This past weekend, I saw two movies that premiered (hooray for theaters being open again!) and Timothée Chalamet stole my heart in both of them. Crunching on some sweet and salty popcorn, I was brought into two very different worlds by Chalamet’s performances in Dune and The French Dispatch.
The friends who joined me, and my brother who I texted after Dune, were all surprised when I said, “Did you know Chalamet’s Jewish and from an interfaith family?!” My brother messaged me, “I had no idea he was Jewish.” So let’s just take a moment and pause because, as Hey Alma agrees, today’s biggest movie star is Jewish. And even though he has expressed that he is connected to his identity, not enough people know his family’s background: His mom is Jewish and his dad is French.
Playing Paul in Denis Villeneuve’s film adaption, Chalamet’s fit for the role, with his curious eyes and sense of intellect. And his fashion sense and unique personality is perfect for any Wes Anderson role, as he plays a quirky student leader in The French Dispatch. The film, The Times of Israel decides, is Anderson’s most Jewish film yet.
I’ve had my eye on Chalamet since his breakthrough role as Elio in Call Me by Your Name, which was released in 2017 and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. At 22 years old, he became the third-youngest nominee for the award.
Since Chalamet entered the film scene, he’s become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. From his angsty, teenage character in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird to a struggling addict in Beautiful Boy, the world has watched as this young talent has made a name for himself. He’s demonstrated his capabilities for starring in period pieces with Laurie in Little Women and Henry V in The King.
It’s easy to look at Chalamet’s rise to fame and forget that he’s a 25-year-old, just like me, trying to make sense of the world. He spent lockdowns delivering groceries to his grandma (who lived a few floors below him in his family’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment) and talking to his sister every day.
Chalamet’s grandma, mother and sister are all performers; it’s also his Jewish side of the family. Nicole Flender, his mom, is half-Austrian Jewish and half-Russian Jewish. His father, born in France, brought the family to Lyon to escape Manhattan summers. Chalamet’s grandfather on his dad’s side was a pastor in France. Chalamet tells GQ, I like to think that the need to act and be seen came from my mom’s side,” he said, “but the ability to listen came from my dad’s side.”