Movies

A Complete Unknown: Everything We Know About Timothée Chalamet’s Bob Dylan Biopic

There have been countless documentaries about the life and career of iconic folk singer Bob Dylan, and there was even a 2007 anthology film inspired by the musician’s various stages, but sometime soon we’ll be getting a full-fledged biopic. A Complete Unknown, the long-in-the-works biographical drama starring Timothée Chalamet, is finally happening and will bring Dylan’s story, as well as that of other figures in the ‘60s folk scene, to the big screen in great detail.

Though there are still several unanswered questions about James Mangold’s upcoming music biopic, we actually know quite a lot about the movie, including its cast, story, and how Chalamet is preparing to play the legendary Dylan. Let’s take a look at everything we know about A Complete Unknown

What Is The Release Date For A Complete Unknown?

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

There are quite a few different music biopics on the 2024 movie calendar, but it’s still not known if A Complete Unknown will be joining them. Searchlight Pictures, the film’s distributor, has not yet commented on a potential release date or even provided a potential window for its rollout. 

But, with production seemingly in full swing (more on that later), this could be a sooner rather than later type of situation, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if we were able to see Timothée Chalamet play Bob Dylan at some point in early 2025.

Timothée Chalamet, Monica Barbaro, Edward Norton, And Others Will Play Famous Folk Singers In A Complete Unknown

Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy; Monica Barbaro in Top Gun: Maverick; Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

(Image credit: Amazon; Paramount Pictures; Warner Bros.)

Timothée Chalamet sits atop A Complete Unknown’s cast, but the Dune: Part Two star isn’t the only high-profile actor set to appear in the highly-anticipated biopic. In fact, the list of actors is exceptional, to say the least.

Timothée Chalamet as Bob Dylan

Timothée Chalamet in Lady Bird

(Image credit: A24)

First, there’s Timothée Chalamet, who’ll be playing a young Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, in the earliest chapters of his landmark folk career. This won’t be Chalamet’s first time singing in a role, as he previously performed multiple numbers in Wonka in late 2023.

Monica Barbaro as Joan Baez

Monica Barbaro in At Midnight

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Monica Barbaro, one of the breakout stars of the Top Gun: Maverick cast, will be joining Chalamet in A Complete Unknown. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Fubar actress will be playing influential folk singer, and Dylan’s one-time lover, Joan Baez.

Edward Norton as Pete Seeger

Edward Norton in Glass Onion

(Image credit: Netflix)

Edward Norton will step in as Pete Seeger, a massive figure in the American folk scene throughout the 20th century. According to Deadline, Norton took on the role after Benedict Cumberbatch was forced to depart due to scheduling conflicts.

Elle Fanning as Sylvie Russo

Elle Fanning on The Girl From Plainville

(Image credit: Hulu)

Elle Fanning, who previously shared the screen with Chalamet in the 2019 Woody Allen film, A Rainy Day in New York, will appear in the movie as Sylvie Russo, Dylan’s girlfriend in the early 1960s, per Deadline.

In addition to those major stars, A Complete Unknown will also see performances from the likes of Boyd Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Dan Fogler, Will Harrison, Charlie Tahan, P.J. Byrne, Eli Brown, Nick Pupo, James Austin Johnson, and multiple others.

A Complete Unknown Will Follow A Young Bob Dylan As He Makes A Name For Himself In The New York Folk Scene

Timothee Chalamet in Wonka

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Instead of focusing on the entirety of the folk singer’s life and career, it appears that A Complete Unknown will instead focus on a moment in time or an era of Bob Dylan’s story. According to Deadline, the movie will follow a young Dylan as he travels from Minnesota to New York and becomes a fixture of its folk scene. The movie will culminate with the singer-songwriter’s iconic and controversial performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where he angered legions of fans by “going electric.”

Though it would be cool to see the Nashville Skyline era in Dylan’s career, as well as everything that followed, beggars can’t be choosers.

James Mangold Is Directing A Complete Unknown

Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

James Mangold, who previously directed the critically acclaimed Walk the Line biopic about the troubled life and redemptory path of country music icon Johnny Cash, is spearheading A Complete Unknown. Back in January 2020, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the filmmaker behind movies like Girl, Uninterrupted, Logan, and most recently, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, was working on an untitled musical biographical drama about the transformative folk singer.

The screenplay for the upcoming book-to-screen adaptation, which Mangold wrote with Gangs of New York scribe Jay Cocks, is based on Elijah Wald’s 2015 non-fiction book, Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties

Production Got Underway In March 2024

Timothee Chalamet on the phone at the end of Call Me By Your Name

(Image credit: Sony)

After years of developing, planning, and putting together the all-star cast, James Mangold finally kicked off production on A Complete Unknown in spring 2024. Starting on March 24th, Mangold began posting behind-the-scenes images on his Twitter account that showed everything from a clapboard in front of the famed Hotel Chelsea to shots of Chalamet (in character) walking across the dark New York City street.

We’re not sure about the duration of the shoot or everywhere it will take the cast and crew (hopefully, they go to Newport, Rhode Island, to recreate Dylan’s infamous 1965 performance), but expect to hear more in the coming weeks and months.

Bob Dylan Gave James Mangold Notes On A Complete Unknown’s Script

Bob Dylan performing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965

(Image credit: Columbia)

The movie appears to have Bob Dylan’s blessing, as Mangold has gone on the record to say that the influential musician gave him notes after receiving a script a few years ago. In July 2023, Mangold told the Happy Sad Confused podcast that he “spent several, wonderfully charming, days” with Dylan where he had one-on-one conversations. In fact, the copy of the script that the singer personally annotated is something that Mangold now treasures.

Timothée Chalamet Worked With Austin Butler’s Elvis Team To Prepare For His Portrayal Of Bob Dylan

Austin Butler performing in a pink suit in Elvis.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Though he played Austin Butler’s character’s bitter enemy in Dune: Part Two, which we gave a perfect five-star review, Timothée Chalamet has admitted that he followed in his co-star’s footsteps when preparing for A Complete Unknown. In a sprawling GQ profile on the actor, Chalamet explained that after finishing the second and hopefully not final Dune movie from Denis Villeneuve, he started working with the team Butler used to play the “King of Rock and Roll” in Elvis, stating:

I’ve basically been working with his entire Elvis team for my Dylan prep. There’s a wonderful dialect coach named Tim Monich. Vocal coach named Eric Vetro. Movement coach named Polly Bennett. I just saw the way he committed to it all—and realized I needed to step it up.

Considering Butler won a Golden Globe for his performance in Baz Luhrmann’s mesmerizing biopic, Chalamet appears to have been in good hands during all his prep work.

Expect to hear much more about A Complete Unknown in the coming months, especially as production continues moving forward. But, while we wait, now would be a good time to go back and revisit some of those great Timothée Chalamet performances.

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