Following the star-studded English-language title ‘The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,’ the prolific French Canadian auteur is returning to his roots with an intimate drama set in Quebec.
His latest feature hasn’t even premiered yet, but French Canadian art-house darling Xavier Dolan is already preparing his next project.
Dolan is currently in the last stages of post-production on his English-language debut, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which will premiere sometime later this year. The drama, about the secret correspondence between a Hollywood TV actor (Kit Harrington) and a young fan (Jacob Tremblay), has a starry cast that also includes Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Jessica Chastain.
Including Donovan, the actor and writer-director, who will turn 29 in March, has made a staggering seven films since he debuted his first feature, I Killed My Mother, in Cannes nine years ago.
He has already lined up his next project for a possible premiere in 2019 as well: Matt & Max, a French-language drama that will focus on friends in their late 20s.
After the 2016 Cannes Grand Prix winner It’s Only the End of the World, which featured an all-French cast that included Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, and the English-language Donovan, the multi-hyphenate is returning home for his eighth feature. Matt & Max will be shot in his native Quebec with French Canadian actors who are also Dolan’s friends, which seems apt given that friendship is one of its major themes.
No doubt the most welcome news for his fans is the fact he hopes to cast his muse, Anne Dorval — who played the iconic maternal characters in both Mommy and I Killed My Mother — in the role of Max’s mother. Dolan himself will play Max.
“My desire to talk about homosexuality and how we live with it, how we see it, how we label it, how we organize it as a society” was part of the idea behind Donovan, the director tells THR. But finally, the film became “more of an homage to the family dramas of the ’90s rather than a profound reflection on what it is to be gay,” so he felt the need to tackle the subject more directly in his new film.
At the same time, he was confronted with a recent crop of high-quality LGBTQ films, including Boy Erased, a conversion-therapy drama written and directed by Joel Edgerton that stars Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, as well as Dolan. The film will be released in the U.S. by Focus Features in September.
“This year I’ve been exposed to films that I felt were so brave and so authentic in their writing and how they talked about queer love,” explains Dolan, who suggests that some of his previous films, like Mommy, could be perceived as “coy” about the sexuality of the characters. “I have felt the need to explore characters that weren’t necessarily gay,” he says, but “when I read Boy Erased, it touched my heart. I was getting tattooed at the time, and it just took all the pain away. It made me want to go back to writing a script about characters who are gay.”
The desire to write was so strong, he says, that part of the Matt & Max screenplay was actually written while Dolan was shooting Boy Erased in Atlanta last September. “I’ve been writing about kids and adolescents,” he adds, but lately “I have been confronted with such mature material, like Boy Erased, Call Me by Your Name and God’s Own Country, and that gave me the desire to talk about homosexuality from an adult — and not a post-adolescent — point of view, and to talk about my generation and my friends and friendships. It made me want to write about two best friends falling in love who had never realized they could have a preference for men. I want to talk about true friendship and true love.”
The Matt & Max screenplay was finalized earlier this month, and Dolan plans to shoot the film in the fall. As for what to expect, the director suggests that “it would be a combination of [Dolan’s 2013 release] Tom at the Farm, aesthetically, and Mommy in terms of energy and spirit.”