Over the years when a new upstart artist such as a singer, athlete, or actor comes along that is taking the world by storm the inevitable comparisons come with it. For example, in the case of M. Night Shyamalan, when he broke out with The Sixth Sense and then Unbreakable, people automatically started comparing him to two of the great directors of the last century. Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg were linked to Shyamalan. He was a suspense director who had a way with story and characters, qualities with which the aforementioned greats were associated. Now two young actors have come along that have garnered fame and acclaim. Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges are two young men that people are talking about. Do they deserve the comparisons to De Niro and Pacino,though? That is the question that remains to be seen.
Obviously De Niro and Pacino have had great careers over the past 40 or 50 years, so it’s hard to make comparisons. So for the sake of argument I will only compare these two young actors to De Niro and Pacino for the length of time they have been in the limelight.
Let’s start with Chalamet. In his young career, he has been nominated for one Academy Award for his role as Elio Perlman in Call Me by Your Name in 2017. That was a breakout year for Chalamet. He also had smaller roles in Lady Bird and Hostiles. 2018 has been a good follow up or sophomore year if you will. With roles in Hot Summer Nights, in which he portrayed a drug dealer in Cape Cod, and Beautiful Boy, in which he portrayed a young man who was addicted to drugs. 2014 and 2015 were two years were Chalamet had smaller parts in Interstellar, Love the Coopers and Men, Women and Children. These first few year have been promising, but the upside is through the roof for Chalamet. Another possible Oscar nomination in his future with the Golden Globe and SAG nods he got for Beautiful Boy this year. He also stars in a remake of Little Women in 2019.
Now let’s talk about Lucas Hedges. Hedges came out of the blocks fast with his Academy Award nomination for portraying the son of a grieving father in Manchester by the Sea in 2016. In 2017, he had smaller roles in Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. However 2018 is the breakout year for Hedges, with roles in three critically acclaimed films. Jonah Hill’s directorial debut mid90’s, Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, and his father’s Ben Is Back. Small roles in a couple Wes Anderson films, Dan In Real Life, Zero Theorem, and Kill the Messenger in 2012 through 2014 help give his career credibility. All of these roles are distinctly different, but show Hedges range as an actor. Lucas is hoping to earn another Oscar nomination with his Golden Globe nominated turn in Boy Erased. Just like Chalamet, Hedges has as upside that is through the roof.
Now let’s compare Robert De Niro’s career the first three years or so. In 1973, he had roles in Mean Streets, directed by Martin Scorsese, and Bang the Drum Slowly, in which he portrayed a baseball catcher with cancer. The former would be the beginning of a beautiful collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro. In 1974, he would portray the younger version of Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II for Francis Ford Coppola. De Niro would win his first of two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. In 1974, he would star in what is arguably one of his greatest roles to date: Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.
Pacino started out a little bit before Deniro so the years don’t add up like they do for Chalamet and Hedges. Pacino started out with the role of his lifetime in 1972, when he portrayed Michael Corleone in The Godfather, and again in 1974 in the Godfather Part II. He also starred as a heroin addict in Panic in Needle Park in 1971. Garnering and Academy Award nomination for The Godfather was just the first of many accolades he would receive. In 1973 he would get his first lead Academy Award nomination for portraying Frank Serpico in Serpico.
Chalamet and Hedges have garnered some acclaim and Academy Award nominations for Call Me By Your Name and Manchester By the Sea. Both are having good years this year. Building on this year is the key to growing as actors and in the public eye as celebrities. De Niro and Pacino acted in films that have garnered awards and fame for them both during the early 1970’s. The Godfather films and Taxi Driver are among my favorite films of all time and I’m not the only one that feels this way. Many years have given us time to appreciate these films and filmmakers who made them. Chalamet and Hedges haven’t had that time or years to show their worth yet. I’m sure they both will, though. Until then, De Niro and Pacino will remain in a league of their own. Right now, you can’t compare the careers of Chalamet and Hedges to that of De Niro and Pacino.
Dan Skip Allen