Canadian writer and director Xavier Dolan (Mommy) has been making films for most of his life. All 26 years of it. His young age coupled with the fact that his films have exclusively been made in French makes the casting of his next film all the more impressive. Titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Dolan has lined up a star-studded cast that includes Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, and Michael Gambon. But just when you thought Dolan couldn’t get any luckier, Deadline has learned that Natalie Portman, Nicholas Hoult, and Thandie Newton (Crash) are joining the ensemble.
Dolan has been doing steady work for the past few years (including directing Adele’s 1-billion-plus viewed music video for “Hello“), but he broke out in a big way with the high praise that accompanied his 2014 film Mommy. He has demonstrated he can deliver craftsmanship to challenging material. And it would appear this group of actors took notice of that, as the plot of The Death and Life of John F. Donovan certainly seems to offer a challenge.
Set in the early 2000s, the film follows John F. Donovan (Harington), a television actor who begins a pen-pal relationship with Rupert Turner, a young fan living in England. When a gossip columnist (Chastain) reveals this correspondence, Donovan’s life enters “a vertical downfall” due to “ill-founded assumptions.” In an interview ten years after those events, the child-actor revisits the relationship.
Well it certainly sounds, if not challenging then definitely upsetting. Besides Harington in the role of the actor and Chastain as the gossip columnist, Susan Sarandon is said to be Donovan’s mother, while Kathy Bates serves as his manager. No word yet on who the other actors will portray. Perhaps Portman will play child-actor Rupert’s mother, and Hoult will play the grown-up version of him. All in all it sounds like a very intriguing project, one that may have you wanting to check out Dolan’s previous outputs.
Speaking of, Dolan is going from one great cast to another. Following this film will be French-language film It’s Only The End of the World, featuring Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, and Lea Seydoux. Lucky for us, Dolan isn’t moving on from his French roots quite yet.