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Timothée Chalamet to Play a Young and Defiant Bob Dylan in New Biopic

Steve Palace
Bob Dylan and Timothee Chalamet. Getty Images

Timothée Chalamet is set to pick up the guitar as music icon Bob Dylan in a new biopic. The movie, which has the working title of Going Electric, is a big screen account of Dylan’s folk rock arrival. James Mangold directs and has performed a rewrite on Jay Cocks’ script.

The title refers to teen Dylan’s decision to diversify from acoustic shows. It seems harmless now, but at the time the move was dynamite in the folk community, shocking folk purists.

“Dylan was hailed as an acoustic prophet at age 19 when he exploded on the folk scene and seemed poised to follow in the footsteps of giants like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger,” writes Deadline, who broke the story. “So when he plugged in his guitar at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, the eruption was profound.”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan. Getty Images

The site also mentions that other famous recording artists from the Sixties will put in an appearance. As for who will play them, that’s to be announced. Producers Searchlight Pictures are banking on Chalamet’s rising profile and talent to bring this chapter of Dylan’s story to stadium-rocking life. He’s in negotiations but it’s widely reported that the role is his.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez singing at a 1963 Civil Rights march

Chalamet is no stranger to playing major figures. Netflix’s The King saw him taking on the mantle of Henry V. This put him in the same bracket as Sir Laurence Olivier. His track record with literary greats is assured. Currently in cinemas as “Laurie” Laurence in Little Women, he’s soon to be seen as Paul Atreides in Dune.

Timothee Chalamet

Timothee Chalamet. Getty Images

Mangold is well-placed to helm the drama. His CV includes Johnny Cash picture Walk The Line (2005), which starred Joaquin Phoenix. He also made Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans ‘66), the recent true life saga starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Interestingly, Bale played Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There (2007) – the movie was notable for casting several actors as the guitar-strumming hero. These included Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin and Cate Blanchett.

NME examines the various screen interpretations of Dylan. Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen appeared in Factory Girl (2006) as Billy Quinn, a character said to be based on Dylan. And in 2017 Sky Arts’ Urban Myths series cast Eddie Marsan as the agitator himself.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin CC by 2.0

The counter-culture great stuck his toe in cinematic waters in 2000, with a track for Wonder Boys called Things Have Changed. It won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Entering the spotlight as the Sixties began, Dylan – born Robert Allen Zimmerman – went on to blaze a trail that was as notable for its social consciousness as its strong compositions and intelligent lyrics. Biography.com describe him simply as “one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 20th century”. He’s still working in the 21st!

His best-known songs are arguably The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Blowin’ In The Wind, though Dylan has given fans plenty of material to choose from.

As for the content of upcoming Going Electric, this account from Time gives people an idea of what to expect. “As if challenging the doubters, Dylan roared into ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ his new radio hit, each chorus confronting them with the question: ‘How does it feel?’”

Related Article: Bob Dylan had an Obsessive Fan who Always went through his Trash – Here’s Why

The article details how “The audience roared back its mixed feelings”. Dylan departed the stage after 3 songs. However, “The crowd was screaming louder than ever—some with anger at Dylan’s betrayal, thousands more because they had come to see their idol and he had barely performed… Finally, Dylan reappeared with a borrowed acoustic guitar and bid Newport a stark farewell: ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue….’”

Chalamet is reportedly taking guitar lessons ahead of the gig. It should make for powerful viewing, with electricity in the air as well as the cables!