Xavier Dolan talks about ‘The Death and Life of John F. Donovan’

Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan, who have won the Grand prix at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest feature film It’s Only The End of the World – considered the second-highest honour of the festival – talks about his next project The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.

The director presented the film in Cannes a few days ago, you can find more info about it here translation help please! and watch a short video of the presentation here. Our gallery was also updated with posters and pictures from that event. Filming begins this summer.

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan reportedly tells the story of American movie star, who begins a correspondence with an 11-year-old English actor that becomes public and begins to destroy his career and life due to the assumptions and insinuations of the Hollywood press. The film reportedly explores the hardships of fame and hurdles of the movie business through the lives of both actors and reflects on the issue of identity and diversity in Hollywood over the past decade.

You’re next film, The Death and Life of John F Donovan, will be both your first English-language film and the first shot in the U.S.. How is it coming along and what has the experience been like so far?

It’s all very exciting. We are in prep and start shooting in Montreal on July 9th for 40 days. Then, Prague and London in September and October, and New York for a split-second before Thanksgiving. So it’s mostly shot outside of the US. But it’s an American story, to be precise. So far, it’s been great, but we have a huge cast, not only in terms of notoriety, but in terms of the number of actors flying in and out of our set. It’s just very challenging to orchestrate all this, and still not make accommodating choices that compromise the film artistically or narratively speaking. But we’re doing good, I think. It’s been great with all the cast, and I’m excited about working with each of them.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Indiewire recently chatted with Dolan via email [as per his request, we’ve left the answers unedited] about where he sees his career headed, completely rewriting his “Donovan” script after it was torn to shreds by a producer, and why after he’s finished directing that film this summer he’s vowed to put his acting career first.

As the scale of your movies gets bigger, has it changed the way you make films?

Not really. They’re still intimate… hopefully, honest, and actor-driven, hair-crazy… The scale and size change, but the approach will always be personal. Working with Jessica Chastain, Susan [Sarandon] and Kit [Harrington] and everyone else on “Donovan” will be incredibly stimulating. But the thing is, to me, from film to film, the attitude stays the same, and the passion too. What matters isn’t fame or reputation, it’s the fact that you get to work with artists who share the same excitement for precision as you. So that never changes.

What does change are the mistakes you make, because you try not to idiotically repeat them. Some have been so egregious, so annoying that you can’t possibly forget about them and just do it again the same way. Your way of seeing style and storytelling changes. The more I go, the more it’s about characters and the narrative – the colours, the aesthetics… picking up a fabric, working on a fill light with [cinematographer] André [Turpin], choosing one of these kitsch songs people think is entirely characteristic of who I am and what I do… these are all inherent actions that we almost organically perform.

What’s much more complex is making decisions when it comes to… who is a character looking up to? Who is it looking down on? Is this one line necessary? Is this the right lens for this particular scene? Is the motion indispensable here or are we overshadowing the actors? How many shots do we really need here? Are we cheap because of schedule, or are we too generous because we are self-indulgent? The fact a movie looks this or that way doesn’t mean we haven’t asked ourselves the real questions.

“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” has been pushed a couple of times, which in the world of bigger movies with an all-star cast is completely normal. Has this been frustrating for you, or are you looking to take more time between projects?

It’s not been frustrating. It’s been a blessing. There always is a reason to things happening or not. You make your own fate in the proportions that you can, but some things are out of your control. In the meantime, I got to shoot “It’s Only the End of the World” because of Donovan being pushed back. And when I come to think of it, I was not ready to shoot “Donovan” before, and the script wasn’t ready either.

Last summer, I went to New York to meet with a producer that I love. He told me he had notes for me, and that I would perhaps dislike hearing them, but that he didn’t want to spare me. I said, fine. I sat in front of him, and for four consecutive hours, I listened to him question or dismiss almost every aspect of the film, from skin to core, doubting the actual point of the film itself. It was great, honestly. When no one wants a movie, there is a reason. We got back to work with Jacob Tierney, my friend and co-writer, and rewrote the entire thing. The movie was picked up two or three weeks later. All the cast agrees that this version has nothing to do with the one before. So it was meant to be that way.

Source: Indiewire

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