“My life with John F. Donovan” of Dolan lands in Quebec after the turbulence

Actor and director Xavier Dolan has been worshiping film stars such as Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates and Susan Sarandon since childhood.
As an adult, he had the opportunity to direct them to a film set.

Playing in Quebec from Friday, “My life with John F. Donovan” is centered on a correspondence that has lasted for years between a young boy and a famous actor, who ends up changing their trajectories.

To tell this edifying story about the constraints of fame, Xavier Dolan was able to obtain the services of several of his childhood idols, including the Oscar-winning trio Portman, Bates and Sarandon.


The film, however, did not have a relaxing journey.

Backed by a budget of $ 35 million and leading actors, Xavier Dolan’s first foray into English-language cinema was hampered by production problems: an extended editing process that led to the excision of the actress star Jessica Chastain; a last-minute withdrawal from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival; and difficulty getting an exit to North America (no date has yet been set in the United States).

The first version of “My life with John F. Donovan” had a duration of more than four hours, according to Xavier Dolan, who spent two years in an editing room to bring the film back to a feature film.

“I think the reason he’s been in post-production so long is that I wanted to pay tribute to many movies (and TV shows) that were important to me as a child,” said the filmmaker.

“I wanted to include all those cherished children from my childhood, which became difficult when I had to make choices.”

Despite all her indecision, Natalie Portman argued that Xavier Dolan was rigorous in his attention to detail, making the changes as painstaking as the way a printman opened a newspaper.

Natalie Portman said that this meticulousness helped her refine her performance as the mother of a budding young actor, played by Jacob Tremblay, who established a correspondent relationship with television star John F. Donovan.

“It was amazing to see this person much younger than me have such a sharp vision of how he wants to create this world,” said Natalie Portman about the thirty-year-old director, whose acclaimed films include “Mommy” in 2014 and “I killed my mother” in 2009.

“Game of Thrones” star Kit Harrington, who plays the main character of the film, said Xavier Dolan’s dedication motivated him to push his limits as an actor. All the same, while the filming was stretching, Kit Harrington admitted that Xavier Dolan’s tireless work could sometimes be “frustrating”.

Kit Harrington recalls a conversation with Xavier Dolan after filming a long trailer of his character’s supernatural drama, “Hellsome High”.

“(I told him):” It’s a whole day of filming, Xavier. I know you’ll never use it, “he recalled. “He said,” Yes, but I need it. “(And I said)” But no you do not need it! You really do not need it! I could have gone home three weeks ago. ”

“I think in a way it’s his way of working. He has a great melting pot of ideas, which he dumps and then sorts almost like pieces of a puzzle. ”

At the heart of the film is an initiatory journey, said Xavier Dolan, who, in a way, parallels his own trajectory, from the child actor to the realization, through the direction of the stars who shaped his cultural education.

“My life with John F. Donovan” is playing Friday in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and across Quebec.

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