Bob Dylan gives ‘annotations’ to Timothee Chalamet and James Mangold, but don’t call their film a biopic

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Timothee Chalamet might not be playing Bob Dylan, but he is playing a character close enough for the iconic performer to offer personal annotations

One of music’s iconic songwriters, Bob Dylan, has personally given notes over the script for James Mangold’s next feature, “A Complete Unknown,” with cast member Timothee Chalamet, in particular, overseeing the annotations the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” singer provided. But the upcoming picture is certainly not a biopic, according to the “Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny” director.

Speaking to the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Mangold explained that though Bob Dylan would not be a character in the film, a character “resembling” him in a 1960s folk scene of New York City setting. That time and place had a special meaning to Dylan, which led to the songwriter being “so supportive of us making it,” the filmmaker stated.

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“It’s a kind of ensemble piece about this moment in time, the early ’60s in New York, and this 17-year-old kid with $16 in his pockets hitchhikes his way to New York to meet Woody Guthrie who is in the hospital and is dying of a nerve disease,” Mangold revealed when prompted about the film not being a biopic. “He sings Woody a song that he wrote for him and befriends Pete Seeger, who is like a son to Woody, and Pete sets him up with gigs at local clubs and there you meet Joan Baez and all these other people who are part of this world.”

Instead, “A Complete Unknown” is set to draw influences from Robert Altman, an auteur of ensemble cinema and regarded as one of the strongest, most influential practitioners of this style of filmmaking. “The best true-life movies are never cradle to grave but they’re about a very specific moment,” Mangold said. “In this case, it might be presumptuous to call it Altman-esque, but it’s a kind of ensemble piece about this moment in time.”

Though the love towards Bob Dylan wasn’t unreciprocated, with the singer alleging being familiar with one of Mangold’s earlier works. “​​I’ve spent several, wonderfully charming, days in his company, just one-on-one, talking to him,” Mangold gushed. “I have a script that’s personally annotated by him and treasured by me. He loves movies. The first time I sat down with Bob, one of the first things he said to me was, ‘I love “Cop Land.”

James Mangold attends the UK Premiere of Lucasfilm' "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny"  at Cineworld Leicester Square on June 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)James Mangold attends the UK Premiere of Lucasfilm' "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny"  at Cineworld Leicester Square on June 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)
James Mangold attends the UK Premiere of Lucasfilm' "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" at Cineworld Leicester Square on June 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney) | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Dis

Perhaps Mangold can take solace that a musical legend like Bob Dylan is familiar with his work, given that the current forecast regarding Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny’s box office doesn’t look good. It currently has only made an estimated $71 million USD after it’s opening weekend, despite a budget of $295 million USD. 

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The poor showing is being pinned on dwindling audiences going to the theatre, coupled with two high profile releases also coming out this month; Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and Christopher Nolan’s latest opus, “Oppenheimer,” starring “Peaky Blinders” star Cillian Murphy.

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