Looking back at the crazy success story that was Jean-Marc Vallée's 'C.R.A.Z.Y.'
New book details one of Quebec's biggest cinematic triumphs, 10 years later
Ten years after the fact, it's a success story that's still a little too crazy to believe. The third biggest film of 2005 in Quebec (after Hollywood blockbusters Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. grossed over $6.2 million in the province — roughly the equivalent of a film grossing $300 million in the United States today. That's not exactly the kind of economics one would expect from a family drama about a gay man dealing with homophobia while growing up with four brothers and a conservative father in the Montreal suburbs of the 1960s and 70s.
C.R.A.Z.Y. became a surprise phenomenon no comparable film has eclipsed in the decade since (though Xavier Dolan's Mommy came closest when it made over $3 million in Quebec in 2014). This week, Arsenal Pulp Press is launching a new book to commemorate the film's legacy as part of its innovative Queer Film Classics series. Edited by two of Canada's leading queer film critics — Matthew Hays and Thomas Waugh — the series has already included monographs on other Canadian classics like Deepa Mehta's Fire, John Greyson's Zero Patience and Patricia Rozema's I've Heard The Mermainds Singing (not to mention a slew of international titles). For C.R.A.Z.Y., Hays and Waugh invited Université de Montréal professor Robert Schwartzwald to offer his take on the film. He'll discuss it in person at the Alliance Française in Toronto this Friday, but here are a few highlighted fun facts from the book itself (which you can purchase here):
It won a ton of awards.
The success of C.R.A.Z.Y. certainly didn't stop at economics. It was nominated for a stunning 45 awards over a span of two years following its release, 38 of which it won. These include 10 Genie Awards (the precursor to the Canadian Screen Awards), 12 Jutra Awards (as they were then known), the award for Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival, and audience awards at AFI Fest and the Atlantic Film Festival.
It was never released in the U.S.
One of the things that makes the story behind C.R.A.Z.Y. so exceptional was the fact that it managed to achieve all these feats but never officially made its way to theaters in the United States (though it did play at over a dozen film festivals there). The reason? A royalty dispute over the use of the Pink Floyd song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."
It launched Vallée's major international career.
While C.R.A.Z.Y. wouldn't make it to America, its director certainly would. He'd go on to helm the U.S.-produced likes of The Young Victoria, Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, which collectively received 11 Academy Award nominations and 4 wins. And he isn't stopping: his next film Demolition (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts) is out this spring, and he directed every episode of the upcoming HBO limited series Big Little Lies, which features none other than Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley.
It took 10 years to come together.
It took Vallée and his co-writer François Boulay five years to write the screenplay for C.R.A.Z.Y. — but that was just half the battle. While the film was ready to go on paper by November 2000, financing proved to be quite the challenge. The film's initial budget was $8.9 million (CDN), but it was then (and remains now) extremely challenging to find that kind of money in Canada. All the major government financing agencies initially turned them down, even with a newly trimmed budget of $7.3 million. Telefilm Canada eventually came through with a "sizeable commitment" that allowed filming to start in April 2004, only to see production shut down by summer until they could find more funding. That finally happened by autumn, in part thanks to a personal contribution from one of the film's actors, Michel Côté.
By the following May, C.R.A.Z.Y. was in Quebec theaters, and the rest is history. Last year, TIFF named it one of the 10 best Canadian films of all time — and it certainly also still stands as one the most successful.
C.R.A.Z.Y. — A Queer Film Classic Book Launch. Mar 4, 7pm. Alliance Francaise, 24 Spadina Road, Toronto.