What Really Happened to That Timothée Chalamet Ventriloquist Dummy?

Photo: The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon

“Do you remember the Timothée Chalamet puppet?” Jimmy Fallon asked on the first episode of his podcast Strike Force Five, recorded with his fellow late-night hosts. If your brain is feeble like mine and cannot conceive of the events of 2019, you might have forgotten Chris Alan’s uncanny Timothée Chalamet ventriloquist dummy — all sharp jawlines, high cheekbones, and creepy hooded eyes — that went viral online and caught the attention of Fallon. As he tells it, The Tonight Show “bought it for like, I don’t know, way too much money,” and Fallon proceeded to animate the dummy with a French accent in several bits on the show. Inevitably, Fallon says, the real Chalamet caught wind of the whole thing and “wanted to come on the show and he wanted to destroy the puppet. He didn’t like the bit, really.”

Fallon says he entertained the idea. “I go, ‘Well, I gotta ask the guy who we bought it from to let him know,’” he told the pod, referring to Alan, who Fallon then contacted. “I go, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have the Timothée Chalamet puppet destroyed.’ And the guy was really upset. He was like, ‘No.’” And so Chalamet never got the chance to murder his miniature likeness. Or, that’s the story according to Fallon. After the Strike Force Five episode aired, Alan reached out to Vulture to break his silence for the second time. “They paid me a good amount of money for it,” he confirms, but refutes just about everything else Fallon claimed.

Could you walk me through what happened after you spoke to Vulture in 2019, when your Timothée Chalamet dummy first went viral? 

I initially made this dummy for one of my neighbors. She was like 23 at the time, and she loved Timothée Chalamet, and she was relocating for a job to New Zealand. I thought it would be funny to make her a little figure. But then it got to be a little bit too big, too much for her to take to New Zealand.

How did it end up at The Tonight Show?

I had this dummy, and I thought, Well, maybe I could use it to get some sort of publicity for my own business as far as making dummies goes. So I listed it on eBay, which I have done in the past with an Anderson Cooper ventriloquist dummy. I listed it — I think it was on a Sunday. And then I was at work on Monday: All of a sudden I started getting interview requests about this dummy that I’d made. Then I had to take the following day off work to be able to do interviews so I could just get them done in one fell swoop. I think it was that night one of my friends calls me freaking out, saying your dummy was just on The Tonight Show.

I intentionally listed it on eBay for an insane amount of money because I didn’t actually want to sell it. I used Timothée’s birthday, and I listed it for like $125,000 or whatever. I think that’s what got everyone’s attention. A few days later, I checked my Instagram because stupidly at the time I didn’t realize people could send you direct messages on Instagram.

That’s a very dangerous place to look — your Instagram DM requests.

So I saw a few days later that The Tonight Show had reached out to me a few days prior saying, “Hey, you know, we love the figure. Is there a way that we could purchase it?” So we worked out a monetary figure and tickets to the show for myself and my siblings in exchange. They said, “Who would you be interested in seeing if you had a choice?” So I said, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, or Timothée Chalamet, if he’s going to be on the show with the dummy. That would be awesome, right?

Can you can disclose how much The Tonight Show purchased the dummy for?

I’d rather not just because I’ve never disclosed that, and I just don’t feel comfortable doing that, if that’s okay.

That’s fair.

I guess it was the end of November of 2019, I think. I got an email from The Tonight Show saying Timothée Chalamet was going to be on and they would be taping it December 9, which was a Monday. And at that point, they had already used the dummy multiple times.

How did you feel watching your dummy being used in their bits?

Oh, well, it was funny because Jimmy gave him a French accent and, rather than trying to imitate Timothée Chalamet’s voice, he basically created a whole other character, like the French kind of bitchy version of Timothée Chalamet. I thought that was very clever, so I loved it. I didn’t care what they did with it. I was totally fine with whatever. I thought it was really neat.

Once they emailed me and said that he would be on the show and that we’re going to get some tickets for it, I thought, What could I do? It would be funny to surprise Jimmy Fallon, because I was really appreciative of all the things that they did. So I thought, How funny would it be if I created a Jimmy Fallon dummy and, unbeknownst to Jimmy Fallon, contacted Timothée Chalamet’s people and had Timothée Chalamet walk out with the Jimmy Fallon dummy? You know, Jimmy Fallon has been relentless with this dummy.

Did you pitch this idea to anyone else before contacting Timothée’s people, or was this something you thought of alone?

I spoke with my siblings. I spoke with friends. I spoke with my co-workers, and all thought it was really funny and that it would be a really funny bit. I immediately started working on this dummy because I only had a three-week window. It normally takes about three months to make one because you have to sculpt it, mold the head, and make all the parts for it.

In the meantime, I tried to get in touch with Timothée Chalamet’s people because I was like, How the hell am I gonna get in touch with this person’s people? Miraculously, I reached out to someone on his team in Los Angeles who thought it was a really funny idea. It was a man. I forget his name, but I could look it up, and he gave me the phone number for his East Coast representation — his publicist and his management. I then reached out to them. I didn’t get in touch with them until almost two weeks later.

So at this point in the process, would say that the dummy was about 60 percent done?

