Quebec's Jean-Marc Vallée, director of Big Little Lies, Dallas Buyers Club, dead at 58

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.

Vallée also directed the Oscar-nominated film Wild and HBO's Sharp Objects

Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée has died at 58. The director, pictured in 2014, once said his French Canadian roots gave him a unique perspective on filmmaking. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

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."

WATCH | Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has died at 58: 

Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée dead at 58

6 months ago
Duration 2:06
Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, acclaimed for his work on films like Dallas Buyers Club and television shows like Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects, died on Sunday at his cottage outside of Quebec City. He was 58.

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.

WATCH | Vallée on his 2014 film Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon

Jean-Marc Vallée celebrates release of Wild in Montreal

8 years ago
Duration 2:16
One of Quebec's star directors is bringing his latest film, Wild, home this week.. The memoir-turned-movie featuring Reese Witherspoon, touched Vallée profoundly.

"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."

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.

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." 

"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.

WATCH | Why Jean-Marc Vallée was beloved by his actors: 

Why Jean-Marc Vallée was loved by actors

6 months ago
Duration 5:36
Quebec filmmaker and producer Jean-Marc Vallée died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec City over the weekend. He was 58. Politicians and entertainers are mourning the loss.

On Twitter, actor Jay Baruchel also posted a tribute to the late director, calling his fellow Montrealer a "profoundly gifted artist."

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