Xavier Dolan’s much-anticipated first foray into English-language filmmaking, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” has commenced production in the award-winning filmmaker’s native Montreal. Dolan, who recently picked up a Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his “It’s Only the End of the World,” first announced the film back in 2014. The film will also shoot in Prague, the UK and New York.
The film features a stellar ensemble cast, including Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Ben Schnetzer, Michael Gambon, Bella Thorne, Thandie Newton, Chris Zylka and Emily Hampshire, and promises to investigate some hard truths about fame, friendship and memory.
Although Nicholas Hoult was originally announced to star in the film back in February, his name does not appear on this list. Instead, another up-and-coming young actor, “Goat” and “Snowden” star Ben Schnetzer, does, and with a healthy spot on the official cast listing that puts him above co-stars like Michael Gambon and Thandie Newtown. (Interestingly enough, another previously announced cast member, Taylor Kitsch, who joined the film in November of last year, is also not on this list.)
Seville International has confirmed to IndieWire that Schnetzer will star in the film in the role first filled by Hoult. And, if the film’s official synopsis is any indication, he may be in for a huge new part.
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The film “takes place in the early 2000’s and centers on the tribulations of an American TV star in his late twenties (Harington) 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 Film, along with Dolan and Nancy Grant of Sons of Manual, are producing the film, along with executive producer Joe Iacono.
Seville International is handling international sales of the film in all media around the world, with the exception of France where the producers and Seville International jointly sold the rights to Mars Films, and in the US, where the film is being jointly handled by CAA. eOne and Les Films Séville will directly distribute the film throughout Canada and Québec.