The Toronto International Film Festival has confirmed Xavier Dolan’s long-awaited “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” will world premiere as part of the Special Presentations program. Dolan has been in the editing room with the movie for quite some time, skipping the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year to continue post-production. The movie’s ensemble cats includes Kit Harington, Jacob Tremblay, Natalie Portman, Ben Schnetzer, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, and Sarah Gadon.
“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” tells the story of a young actor (Tremblay) as he reminisces on the letters he once shared with an popular American television star (Harington), who passed away a decade earlier. The script explores the impact those letters had on both their lives.
“In only a few short years, Xavier Dolan has drawn film lovers all over the world into his personal vision,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF. “That vision and his remarkable skill as a filmmaker are on full display in his English-language debut. We are honoured to premiere it in Toronto.”
Dolan has often world premiered his movies at Cannes. His last directorial effort, “It’s Only the End of the World,” won the Grand Prix at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The director announced earlier this year that original “John F. Donovan” star Jessica Chastain had been cut out of the film due to her character’s involvement no longer making sense to the central story. In addition to “Donovan,” Dolan’s upcoming projects include a small supporting turn in “It: Chapter Two.”
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The TIFF announcement means “John F. Donovan” joins Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Steve McQueen’s “Widows” as one of the festival’s biggest world premieres. The news Dolan’s movie is world premiering in the Special Presentations program means TIFF opening night is still a big question mark. “Boy Erased,” the new film from Joel Edgerton starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe, is one of Focus Features’ big fall titles and has not been announced for any festival yet, which makes it a possible contender for the TIFF opening night slot. Another contender is Michael Moore’s Trump election documentary “Fahrenheit 11/9.”
The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 to 16.