The film is based on a pair of memoirs, Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by journalist and author David Sheff (played by Carell), as well as Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by David’s son Nic (played by Chalamet), a recovering meth addict. The drama doesn’t shy away from showing just how complicated addiction and the recovery process can be, as well as the financial and mental toll it takes on the family members who try to support a loved one struggling with the disease.
Beautiful Boy is a particularly timely film, as drug overdoses killed a record 72,000 Americans last year, and is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. While substance abuse is a nationwide issue, it’s a topic that’s especially relevant to Carell’s home state of Massachusetts, which has one of the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths in the country.
Steve Carell talks Beautiful Boy and America's struggle with drug addiction
During a red carpet event for Beautiful Boy in Boston on Thursday, Carell told Metro that he felt it was important to show the film in the Bay State due to its struggles with the opioid crisis. The actor also praised Sen. Ed Markey, who also attended the screening, for his efforts in leading the charge on the issue.
“I have to applaud Sen. Markey for rallying behind this,” Carell said. “I know the opioid crisis is one of his big agendas and it’s terrifying to see what’s happening across the country.”
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“It’s an epidemic,” he added. “I think, even in a small way, a film like this can get some awareness out there.”
In the film, Chalamet’s Nic seems to be trapped in a constant cycle of relapsing, despite making so many strides and even staying clean for more than a year at one point. While Carell admitted that he didn’t know a lot about methamphetamines going into the project, he was surprised to learn about how much the drug actually “alters your brain chemistry” and “reduces your capacity for rational thought.”
“It makes it that much more difficult to get out of the throws of it,” Carell said. “It’s such an insidious drug – as they all are – but meth is especially so.”
In addition to its portrayal of an addict’s struggle with recovery, Carell felt that it was important for Beautiful Boy to show audiences an intimate look at how addiction isn’t just a singular disease. It ravages the lives of an addict’s family and friends as well.
“I think it is important to get a balance of both sides,” Carell said. “It’s destroying a lot of people at the same time.”