Xavier Dolan’s English-language debut feature The Death and Life of John F. Donovan appears to be turning into quite the starry project. A few months back, it was announced that Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) was joining forces with Dolan, a Quebecois filmmaker who has made strong impressions on the festival circuit the past few years for films like How I Killed My Mother, Laurence Anyways, and, currently, Mommy, a 2014 Cannes Film Festival prize winner and Canada’s foreign Oscar submission. Now word has arrived that Oscar winning actresses Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates have also come aboard his new film.
Dolan co-wrote the screenplay (along with The Trotsky‘s Jacob Tierney) for the drama about a high profile Hollywood actor named John F. Donovan (to be played by Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame), whose life and career are put in jeopardy after private letters are exposed between him and an 11-year-old fan. Chastain will portray a gossip columnist who plants the seeds that the correspondence consists of material of an indecent nature. Sarandon, who won an Oscar for Dead Man Walking and recently appeared in the Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy, will portray Donovan’s mother, while Bates, an Oscar winner for Misery and also a Tammy alum, will play his high-powered manager. “I’m so psyched about working with these two wonderful mythical actresses,” Dolan exclaimed to The Hollywood Reporter, who broke the story. “My excitement is almost convulsive.” The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is set start filming sometime in late spring. Dolan, apart from his directing and scripting duties, will also serves as the film’s costume designer and editor, just as he has on all of his previous films.
Mommy, Dolan’s acclaimed drama, which won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, is set to open in the U.S., courtesy of Roadside Attractions, on January 23, 2015. That film, which explores the complicated relationship between a widow and her troubled teenage son, has been earning strong reviews since premiering at Cannes and may factor into the foreign-language Oscar race. In fact, the awards race may intersect between Dolan and Chastain a few times this season, as the actress has multiple films in possible contention (Interstellar, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and the upcoming A Most Violent Year, for which she has already received an Indie Spirit nomination and a National Board of Review citation). Bates can currently be seen on TV on American Horror Story: Freak Show and Sarandon will next be seen in the transgender indie dramedy Three Generations, opposite Elle Fanning and Naomi Watts.