Nearly 18 months have passed since Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was supposed to have its world premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. But on 12 July, audiences there finally got their first look at the iconic American auteur’s latest project: a movie about the writers behind a New Yorker-style literary magazine based in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé, and the eye-opening stories they tell. The movie also marks the first time Anderson has worked with arthouse cinema’s reigning golden boy, Timothée Chalamet, and together they walked Cannes’ red carpet before the movie, alongside the rest of its starry cast, including Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray and Adrien Brody.
Now that we’ve seen it, we’re able to answer the questions posed by Chalamet’s loyal fans, such as how much time does the actor spend on screen? What do we need to know about his role? And does he, as long-standing rumours have suggested, actually get naked in a movie for the first time since his breakout role in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name?
Fret not—here is everything you need to know about Timothée Chalamet in The French Dispatch.
He’s in one part of the movie’s triptych
The French Dispatch is formatted like articles in a magazine: short bursts of storytelling rather than one overarching narrative. Though we meet many members of the writers and editors behind The French Dispatch throughout, there are a few who exist only in their individual chapters: Chalamet is one of them. In fact, he has no more than 20 minutes of screen time.
His story is told in The French Dispatch’s second chapter, titled ‘Revisions to a Manifesto’, in which one of the magazine’s features writers Lucinda Krementz—played by Frances McDormand—captures an anarchist student rebellion in Ennui-sur-Blasé, and the prophetic, wild-haired, cigarette-smoking kid at its centre. That kid, played by Chalamet, is called Zeffirelli.
Zeffirelli is a rebellious student activist
Zeffirelli lives at home and is the leader of a liberation movement, which plans to create a utopian society. He’s a supremely wise and knowing character, despite Lucinda having to help him write his own manifesto—he’s young and needs a little help to transform himself into a true leader. Zeffirelli has both the arrogance and charm of youth, and persuades an army of young people to join him. He also plays chess really well.
He gets naked—sort of
Ever since the film was given an American ‘R’ rating last year (where people under 17 need an adult guardian to watch it) citing graphic nudity, sexual references and language, his fans have hoped that it means they might get another glimpse of a nude Chalamet given that he appears in the bath in the trailer and on the poster.
Long story short, he does and he doesn’t. You see Léa Seydoux’s character naked—she appears as the muse of an incarcerated artist in her chapter—but the closest we get is a scene in which Chalamet’s character jumps out of the bath, shielding his private parts, to share his manifesto with Lucinda.
Frances McDormand is his main scene partner
Chalamet has some great scene partners. Frances McDormand is the main one, coming straight off the back of her Best Actress Oscar-winning turn in 2020’s Nomadland. And French-Algerian actor Lyna Khoudri plays his girlfriend, Juliette. In the coterie of young activists around him, few have speaking roles, but newcomer Mohamed Belhadjine plays his closest pal, Mitch Mitch.
No French spoken here
The film might be set in France, but the script is in English, which may disappoint some fans who had hoped that Chalamet, who is part French, might use his second language in the role (like he did in 2019’s The King). He is American in the movie, using his real-life accent instead—even when Juliette speaks to him in French.
It’s not impossible for him to get Oscar love
It might seem way too early to start talking about 2022’s awards season, but don’t be surprised if The French Dispatch manages to ride out the hype to pick up some statuettes when the time comes. It’s a busy year for Chalamet, who also stars in the much-anticipated sci-fi epic Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve and set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September. That said, The French Dispatch might do well at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which celebrates entire crews as well as individuals.
Anderson’s film, which has an almighty team in front of and behind the camera, will have its US premiere at the New York Film Festival in October, so expect it to be at the forefront of film-industry minds come the time to vote.
It’s been a hot minute, but Chalamet’s time to shine once again is finally coming.