The first batch of photos from acclaimed young French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s first English-language feature, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” have gone online in a new feature story over at Collider.
Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Thandie Newton, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Bella Thorne, Sarah Gadon, Jacob Tremblay, and Ben Schnetzer star in the production which was shot on 65mm film stock and in short bursts over a year-and-a-half due to actor availability issues.
The gaps between shoots allowed the “Mommy,” “Tom at the Farm” and “Laurence Anyways” helmer to get to work on editing. Dolan says the film will tackle that most common theme to him – mother-son relationships – but will also be crafted using superhero story structure.
The contemporary story is set a decade after the death of John Donovan (Harington), an American supernatural teen drama series star forced to hide his true sexuality for his career. Dolan has gone as far as creating an opening credits sequence for the “Roswell”-esque show titled “Hellsome High”.
In the story, a young actor named Rupert Turner (Schnetzer) gives an interview reminiscing the written correspondence he once shared when he was eleven years old (Tremblay) with the late star, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives.
Chastain plays gossip columnist Moira McAllister-King who is effectively the villain of the piece, Dolan describing her as “sheerly evil”. Portman is Rupert’s mother Sam, a failed actress who doesn’t want her son to get into the business.
Thorne plays Moira’s personal assistant, Sarandon plays Donovan’s mother Grace, Newton is journalist Audrey Newhouse who is giving the interview, and Gadon is Donovan’s series co-star Liz Jones.
Dolan says the film will also deal with a problem that social media is now bringing to the fore: “Social media facilitates hatred, violence, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and all of that. That is, in my opinion, what it truly facilitates. It’s becoming more and more difficult to express yourself without risking offending people, for your choices, your behaviors to be mistaken and misinterpreted.”
“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” currently does not have a release date. Head over to Collider for more details and photos. Here’s just a sampling of some of the pics posted.