Timothée Chalamet Is the Latest Actor to Do His Own Singing in a Music Biopic

He's set to play Bob Dylan on screen

Timothée Chalamet
Timothée Chalamet will be playing Bob Dylan in a new biopic.
Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images

There’s a particular challenge facing any actor tasked with playing an iconic presence on screen: how much should they transform themselves physically to evoke memories of the historic figure in question? For actors playing a famous musician, the question is even more pronounced: should they attempt to channel the real-life figure musically, or rely on lip-syncing or some other sleight of hand?

And now, we know what route Timothée Chalamet will be taking when he plays Bob Dylan in an upcoming biopic. As Pitchfork reports, director James Mangold shared the information in comments made to the media at a recent Star Wars-related event. (Mangold has an upcoming project set in the fictional universe in question.)

Chalamet isn’t alone in taking this route. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did something similar for their roles in Walk the Line, as did Sam Riley as Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis in Control. Tom Hiddleston performed an entire live set of Hank Williams songs after playing the musician in the film I Saw the Light. Others have split the difference — when Jaime Foxx played Ray Charles on screen, he didn’t do his own singing, but he did handle his own piano playing.

Perhaps the apex of this, however, can be found in the 2007 film What We Do is Secret, about the cult L.A. punk band the Germs. Actor Shane West played Germs vocalist Darby Crash, who died in 1980. West did a memorable enough job in the role that the surviving members — including Foo Fighers’ Pat Smear — ended up reuniting for a new version of the band with West on vocals, which continued to play shows over the years that followed.

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Details are relatively scarce about the project beyond that — though Chalamet’s age suggests a focus on a relatively young Dylan. Once complete, it should make for an interesting double bill with director Todd Haynes’s impressionistic I’m Not There, which famously used multiple actors to play aspects of Dylan. Mangold’s film won’t be the only place to hear Dylan songs on the big screen, either — an onscreen version of the musical Girl From the North Country is also in the works.

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