EXCLUSIVE: Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan has cast Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington opposite Jessica Chastain in his Hollywood-set English language debut, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which writer-director Dolan is prepping for an international spring shoot. Harington will play the titular American movie star, whose correspondence with an 11-year-old actor living with his mother in England is exposed, prompting ill-founded assumptions that begin to destroy his life and career.
Chastain is attached to play the editrix of celebrity-dishing magazine The Gossip, who targets Donovan as his pen pal relationship is exposed in the public eye. The Oscar-nominated actress has been a vocal supporter of Dolan’s since seeing his Spirit Award-nominated Cannes psychodrama Mommy, which nabbed him a shared Jury Prize award with Jean-Luc Godard in May. (Mommy opens stateside on January 23 via Roadside Attractions and is Canada’s Best Foreign Oscar entry.) Dolan sent Chastain the John F. Donovan script after she Tweeted about Mommy and cast her as the “evil” villain of the satirical drama.
At the age of 25, Dolan’s already made five features in five years (I Killed My Mother, Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways, Tom At The Farm, Mommy). The multihyphenate says that while John F. Donovan isn’t intended as a direct jab at the Hollywood machine, his debut English feature explores the impact of the industry’s modern age, mass-media manipulation, and the hardships of fame on artists everywhere. Dolan will produce for Sons of Manual with Lyse Lafontaine of Lyla Films, with a shoot planned for New York, Montreal, Miami, and London.
“What I’m interested in is how your career choices can affect your private life, romantically, or with your mom, your relatives, your friends, your hometown, and how media manipulates information – not newspapers or blogs, but the magazines that people impulse-buy that tell you what’s hot, and who’s not,” he said. “I’m thinking of how this culture has transformed the movies that we make and stories we tell and how artists are free – or not – to be themselves.”
English thesp Harington starred on the London stage in the Olivier-winning West End production of War Horse before making his screen debut in 2012’s Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. In a few short years he’s racked up film credits in Pompeii, How To Train Your Dragon 2, the upcoming Testament of Youth opposite Hayley Atwell and Alicia Vikander, spy pic Spooks: The Greater Good, and Universal’s 2015 fantasy actioner Seventh Son. Harington will also reprise his role as Jon Snow on the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones next spring. He’s repped by CAA, United Agents in the UK, and Parseghian Planco.
Chastain’s busy Oscar season has her currently in theaters in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year. The CAA client also stars in Miss Julie and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and has Ridley Scott’s The Martian and Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak upcoming.
Dolan is repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment. CAA is handling domestic rights.