‘Beautiful Boy’ resonates for a country gripped by addiction

‘Beautiful Boy’ resonates for a country gripped by addiction


JUDY WOODRUFF: A film that premiered at the
Toronto International Film festival earlier this fall is now set to open nationwide. And, as Jeffrey Brown reports, it takes on
a harrowing subject affecting families in every corner of the United States. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, Actor: When I tried it,
I felt better than I ever had, so I just kept on doing it. JEFFREY BROWN: In the film “Beautiful Boy,”
a young man enters the hell of drug addiction. A father struggles to understand what’s happened
to his little boy. And the two go through cycles of recovery
and relapse, a seemingly never-ending world of heartbreak. It’s a tough subject, also one very much in
the psyche of a nation in the throes of an opioid addiction crisis. STEVE CARELL, Actor: It’s the reason I chose
the movie. JEFFREY BROWN: It is? STEVE CARELL: Yes. I felt that it was about the most timely thing
you could choose to make a film about. JEFFREY BROWN: Steve Carell plays the father
David Sheff, a Northern California freelance journalist whose life comes crashing down. STEVE CARELL: My son has gone missing. And I wanted to check to see if he had maybe
been brought in or — or if there had been an accident. I have a 14- and a 17-year-old. And every night, I go home, and I would look
at them and I would hug them. And it’s — you know, it sounds like a cliche,
but you can’t help but have stuff like this get inside as you’re doing it. JEFFREY BROWN: Timothee Chalamet plays young
Nic Sheff, living a secret life that spins out of control, in his case from addiction
to methamphetamines. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: Dad, I’m really sorry about
everything. Today, we live in a really confusing world. And this is an out in many ways. This is a crisis in our country right now. It’s a crisis with people of all ages and
genders and race. STEVE CARELL: This is a story about a family
and about a deep love and connection between this father and son specifically. And that’s how I approached it. I didn’t — I didn’t approach it as an addiction
drama or a recovery trauma. I thought of it as a compelling story. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: I have worked on projects
that are fiction, and it feels like there’s a responsibility to the author. And here, I thought, like, there was an added
layer of intensity in that regard, because these are real people who lived these lives
and had this experience. JEFFREY BROWN: The film is based on a true
account, two accounts, in fact. The real-life David and Nic Sheff each published
a memoir of his experience, offering director Felix Van Groeningen a kind of duet of voices,
sometimes in synch, other times sailing past one another. FELIX VAN GROENINGEN, Director, “Beautiful
Boy”: The things they talked about where the same, but written in a different way and seen
from a different point of view. So, I’m balancing those two points of view
and understanding the two of them, even as it leads to almost a tragic breakup, I thought
was really powerful. JEFFREY BROWN: Steve Carell is known as a
brilliant and versatile comedian, perhaps still most of all for his role in the TV series
“The Office.” STEVE CARELL: That’s what she said. (LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: But he’s now taken on a number
of dramatic roles, including the 2014 “Foxcatcher.” STEVE CARELL: What do you hope to achieve,
Mark? CHANNING TATUM, Actor: I want to be the best
in the world. STEVE CARELL: Good. JEFFREY BROWN: Timothee Chalamet, already
a veteran actor at just 22, burst into larger public awareness with last year’s “Call Me
By Your Name.” TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: Just watch. This is how he will say goodbye to us when
the time comes. Later. STEVE CARELL: I have been doing some research. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: Been doing some (EXPLETIVE
DELETED) research. You got to be kidding me, dad. STEVE CARELL: You think that you have this
under control. And I understand how scared you are. JEFFREY BROWN: In “Beautiful Boy,” the two
are comfortably together and horribly apart, sometimes, as in this scene, at the same time. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: Like your special creation
or something, and you don’t like who I am now. STEVE CARELL: Both keep trying in their own
way to reach the other, but it’s almost like one of them is underwater, and one of them’s
on a boat, and they’re trying to talk to each other. TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: By nature of playing the
symptoms of meth addiction, there’s a spontaneity to that. And Steve is a major improv legend. And I bring that up because I could see immediately. JEFFREY BROWN: Does your improv experience
come into play in a scene like that? STEVE CARELL: Not so much in the context of
improvising dialogue, but it was more the physicality of improv, the trying to suss
out where the other — the other character is within the scene. I don’t know. It’s — God, I have such a hard time talking
about acting. JEFFREY BROWN: You do? STEVE CARELL: I do. I really do. JEFFREY BROWN: Because? STEVE CARELL: I always sound so incredibly
pretentious talking about… JEFFREY BROWN: And you don’t like it? STEVE CARELL: You talk about craft. Sometimes, it works, and, sometimes, it doesn’t. And I think so much of it is just who your
partner is, who you’re working with. JEFFREY BROWN: No one’s surprised to see you
doing these serious films anymore, I don’t think. Are you — are you? Is this what you wanted to do? STEVE CARELL: To be pretentious, yes. That was my ultimate goal. (LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: To have people like me asking,
like, about this serious film? STEVE CARELL: Exactly. Yes. I have finally made it to PBS. That’s — that was it. JEFFREY BROWN: Congratulations. STEVE CARELL: Thank you. There’s no sort of specific career trajectory
that I was looking for. JEFFREY BROWN: Do you have one? I mean, because you’re just starting out. People are getting to know you, and know you
big time now, suddenly, TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: No, I — there’s no road
map. I feel that I just want to work on a good
things and keep working with good people and people I can learn from. And it’s a new world in many ways. I think it’s a beautiful thing for creatives,
period. There is a great, raw, new energy. JEFFREY BROWN: “Beautiful Boy” opens nationwide
this week. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown
at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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