a - not too long ago, you were reading and you were writing and you were on the water polo team. And look at us now.

CHALAMET: (As Nic Sheff) Dad, I'm...

CARELL: (As David Sheff) This isn't us.

AMY RYAN: (As Vicki Sheff) Please stop.

CARELL: (As David Sheff) This is not who we are.

RYAN: (As Vicki Sheff) Just please.

CHALAMET: (As Nic Sheff) Dad, I'm really sorry about everything. I'm really sorry, Dad.

SIMON: Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet join us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

CARELL: Thank you.

CHALAMET: Thank you for having us on.

SIMON: I should start off by mentioning that we've had David Sheff on our program when "Beautiful Boy" was published. Just to remind you, this is a real story, isn't it? This - these are real people up on screen.

CARELL: They are. They're real people, and our job was to try to attempt to tell it as accurately and as honestly as we could.

SIMON: Timothee Chalamet, do you think of it as a story about addiction or a story about love?

CHALAMET: Perhaps it's a story about recovery or perhaps it's about all three. I think what this movie does, hopefully, is a kind of total view of how an addiction can affect not only one person but loved ones and family and friends and how it's not a euphoric party trip, the life of an addict, but often keeping up appearances or dealing with pain and dealing with the illogicalness - that's not a word. Sorry, I know it's NPR - but dealing with the, you know, lack of logic or ability to think through an addiction.

SIMON: Steve Carell, there is some gut-wrenching dialogue with which you have to give voice in this film, isn't there?

CARELL: There is. And actually I was thinking back to the word Timothee was looking for and I think it's illogicality.

CHALAMET: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

CARELL: No.

CHALAMET: No.

SIMON: Thank you. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

CARELL: There was - I was attracted to it because I'm a dad. I have teenagers and I am terrified as I'm sure David Sheff was. And it's - the whole idea, the whole premise of this, is frightening to me, the fact that here is a father who thinks he can control the situation and thinks he can examine it and research it and understand it and then solve it. But the further into it he gets, the more research he does, he realizes that he's pretty much useless. And he can't do anything to control this downward spiral, and it's a terrifying, terrifying thing.

SIMON: I gather this film is being shown at some schools and organizations to try and depict exactly the problem that you're portraying on screen. Is there something that you learned from doing the movie and hope people take away from it, Steve Carell?

CARELL: Yeah. I guess my biggest takeaway is that addiction itself - it can happen to anyone. It can happen to any family. This seemingly functional, very loving group of people fell victim to this, and it crosses all sorts of boundaries. It doesn't discriminate. And as we were filming, and when people understood what the themes of the film were, we could be almost anywhere and people came out of the woodwork with their personal stories of addiction and recovery and loss. And it was striking to me that it has really affected so many people. If you don't know someone personally, you know someone who knows someone.

SIMON: And Timothee Chalamet?

CHALAMET: I think first and foremost, it's what Steve said, which is conversating with people on set or in the locations we were shooting in and realizing that almost everyone is either affected or knows someone who is affected by this disease. And also I would hope, for those who hopefully see it, would achieve, like, that it isn't, especially in the case of methamphetamine users - there's a quote in the film from a doctor - it's not that he is perhaps unwilling to participate in treatment options. It might be that he's unable. And that it's not - there's this idea of willpower or this misconception of willpower, perhaps, as being, you know, a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sort of way of getting yourself out of this kind of situation when it's much more complex than that. And the greatest answers are the ones that lead you down a greater understanding of how incomprehensible this all is but that a family's support and love and ultimately perseverance and within the resources that are out there, one can persevere and get through this.

CARELL: I think this is a story about love. And there's a scene in which my character has to essentially turn his back on his son because he realizes it's the best thing for the rest of his family. And it's the only thing he's left with. It's the only thing - it's his only recourse at that point. And it was a difficult scene because it goes against every fiber in my being as a parent, and it was hard to wrap my head around the idea of turning my back on a child. But it's true and it's, I think, very real. And it's such a grey area. That's the other thing I found with this material and this story is that there are no easy answers. There is no - there's no happy ending really. There's perhaps a hopeful ending, but as is most often the case with these scenarios, it's obvious - it's ongoing.

SIMON: Timothee Chalamet, how is Nic?

CHALAMET: I think Nic is well and, you know, he himself said he's not an expert on addiction and that he found for his recovery it was almost like finding puzzle pieces of what worked, what didn't work. And I think he's - I think he's well. I guess I don't want to speak for him, but Steve and I had lunch with him and David, and it's been a joy to get to spend time with them since the film's promotion.

SIMON: Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet star in the new film "Beautiful Boy." Thanks very much to both of you.

CARELL: Thank you.

CHALAMET: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MASERATI'S "THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE BEHIND YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.