'We’ll Lock Him In A Box Somewhere': Timothée Chalamet Has Become An Honorary Aussie After ‘The King’

When Joel Edgerton and David Michôd sat down to write 'The King' in 2013, Timothée Chalamet had barely reached high-school age.

So it was fortuitous that the process of getting a film off the ground takes so long that, when it was time to cast Prince Hal (later King Henry V), Timothée was ready to sink his teeth into the lead role of the Shakespearean drama.

After watching 'The King' it's hard to imagine anyone else tackling the complicated character of Hal -- a young prince who initially turned his back on the throne for a life of sin, only to reluctantly return to grapple with the weight of inherited power and the toxic politics that surround his rule. 

Fresh from starring in projects including 'Beautiful Boy' and 'Call Me By Your Name' -- Timothée chose to sign on with the film's ragtag bunch of Aussies in a move he described at 'The King's Sydney premiere as "joining the creative Australian spaceship".

The so-called 'spaceship' crew included his co-stars Joel (in the role of his troublesome yet loyal pal Falstaff), Ben Mendelsohn (playing his tyrant screen dad Henry IV), and director David (who brought us 'Animal Kingdom').

Photo: Supplied.

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Speaking to 10 daily in Sydney, Timothée explained that being on set (in England and Hungary) was both "inspiring and refreshing" with the twang of Aussie accents all around him.

"When you meet someone, or you meet your new co-workers, it can be anxiety-inducing and that’s not what it was with these guys," he said. 

"They’ve worked together before and there was this shorthand they already had that I was sort of included on," he added. 

Photo: Supplied.

Joel sympathised with Timothée, telling 10 daily that the 23-year-old was "suddenly thrown into the world of Ben Mendelsohn and me and David Michôd and behind the scenes, Adam Arkapaw was shooting it, Fiona Crombie was designing it".

"So there were Australians all over the place -- and now, of course, we’ve dragged him to Australia and we’ll lock him in a box somewhere and he won’t be able to leave," he laughed. 

The story of 'The King' has been on Joel's mind for a good 20 years, having played the role of Hal himself for the Bell Shakespeare Company in more than 100 shows around Australia in 1999 and 2000.

"It was a very formative time, I was 25 and then 26, I think," he said of one of his first major acting roles. 

"That story really stayed with me and so, years later when I had the opportunity to be knocking on people’s doors and calling on them to say, ‘Hey, why don’t we make a movie about this?’, that was the thing amongst the myriad of sword and horse movies that I’d been reading that I really thought would be worth having a crack at."

Joel Edgerton as Falstaff in 'The King'. Photo: Netflix.

Having a crack at the 600-year-old historical story, which Shakespeare then penned in about 1597, meant pushing the Bard's language to the side to make way for a raw cinematic adaptation that brings to light issues that are still of great importance in 2019.

"I say this with all respect, there was never a moment we thought we could outdo or better Shakespeare," Joel told 10 daily. 

"It was really just going, let’s not make a movie saying the Empire of England is great, let’s use that character, a young man being put in the seat of power and look at that as a way to explore politics in our own way, in many different forms," he added. 

Timothée's excellent bowl cut also has a starring role in 'The King'. Photo: Netflix.

While the historic Battle of Agincourt led by Henry V against the French was immortalised by Shakespeare and -- often -- glorified by the English in the last few hundred years, David Michôd told 10 daily that 'The King' is not about "telling the story of a victorious warrior king and his amazing victory".

He explained that it was more about "exploring the insidious power of people around leaders" that often corrupt a young leader's good intentions.

"I’m almost as frightened of the people whispering in a president’s ear as I am of the president, him or herself," he told 10 daily.

"Our protagonist is a good man, he’s troubled about the decision that he’s making in great concern and it [the Battle of Agincourt] was an extraordinary victory over the French but we just wanted to make it more complicated than a straight-up kind of nationalist fist pump."

The King is screening in selected Australian cinemas now and will hit Netflix on November 1.