Academy Award nominee, red-carpet fashion slayer, and, now, literary savant Timothée Chalamet currently rules “The King,” director/co-writer David Michôd’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Henry” plays.
Starring in the film as a wayward prince who suddenly finds himself heading the throne after his father’s death, Chalamet recently sat down with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn in an interview to discuss the making of the film, which takes from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part 1,” “Henry IV, Part 2,” and “Henry V.” Naturally, the bookish actor (who next appears in Greta Gerwig’s Louisa May Alcott adaptation “Little Women”) knows his Shakespeare, and if he had to pick a favorite, it’s “Hamlet.” And he explains it with an eloquence that would send any English major back to the books.
“You can make the case that all of Shakespeare’s plays lay the groundwork for the narratives we see to this day,” he said. “‘Hamlet’ in particular, especially for a young actor, is the architecture for a story of ascendance and youth, but also pushing against circumstances you can’t control.”
But Chalamet has also warmed to a certain tragedy of star-crossed lovers over the years, “Romeo and Juliet.”
“I feel like as I’ve gotten older I’ve understood ‘Romeo and Juliet’ more. When I was younger, I thought it was on the nose. More recently I’ve seen the layers of darkness and complexity in it,” he said of the defining literary romantic tragedy of all time.
“The King” co-writer and star Joel Edgerton — who in the film plays iconic drunken braggart Falstaff — also opened up about his Shakespeare favorites. Edgerton performed in several of the “Henry” plays onstage in the late-90s, when the 23-year-old Chalamet was barely more than a zygote.
“My favorite Shakespeare play is ‘King Lear,'” Edgerton said. “It’s one of the great pieces of writing, a great tragedy. I’m not fond of some of the more skullduggery ones like ‘Macbeth,’ because I find it hard to like a lot of the characters. … It’s so tragic and done well in [Ian] Holms’ version of it,” referring to Richard Eyre’s 1998 screen adaptation of the play. “Then you have movies like ‘Ran’ that take Lear and run with it,” Edgerton said, praising Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 interpretation.
“The King” originally world-premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Read IndieWire’s review here. The film is now in select theaters and heads to Netflix on November 1.
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.