See Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman in Xavier Dolan’s ‘Death & Life of John F. Donovan’
Any fan of French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has kept a close eye on his upcoming English-language debut, The Death & Life of John F. Donovan. The two-time Cannes Jury Prize winning filmmaker has been working on the project for over a year now, and finally today brings the first official synopsis, character details, and first official photos.
Dolan won the Cannes Queer Palm in 2012 for Laurence Anyways and quickly skyrocketed to fame with 2014’s Mommy and for directing Adele‘s “Hello” music video. The Death & Life of John F. Donovan has a stacked cast including Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Jacob Tremblay, and Thandie Newton, which should ensure mainstream of audiences will know Dolan’s name once it hits theaters. Collider visited the film’s set in London and returned with a slew of new details and behind the scenes first looks. After you take a look at some of those below, check out the first official synopsis:
A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces the written correspondence he once shared with the former, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives.
The film stars Harington as the titular American TV actor, jumping between 2006 when he was the star of a teen series and corresponding with a young fan, Rupert Turner (Tremblay), and to present day to follow the grown up Rupert (played by Ben Schnetzer, replacing the previously cast Nicholas Hoult). Portman plays Rupert’s mother, and as any Dolan fan could guess, this movie will primarily focus on a mother-son relationship.
There’s a few other noticeable connections to Dolan’s previous work. While Laurence Anyways spanned multiple decades as the titular character came out as transgender and transitioned, John F. Donovan will also span a decade. In the present day, the older Rupert reminiscences on the death of the TV actor and discusses their relationship in an interview with a journalist (Thandie Newton), a similar framing device Dolan used in his Queer Palm winner. The series of photos Collider debuted also visually recall that film, which makes me wonder if Dolan plans to make John F. Donovan the film he hoped Laurence Anyways would be. The filmmaker hasn’t been shy about his issues with that movie, and told me back in 2015 of the “many mistakes“ he made in that film.
In the film Sarandon plays Grace Donovan, the mother of Harington’s character, Bates is his manager Barbara Haggermaker, and most excitingly, Chastain plays a bit if a villainous role. Chastain is a gossip columnist who finds the letters between John and Rupert, and Bella Thorne is her assistant. “It’s the story of a child who worships an actor,” Dolan told the website. “Kit’s the fictional hero, and my movie and [Hellsome, the fictional TV show] is built around specific tropes of American cinema, such as a superhero and a villain.”
The film has yet to get a release date, and we know it won’t be making it’s way to Cannes any time soon. Fingers crossed it shows up on the festival circuit this fall.