EXCLUSIVE: Natalie Portman, Nicholas Hoult and Thandie Newton have boarded the already-starry cast of Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s English-language debut The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan. The trio join the previously announced Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Michael Gambon, Bella Thorne, Chris Zylka and Emily Hampshire. It is a measure of Dolan’s pulling power with talent that the 26-year-old has assembled such an impressive lineup.
The film takes place in the early 2000s and centers on the tribulations of John F Donovan (Harington), an American TV star in his late 20s, and his correspondence with Rupert Turner, a young actor-to-be living with his mother in England. Their lives take dramatic turns when the existence of their pen pal relationship is publicly exposed, eliciting the most ill-founded assumptions and sending Donovan in a vertical downfall. A decade later, the young actor recollects his relationship with his past idol over the course of an interview.
Lyse Lafontaine of Lyla Films (Laurence Anyways), Dolan and Nancy Grant of Sons of Manual (Mommy, Tom At The Farm, I Killed My Mother) are producing with exec producer Joe Iacono.
eOne’s boutique arm Seville International is handling international sales of the film with the exception of France, where the producers are jointly handling the rights with Seville, and in the U.S., where the film is being jointly handled by CAA. eOne and Les Films Séville will directly distribute throughout Canada and Québec. Production is set to begin the spring.
It is a measure of Dolan’s prolific nature — he’s already made six features not to mention directing Adele’s blockbuster video Hello — that Seville is also handling sales at Berlin on Dolan’s French-language It’s Only the End of the World, starring Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux. That project is based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce of the same name. After 12 years of absence, a writer goes back to his hometown, planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, fits and feuds unfold, fuelled by loneliness and doubt, while all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen, and love.
Portman is coming off her directorial debut A Tale Of Love And Darkness. She has Jacqueline Bouvier/Kennedy/Onassis biopic Jackie in the pipelines, as well as Alex Garland’s eagerly-anticipated Annihilation. Hoult has also had a stellar year, rocking a scene-stealing performance in Mad Max: Fury Road. He has Iraq drama Sand Castle in the pipelines opposite Henry Cavill, Rebel in the Rye as well as X-Men: Apocalypse. Newton will next be seen in HBO’s reputedly steamy re-imagining of Michael Crichton’s classic Westworld
Xavier Dolan is repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment. Portman is repped by CAA and Law Offices of George Sheanshang. Newton is repped by WME. Hoult is represented by UTA, 42 and Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.