Haircuts are notoriously stressful experiences, but if you thought asking your stylist for a trim was nerve-racking, imagine how Timothée Chalamet felt after he was told he had to get a bowl cut for his role in The King.
Fans were perplexed when Chalamet debuted the now-infamous look at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but it all made sense after the trailer for The King dropped in August: Chalamet’s cut was for his part as King Henry V in the Netflix historical drama that tells the story of Hal, a wayward prince and heir to the English throne.
The cut may be polarizing now, but when filming for the movie based on Shakespeare’s play Henry V began, The King‘s makeup and hair designer Alessandro Bertolazzi knew it was necessary for the role. Although the original text has been adapted before (including in 1989’s Henry V starring Kenneth Branagh, and the 2012 British television film of the same name with Tom Hiddleston), this version of the story — directed by David Michôd and written by Michôd and Joel Edgerton — hinged on the historically accurate details, including the kind of haircut a young king would actually sport in 1413. “We had to follow the rules of the period [and] make this extreme haircut,” Bertolazzi tells Refinery29. “If we didn’t, we’d lose the idea of the period.”
Turns out, most people living in the 15th century weren’t too concerned with beauty in the way we are today, Bertolazzi explains. Any drastic haircuts were most likely inspired by male members of the Church, like priests or monks. Many of them sported a partially-shaved head as a sign of religious humility, in a practice called tonsure — including Henry V, who wore his hair cropped in a ring shape around his head and cut just above his ears.
Bertolazzi knew that he couldn’t pitch the radical haircut right off the bat because, well, this is Timothée Chalamet, the Hollywood pretty boy known for his luscious curls. “I couldn’t say, ‘OK, we’re going to cut Timothée [with his] lovely curly hair, like a beautiful super sex symbol, like a monk,'” he says.
As Bertolazzi had anticipated, Chalamet was nervous about the dramatic transformation, which he admitted to Variety’s Marc Malkin at Tuesday’s red-carpet premiere of the film. “Even Timothée was worried,” Bertolazzi recalls. “He was terrified. It was really scary. But he was perfect for the character — [the cut] was perfect. He was different [after the haircut]. He become a king for real. It was cool.” (Bertolazzi notes that the divisive cut didn’t affect Chalamet’s cool-guy status IRL. He was still pretty cool.)
Don’t feel too bad for Chalamet: His hair clearly grew back fast enough for him to play Laurie in the Greta Gerwig-directed Little Women, a role that’s sure to have fans swooning over his wind-blown perfection for years to come.
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