Quebec's Jean-Marc Vallée, director of Big Little Lies, Dallas Buyers Club, dead at 58
Vallée also directed the Oscar-nominated film Wild and HBO's Sharp Objects
Quebec filmmaker and producer Jean-Marc Vallée, who won an Emmy for directing the hit HBO series Big Little Lies and whose 2013 drama Dallas Buyers Club earned multiple Oscar nominations, has died. He was 58.
His representative, Bumble Ward, said on Sunday that Vallée died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec City over the weekend.
A coroner's preliminary report, released almost a week later on Friday, could not establish an exact cause of death, his family said in a statement. However, the report found that Vallée's death was not caused by the intervention of another party, a voluntary act, or a known disease.
The family said that further in-depth analysis is underway.
Vallée's longtime producing partner, Nathan Ross, mourned him in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
"Jean-Marc stood for creativity, authenticity and trying things differently. He was a true artist and a generous, loving guy," Ross said.
"Everyone who worked with him couldn't help but see the talent and vision he possessed. He was a friend, creative partner and an older brother to me. The maestro will sorely be missed but it comforts knowing his beautiful style and impactful work he shared with the world will live on."
Vallée was acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking, directing stars including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal over the past decade.
He directed Emily Blunt in 2009's The Young Victoria and became a sought-after name in Hollywood after Dallas Buyers Club, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, earned six Academy Awards nominations, including best picture. McConaughey earned a best actor Oscar and Golden Globe award, while Leto received the same honours for best supporting actor.
Vallée often shot with natural light and hand-held cameras and gave actors freedom to improvise the script and move around within a scene's location. The crew roamed up and down the Pacific Crest Trail to shoot Witherspoon in 2014's Wild.
"They can move anywhere they want," the filmmaker said of his actors in a 2014 interview with The Associated Press. "It's giving the importance to storytelling, emotion, characters. I try not to interfere too much. I don't need to cut performances. Often, the cinematographer and I were like, 'This location sucks. It's not very nice. But, hey, that's life.' "
He re-teamed with Witherspoon to direct the first season of Big Little Lies in 2017, and directed Adams in 2018's Sharp Objects, also for HBO. Vallée won DGA awards for both.
Vallée 'brought Montreal to Hollywood': Villeneuve
Montreal-born Vallée graduated from the University of Quebec in Montreal, where he studied filmmaking. His first short films were released in the 1990s, with one of them, Les fleurs magiques, winning the 1996 Genie award for best short film.
The director's French Canadian films helped him catch Hollywood's attention. They include C.R.A.Z.Y., which was released in 2005, and the romantic drama Café de Flore, which garnered 13 Genie nominations in 2012 and won three.
In an interview in 2018, the filmmaker said his roots gave him a unique perspective on the industry.
"Being a foreigner in the States, I have to do more homework to try to really get into the culture, understand the culture, and understand the world of the characters that I am trying to depict. And so I become a student," he said.
Denis Villeneuve, a close friend and contemporary of Vallée's, spoke with CBC News about the late director.
"Jean-Marc, for me, was a tremendous artist, a poet, someone that was a source of inspiration, and if I can say, kind of a big brother to me and several friends," said the Quebec-born Dune director.
"He was a little bit older than us, and he had much more experience, and he was the first one to cross the border … He was someone that loved to share. And that's the thing I will remember the most, is the tremendous generosity."
Message from Denis Villeneuve to his late friend Jean-Marc Vallée: <br><br>hey vieux,<br>qu’est-ce qui t’as pris de partir si tôt?<br>how must I forget these lonesome tears in my eyes?<br>comme tu m’as déjà dit: go out there and shine, crazy diamond!<br>je t’aime mon ami.<br>Denis <a href="https://t.co/jMd2TCYgCP">pic.twitter.com/jMd2TCYgCP</a>—@TanyaLapointe
As a filmmaker, Villeneuve noted Vallée's ability to "curate very strong intimacy in front of the camera," eliciting deep and complex performances from his actors, as well as his sense of rhythm as an editor.
"There was some kind of lyricism in the way that he was editing that deeply influenced me."
Vallée often brought Quebecois crew on board his Hollywood projects, and despite his mainstream success he remained deeply connected to his French Canadian roots, Villeneuve said.
"He didn't [go] to Hollywood; he brought Montreal to Hollywood."
Pierre Even, a Quebec producer who co-produced Café de Flore and C.R.A.Z.Y., told CBC News that working on both films was an amazing experience, with the latter leading to Vallée's first opportunities in Hollywood.
"I think Jean-Marc also [contributed] to making Quebec a pool of talent that the Americans and the world would go to. I remember for years to come I would talk to people in Los Angeles and Hollywood, and they were asking me, 'Who's the next Jean-Marc Vallée?' "
"It's very sad to think that he's not with us anymore."
Filmmaker mourned by entertainers, politicians
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault mourned the loss of Vallée on social media.
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. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans as they mourn his sudden passing.—@JustinTrudeau
Quelle nouvelle tragique.<br>Jean-Marc Vallée m’a ému de C.R.A.Z.Y. à Big Little Lies.<br>Il était d’une extrême gentillesse.<br>Mes condoléances à tous les proches de cet artiste exceptionnel. <a href="https://t.co/VizV7GKC1e">pic.twitter.com/VizV7GKC1e</a>—@francoislegault
TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey also tweeted about Vallée, who was a frequent presence at the festival and the only director to open and close it, with films Demolition and The Young Victoria.
The festival executive said he would miss Vallée's "fire."
Can’t believe it. Jean-Marc Vallée was a prodigious talent, and the only filmmaker to both open (DEMOLITION) and close (THE YOUNG VICTORIA) the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ll miss his fire. <a href="https://t.co/MCrHJQJvGg">https://t.co/MCrHJQJvGg</a>—@cameron_tiff
"My heart is broken. My friend. I love you," Witherspoon wrote on Instagram. The actor worked with Vallée on the film Wild and TV series Big Little Lies, as did actor Laura Dern, who posted a photo of herself with the director.
"I am in shock. Complete and utter shock," said Big Little Lies actor Shailene Woodley, also on Instagram.
On Twitter, actor Jay Baruchel also posted a tribute to the late director, calling his fellow Montrealer a "profoundly gifted artist."
RIP Jean-Marc Vallée. He was always kind to me and someone I looked forward to seeing. He was a profoundly gifted artist whose passions and efforts have advanced the medium of cinema and he leaves behind treasures of sincerity.—@BaruchelNDG
Vallée is survived by his sons, Alex and Emile, and siblings Marie-Josee Vallée, Stephane Tousignant and Gerald Vallée.
With files from The Canadian Press and Sarah Leavitt