Timothée Chalamet took a break from filming scenes for “Little Women’’ in the Boston area to attend an early afternoon screening of “Beautiful Boy’’ this past Sunday at Kendall Square Cinema, where he received the kind of ecstatic welcome usually reserved for visiting pop star royalty.
The 22-year-old actor — who’s become an Internet heartthrob since starring in last year’s Oscar nominees “Call Me by Your Name’’ and “Lady Bird’’ — is garnering awards buzz for his role in the just-released addiction drama. Adapted from memoirs by David and Nic Sheff, it stars Acton native Steve Carell as a father struggling to help his drug-addicted son (Chalamet) get clean.
After the sold-out 1:45 p.m. screening, fans greeted Chalamet for a Q&A moderated by Brian Tamm, executive director of the Independent Film Festival Boston, with gobsmacked adulation and genuine reverence, particularly as he discussed tackling the vicious cycle of addiction, recovery, and relapse in “Beautiful Boy.’’
“You think it’s going to be a ‘drug movie,’ whether that’s a glorification or an anti-glorification of that, whatever it is, but instead it’s a recovery movie,’’ the actor said. “It’s more about the process of being sober, and how difficult that can be.’’
Chalamet said the film provided both an emotional and physical challenge; the already lanky actor shed 20 pounds to shoot scenes in which an emaciated Nic is hospitalized following a drug overdose. For another sequence, he stood under a freezing rain machine wearing only a T-shirt.
“I was going to a heater in between takes, which was just dumb, because you end up colder after,’’ recalled the actor. “With this movie, every night before shooting, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a really serious thing I’m doing tomorrow.’’’
Chalamet said he sought to depict Nic’s battle with addiction as accurately as possible, visiting rehab centers and researching heroin and meth highs so as to pinpoint how each would feel and look. The actor was careful, however, never to define Nic primarily as an addict.
“You don’t play a drug addict — you play a human who’s addicted to drugs,’’ he said. “It’s easier looking in from the outside to go, ‘That’s not my life. That’s for people who get lost in that.’ And it’s harder to do that now, because it’s everywhere. Especially in Massachusetts, there’s a big opiate crisis, so it’s important to make these movies.’’
In between fielding questions about the film’s serious subject matter, Chalamet was frequently addressed by visibly starstruck audience members; picked to ask the first audience question, Berklee College of Music student Sabrina Bondar, 19, could only muster, “Dude, what the [expletive]?’’
Bondar then passed a handwritten letter up to the actor, the contents of which she later confirmed to the Globe: words of gratitude to Chalamet for inspiring her art, and for serving as a role model for young actors. She also left her phone number.
Chalamet fans had camped out in front of Kendall Square Cinema as early as 8 a.m. to secure front-row seats at the screening; like Bondar, many brought gifts for the actor, ranging from the predictable (a pencil-sketched portrait) to the peculiar (a peach plush toy, referencing an infamous “Call Me by Your Name’’ sex scene).
So forceful was the response from his fan base that the Q&A sold out just five minutes after it was announced late Friday afternoon; within 15, the Kendall’s website had crashed. Hours later, fans were still crowding the event’s Facebook page, some offering to shell out upward of $200 for a ticket.
Bondar and her mother, Amy Bondar, who traveled from Framingham, got their tickets at the Kendall box office; they’ve been admirers of Chalamet since watching “Call Me by Your Name’’ last year. Amy credits his performance with inspiring her to return to acting after a 20-year hiatus.
“This was my first Q&A ever with an actor,’’ she said. “I was the one who said [to Sabrina] after the site crashed, ‘Get in an Uber and get to that box office.’’’
That kind of enthusiasm was practically tangible in the air at Kendall on Sunday. Some overly committed ticket holders tried to guess the PIN code for the theater’s projection booth, anticipating the actor might watch the end of the film from inside it. Those without tickets convened in the theater’s lobby, hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor as he entered for the Q&A.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all this, the screening ended in a mob. Dozens of theater attendees rushed Chalamet as he made his way out of the theater, some brandishing Sharpies and copies of his recent i-D and GQ magazine covers, others armed simply with smartphone cameras. At least four aimed to get their copies of André Aciman’s 2007 novel “Call Me by Your Name’’ signed.
For his part, the actor seemed game to pose for photos and accept audience gifts as security ushered him toward a side door. At press time, it remained unclear whether the peach left with him.