Film industry mourns Quebec director Jean-Marc Vallée

·3 min read
Jean-Marc Vallée was acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking.   (Mathieu Dumontier/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jean-Marc Vallée was acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking. (Mathieu Dumontier/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Quebec film industry is reeling in the wake of award-winning filmmaker and producer Jean-Marc Vallée's death. He was 58.

Radio-Canada confirmed the news first reported by U.S. media outlets Sunday evening. According to Vallée's son, Émile, the filmmaker died on Christmas night.

The cause of his untimely death has not been announced, leaving the artistic community in a state of shock.

Vallée won an Emmy for directing the hit HBO series Big Little Lies. His 2013 drama Dallas Buyers Club earned multiple Oscar nominations.

At the time of his death, he was staying at a chalet in Berthier-sur-Mer, in Chaudière-Appalaches, about 70 kilometres east of Quebec City.

Michel Côté who starred in Vallée's first film Liste noire (1995) told Radio-Canada's Tout un Matin that Vallée was a detail-oriented director who adored his cast.

"It's like he was playing on the first line of a hockey team," he said. "He sees everything."

During the holidays, he says the two would meet for annual gatherings, and Vallée would recount stories about Hollywood.

"This year, with COVID, I've been staying in the country, so I told myself I'd miss my meeting with Jean-Marc, but I'm going to miss that meeting and many more."

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Vallée rose to fame after the release of the coming-of-age film C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005) and the romantic drama Café de Flore, which received three Genie awards in 2012 from 13 nominations.

Producer Pierre Even, who worked with Vallée on both films, said he learned of his death Sunday night after a friend sent him an article from U.S. publication Deadline.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I was with my partner and we were completely and totally incredulous."

Although Even says they didn't see each other often because of their respective career obligations, he will remember Vallée as a friend and director with "staggering intensity," who completely dedicated himself to his films.

"It was one of his great qualities," he said. "We lost a great artist who wasn't finished sharing his vision of the world with us."

Alexandra Stréliski, whose music is featured several times in Vallée's work, paid tribute to the late director on Twitter.

"He was always my lucky star," she wrote.

"I always considered Jean Marc as a bigger brother," Denis Villeneuve, a friend and fellow Quebec director, told CBC.

The pair was instrumental in breaking Quebec cinema into Hollywood — Villeneuve most recently with Dune this past fall and Blade Runner 2049 in 2017.

"He's someone that by his incredible ambition and talent, inspired, inspired me and inspired a lot of friends around me and I'm sure will inspire generations to come. He was a pioneer," said Villeneuve.

Premier François Legault shared his condolences with Vallée's loved ones in a tweet, calling news of the director's death a tragedy.

"Jean-Marc Vallée moved me with C.R.A.Z.Y. and Big Little Lies," he said. "He was extremely kind."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also shared his thoughts on the social media network.

"Jean-Marc Vallée's passion for filmmaking and storytelling was unmatched — so too was his talent. Through his work and with his art, he left a mark in Quebec, across Canada, and around the world," Trudeau wrote. "My thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans as they mourn his sudden passing."

Reese Witherspoon, who starred in Vallée's Wild (2014), which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and in Big Little Lies, also expressed her grief on Twitter.

"My heart is broken. My friend. I love you," she wrote.

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