Musical producer

Canadian director and producer Jean-Marc Vallée has died at 58

Jean-Marc Vallée was almost ready to give up cinema before a 2005 project changed the course of his career, recalls a colleague a few days after the death of the Quebec director and producer.

Vallée, who went on to make a series of high-profile films and series after his “CRAZY” escape – winning an Emmy for the HBO hit series “Big Little Lies” and multiple nominations for the 2013 drama “Dallas Buyers Club” – died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec over the weekend, his representative Bumble Ward said on Sunday.

He was 58 years old.

Canadian producer Pierre Even, who worked with Vallée on two projects including “CRAZY,” said the “difficult shooting” of the 2005 film made the filmmaker wonder if he would ever make another film.

“We didn’t have enough money, we had trouble doing everything we needed to do and Jean-Marc was like: ‘Pierre, you don’t understand, this is going to be my last film,” Even said on Monday. a telephone interview from Montreal.

“And I was like, ‘I don’t know if’ CRAZY ‘is going to be good or not … but I’m sure of one thing: you’re going to make other movies.”

Vallée wrote, directed and co-produced the Quebec drama on coming of age about a young gay man struggling with homophobia in the 1960s and 1970s.

The film, which generated $ 6 million in box office receipts in Quebec alone, was Vallée’s first feature film to be both written and directed by him.

Even Vallée, who had dreamed of creating the project for years, put “enormous” pressure on herself to make it work. When they saw the reception for the film’s Montreal premiere, Even said they knew they had done “something special”.

“It was always a movie about someone who feels different and wants to fit in, and it’s a universal theme. But we were surprised at how much audiences took the film and (it) became their story, ”Even said.

“During the premiere… people came out of the theater in tears saying ‘this is my life’.”

Even said Vallée was already a successful director in Canadian film circles, but “CRAZY” made him a worldwide name as he was screened at other festivals.

He said Los Angeles agents and production companies were calling Vallée soon, wanting to meet with him and discuss potential projects.

“I think it made people realize not only that he was a good director, but that he could tell a story that people would want to see that would appeal to audiences all over the world,” Even said.

Vallée, acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking, has directed stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, and Jake Gyllenhaal for the past decade.

He directed Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria” in 2009 and became an even more sought-after name in Hollywood after “Dallas Buyers Club,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, won six Oscar nominations, including Best movie.

Production partner Nathan Ross said in a statement that Vallée “stands for creativity, authenticity and trying things differently.”

“He was a real artist and a generous and loving guy. Everyone who worked with him couldn’t help but see the talent and vision he possessed, ”the statement read. “He was a friend, a creative partner and an older brother to me.

“The maestro will be sorely missed, but it is heartwarming to know that his magnificent style and hard-hitting work that he shared with the world will continue to live on.”

Vallée was born in Montreal and studied cinema at Collège Ahuntsic and at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

He received the Directors Guild of America Award and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directoring in 2017 for the HBO limited series “Big Little Lies”, which he also produced by management. The series has won eight Emmys and four Golden Globes in total.

He also directed and produced the HBO limited series “Sharp Objects” which was nominated for eight Emmy Awards.

HBO called Vallée a “brilliant and fiercely devoted filmmaker” in a statement.

“A truly phenomenal talent who has imbued every scene with a deeply visceral and emotional truth,” the statement read. “He was also an extremely caring man who invested himself fully alongside each actor he directed.”

Even said that Vallée demanded a lot from those who worked with him, but he was also very loyal, often calling on Quebec teams to work on other projects. He has also edited many of his projects at his home in Montreal, building a state-of-the-art editing suite in his home.

“He was so passionate,” Even said, adding that the Vallée crews had to work hard to achieve his vision. “But even if he asks for the moon, let’s give him the moon because we know it’s going to be great.”

Gavin Fernandes, a sound mixer in Montreal who has worked with Vallée on a number of projects including “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Big Little Lies”, said the filmmaker was “on another level of filmmaking” .

Fernandes admired Vallée’s musical ear, which often led him to devote a large part of his budget to securing the musical rights of his films rather than relying on original scores.

Vallée was “hands-on” in his editing approach, Fernandes recalls, and while the team didn’t always agree with some of his decisions at the time, they always seemed to work in the end.

“There were times when we would literally sit down and say, are we sure? And he was like ‘trust me’, ”Fernandes said.

“And the show came out and the reviews came in, and inevitably the thing we doubted turned out to be a really cool thing.”

Celebrities took to social media to honor Vallée on Monday.

Canadian actor Jay Baruchel said on Twitter that Vallée was “a deeply gifted artist whose passions and efforts have driven the medium of film forward.”

Witherspoon posted a photo of her and Vallée on Instagram with the caption, “My heart is broken. My friend. I love you.”

Leto also shared a photo of himself and Vallée on the app, crediting him for changing his life “with a beautiful movie called Dallas Buyers Club.”

Vallée is survived by his sons, Alex and Émile, and his brothers and sisters Marie-Josée Vallée, Stéphane Tousignant and Gérald Vallée.

Even said that Vallée’s impact on Canadian cinema will continue to be felt for years to come.

“Jean-Marc had such a personal way of filming that it’s not something you can copy,” he said. “There is only one Jean-Marc Vallée and when you watch ‘Big Little Lies’ or ‘Sharp Objects’ or ‘CRAZY’ or ‘Café de Flore’ or ‘Wild’, you’ll see it’s a movie by Jean-Marc Vallée.

“And that quality of cinematic production… it’s so rare and so precious.”

– With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 27, 2021.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Gavin Fernandes.