Yeah, I would say that’s probably a good number. Probably a good 60 percent done. I had the head completely sculpted and had made the mold of it. So I sent a message. They responded and said, “This is awesome. We love this idea.” I then sent them the head sculpt of the Jimmy Fallon dummy just so they could see what I was working on. This was a week and a half before the show, and we were trying to figure out logistics.

Were you working on the dummy with a team?

No, it was just me, and I had a full-time job. So I got the dummy finished, and by this time, I hadn’t heard back about logistics from his team. Then it was the Friday before the Monday, December 9, taping.

I finally then reached out to them on Friday and said, “Hey, you know, no one’s gotten back to me since I sent the picture of the dummy’s head,” and then she reached out later that day and said, “Hey, we’ve decided we’re not going to have time to do it.” And I’m like, Are you kidding me? They were all gung ho about it and then suddenly it’s a no-go.

How did you feel after you got that call?

I was bummed. I wasn’t angry. I was just bummed. You know, I was really looking forward to this, especially because my three siblings and I were all excited to go to New York and do this. There was a gut feeling that I had once their tone changed. It went from, “This is so cool” to “We don’t have time.”

Did it affect the way you felt about Timothée Chalamet?

I know one of your articles that you guys wrote called me a Timothée Chalamet stan or whatever that means. Personally, I think he’s fine. He’s a good actor or whatever. If a movie comes out, and I see it’s a Timothée film, does that make me go see it? No. I did it entirely for my next-door neighbor. So did it affect the way I felt about him? Not really, because I didn’t think much about him to begin with.

My gut feeling told me maybe he just didn’t like it because of the fact that it had gone viral and there was no mention from his camp about this dummy anywhere — like, no Instagram post, nothing.

Was the dummy ever intentionally supposed to make fun of him? [Representatives for Chalamet did not respond to Vulture’s request for comment.]

Not at all. No, my dummies are always just like kind of fun little caricatures. I’ve done them of Melissa McCarthy, Anderson Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, and Drew Barrymore. Andy Cohen has one in his office. Nine out of ten times, they love them. Celebrities tend to like to see pictures of themselves and stuff like that.

Take me back to the present and talk me through how you learned about Timothée disliking the dummy on the Strike Force Five podcast. Your friend sent you the podcast, right?

I didn’t know anything until I actually sat there and listened to it. And then about 30 minutes into it, or a little more than that, Jimmy Fallon brings up the dummy and says that, I guess, Timothée Chalamet wanted to destroy it on the show, but that I would not allow it and that I was really upset about it or something very much to that effect. That was the first I actually heard him say that Timothée didn’t like the bits.

He went on to say that they didn’t destroy it because they got in contact with me, which they did not do.

You’re saying that Jimmy Fallon’s team never reached out to you about this situation? [Representatives for Fallon declined to comment on this story.]


And this is the first time you’re hearing about it, correct?

Absolutely, and all correspondence that I had with them was through Instagram and email — Instagram in the beginning, when we worked out the deal for them to purchase it. They even came to my house to pick it up. They had someone from their prop department drive from New York to my home in Pennsylvania. All communication that we’ve ever had is in writing; we never spoke on the phone.

It made me sad because I felt like it sort of made me look like the bad guy, like I was some diva who couldn’t stand to see my work destroyed. I had the mold for it, and I had already made a duplicate of it for myself. I had a copy of it. They paid me a good amount of money for it. I couldn’t care less what they did with it at that point.

If you go on Google and just type in “Who created the Timothée Chalamet puppet?” or “Who created the Timothée Chalamet ventriloquist dummy?,” the very first thing that pops up is my name. That’s where I have a problem with it. It would be very easy and has been very easy for people to reach out to me.

Do you have any other copies of the dummy other than the one you made for yourself?

No. And I wouldn’t sell another one.

Why wouldn’t you?

It was meant to be a one-off, and when it’s a one-off, they take a lot of work because I make a head mold and — this is going to be confusing — but I make just a head mold. I don’t make a separate jaw mold. So, in order to make additional ones, I have to recut a jaw and then I have to rebuild the teeth and the tongue and the sides, and there’s a lot more work involved. It just wouldn’t be worth it financially for me to make another one to sell. I’ve had a lot of people ask to buy one, and I just wouldn’t do it. Plus I don’t feel comfortable when it’s not my likeness.

How do you feel about Jimmy Fallon now?

I think he just seems phony. It’s just really soured me to the industry in general. I haven’t made a celebrity figure in quite some time. The whole thing with the Chalamet thing really put a sour taste in my mouth.

Are you working on anything fun at this point?

Ironically, I did a John Oliver dummy, which is probably my favorite dummy that I’ve ever done just because I love John Oliver. And ironically, you know, he was part of that podcast. I don’t think he’s ever seen it.

Do you want to pitch your dummy to John Oliver right now?

Tell him there’s a John Oliver dummy available, and he’s more than welcome to it if he’d like that. I actually had it for two years.

John Oliver did an extra thing last summer with warped dolls washing up on a beach, and they ended up auctioning them for charity because it was so funny. So I took the mold that I made of John Oliver, and I made another, separate head and just beat the crap out of it and made it look like it was warped and worn from the beach and everything. I wanted to put it on the beach and take a picture of it and tag him, saying it “washed up on shore.”

I feel like John Oliver is self-deprecating enough that he’ll have a really good time with it.

I don’t know what went wrong with the Timothée Chalamet one.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What Really Happened to That Timothée Ventriloquist Dummy?