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Bob Dylan Gave James Mangold Notes on Upcoming Biopic

Timothée Chalamet plays Dylan in the film, dubbed A Complete Unknown

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bob dylan biopic notes james mangold timothée chalamet
Bob Dylan, photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Image

    It’s always hard to trust that a biopic will do its subject justice, but in the case of James Mangold’s upcoming film about Bob Dylan, it looks like we’re in good hands. Mangold told IndieWire that the iconic singer-songwriter gave the director notes for his script for A Complete Unknown, starring Timothée Chalamet as Dylan.

    “I’ve spent several, wonderfully charming, days in his company, just one-on-one, talking to him,” Mangold said of Dylan. “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’ [Mangold’s 1997 feature].”

    It’s also assuring that A Complete Unknown will only depict a few years in Dylan’s life, rather than trying to cram his full story into a two-hour movie. According to Mangold, “It’s not really a Bob Dylan biopic.”

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    “The reason Bob has been so supportive of us making it, is it’s about, as in all cases I think of the best true-life movies, are never cradle to grave, but they’re about a very specific moment,” the director explained. “In this case, it might sound Altman-esque, but 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 continued, “And 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, and this wanderer who comes in from Minnesota with a fresh name and a fresh outlook on life, becomes a star, signs to the biggest record company in the world within a year, and three years later, has record sales rivaling The Beatles.”

    In addition to Chalamet, A Complete Unknown will feature Monica Barbaro as Joan Baez, Elle Fanning as Sylvie Russo, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Pete Seeger. What’s more, Chalamet will do his own singing when he portrays the uniquely voiced artist. The film is set to begin production this August.

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    Mangold’s last film was June’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. As for Dylan, he released the live album Shadow Kingdom back in April.

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