In support of Timothée Chalamet's new film, 'Beautiful Boy', Harry Styles has interviewed him for i-D magazine, with the two getting together over the phone to discuss everything from their creative projects, to the double-edged sword of social media, and the concept of masculinity.
An excerpt from the interview follows below:
H: Do you feel pressure to be political in this day and age?
T: I don’t know if it’s a pressure, I do feel it’s a responsibility though. I was talking about this with Steve Carell, about how there was a general complacency in previous generations that everything was going along nicely and that ratcheted the stakes up really high. People our age are so much more engaged, and I think that’s a good thing.
H: We’re living in a time where it’s impossible not to be aware of what’s going on in the world. Society has never been so divisive. It’s important to stand up for what we think is right. I would love for my views to come through in the music I make and the things I do. That’s a very powerful way that we can use our voices. I think for a long time people thought ‘what I do doesn’t matter’ but revolution comes from small acts, and now people are realising that’s what sparks real change.
T: We are living in really inspiring times, because so many of these voices – people like Emma Gonzalez for example – are really young. It’s people our age who are going to have to deal with all of this, and who are dealing with it now. It was interesting being at the Golden Globes and the Oscars last year – because there was this huge tension in self-celebration, which is what award ceremonies are about – when so many people are suffering, and so many people have grievances. Not just petty grievances, but rightful grievances.
H: Today there are so many more ways for us to be engaged. I think that’s the main positive of social media, but there’s also a lot that I find super dangerous about social media. I’m interested to hear what you think? The good and the bad…
T: In the late 00s, when the Arab Spring happened in Egypt, there was a real optimism around the internet and the possibilities of social media. But in the last three or four years, there’s almost been a second wave of social media where people only hear what they want to hear and they only yell into their echo chamber. My old roommate told me he’d read interviews with the creators of the internet, where they say they’re haunted by what it has become and they despise the negativity and disinformation it can imbue. On a more micro level and in my experience, social media is really tricky to navigate because the last thing I want to do as an artist is create in a vacuum. But if you read the comments, then you’re opening yourself up to real self-damage. I am envious of a time when people really locked eyes and there wasn’t the escape of a screen. It’s the caricature of someone at a party scrolling through Tetris.
H: Everyone’s told me that whatever I work on next will be a walk in the park compared to Dunkirk, but I enjoyed it. Thinking about where the world’s at today, do you feel a responsibility as an actor to represent a new form of masculinity on screen? The concept of masculinity has changed so much since we were growing up...
T: You know what’s really funny, I was going to ask you a version of that question but I worried it would be giving myself too much credit to think I could make a change like that. But, if you are giving me that license then I would say absolutely. It’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to get on the phone with you because growing up we did have some people to look up to, but it wasn’t as obvious. People like Lil B – I hope people won’t roll their eyes reading this – was really impactful for me because he really blurred those lines as a musician. I would be so thrilled to know that the roles I’m playing are instigating change in some way. How do I phrase this? I think there’s something to be written about this by someone way smarter than I am... I want to say you can be whatever you want to be. There isn’t a specific notion, or jean size, or muscle shirt, or affectation, or eyebrow raise, or dissolution, or drug use that you have to take part in to be masculine. It’s exciting. It’s a brave new world. Maybe it’s because of social media, maybe it’s because of who the fuck knows what, but there’s a real excitement from our generation about doing things in a new way… I would be really curious to see what you have to say about it?
H: I didn’t grow up in a man’s man world. I grew up with my mum and my sister. But I definitely think in the last two years, I’ve become a lot more content with who I am. I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine, and I’m very comfortable with that. Growing up you don’t even know what those things mean. You have this idea of what being masculine is and as you grow up and experience more of the world, you become more comfortable with who you are. Today it’s easier to embrace masculinity in so many different things. I definitely find – through music, writing, talking with friends and being open – that some of the times when I feel most confident is when I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable. It’s something that I definitely try and do.
T: That’s really beautiful and inspiring, and certainly it goes back to feeling comfortable in chaos and creating in madness. It’s almost a high to be vulnerable. I really get that. I think it can be achieved in art, but also in intimacy. It’s the craziest feeling to achieve that vulnerability. If us having this conversation, in any infinitesimal way, can help anyone, a guy, a girl, realise that being vulnerable is not a weakness, not a social barrier. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or hyper emotional, you’re just human, which I think is something your music gets at and hopefully my movies do too. Humans are complex; we need to feel a lot of things. We are not homogeneous.
Read the full interview here.