The King was an “exciting challenge” for Timothée Chalamet, the young star of Netflix’s new film revealed at the Venice Film Festival, where the movie has its world premiere today.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V plays, and written by Director David Michôd and star Joel Edgerton, the film sees Chalamet play Hal, wayward prince and reluctant heir to the English throne. He has turned his back on royal life and is living among the people. But when his tyrannical father dies, Hal is crowned King Henry V and is forced to embrace the life he had previously tried to escape. Now the young king must navigate the palace politics, chaos and war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life — including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the ageing alcoholic knight, John Falstaff.
“The most exciting thing about the project was how challenging it was,” says Chalamet of taking on the role of the young monarch. “It seemed like something really out of the wheelhouse and it was terrifying… As every drama teacher has told me, chase the work that is challenging.”
Part of that fun challenge was the physicality of the work, with hoards of extras and horses gathering in a field in north Hungary for the famous battle of Agincourt.
“I remember going to set and watching Joel going to work because I had never done anything like that before in a movie…. That was entirely new to me to do stunt work – that wasn’t lightsabers, it was swords!”
“I’m just trying to do great projects that are challenging,” he added of his choice of roles. “I feel like I’m still learning and chasing the best version of the actor I can be.”
He singled out Sean Harris and Ben Mendelsohn (who plays Henry’s father) as two “visceral” actors who had been education to work alongside.
“There’s things you learn that you could note to people and there are things that drift into the subconscious and you learn,” he explained.
The film was also something of a challenge for director David Michôd, who said co-writer Joel first came to him with the idea.
“What I loved about doing the story is that it never would have occurred to me to make a medieval movie but I got excited about what my version of that movie might be,” he commented, adding that “one of the true pleasure of the work is that I got to work with Joel again”.
“We shot the battle of Agincourt in the north of Hungary in 40-degree heat some days,” added Joel. “It was very tough. It was about 2 weeks. I remember just sitting here and going ‘I’m glad David is directing this not me!'”
Preparing for the project required a lot of historical checking, said David.
“We did a lot of deep research,” he explained. “Then we made a whole bunch of stuff up too. I can’t remember what’s real, what’s made up and what’s from Shakespeare.”
“We’re not doing Shakespeare,” chimed in Joel. “We’re doing our own thing.”
The King will be released in select UK cinemas on 11th October, before being available to stream worldwide on Netflix from 1st November.
Photo: La Biennale di Venezia – foto ASAC