Xavier Dolan

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Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan Cannes 2016.jpg
Xavier Dolan-Tadros

(1989-03-20) 20 March 1989 (age 29)
  • Filmmaker
  • actor
Years active1994–present
Parent(s)Manuel Tadros
AwardsFull list

Xavier Dolan-Tadros CQ (French pronunciation: ​[gzavje dɔlɑ̃tadʁo]; born 20 March 1989) is a Canadian actor, director, screenwriter, editor, costume designer, and voice actor.[1] He began his career as a child actor in commercials before directing several arthouse feature films. He first received international acclaim in 2009 for his feature film directorial debut, I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mère), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Director's Fortnight section.

Since 2009, he has written and directed eight feature films, all of which have premiered at Cannes, with the exception of Tom at the Farm—which premiered at the 70th Venice International Film Festival in 2013—and his first English language film, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. He directed the music video for Adele's hit single, "Hello", in 2015.

Dolan has won many awards for his work, including the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for Mommy and the Grand Prix at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for It's Only The End of the World. He has also won several Canadian Screen Awards and César Awards.

Early life[edit]

Dolan was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is the son of Geneviève Dolan, a Quebecois teacher, and Manuel Tadros, an Egyptian-born Coptic Canadian actor and singer with strong ties to the Quebecois entertainment industry.[2]


Early films[edit]

Dolan attracted international attention with his directorial debut, I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère), which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in at the age of 20, using funds from his extensive work as a child actor.[3] He reportedly began writing the script when he was 16 years old.[4] He said in an interview with Canadian newspaper Le Soleil that the film was partly autobiographical.[5]

The film was at first financed solely by Dolan, but when need for more money arose, he asked Telefilm and the SODEC for subsidies. Each turned him down for different reasons.[5] SODEC, who had loved the project but refused to finance it because it was submitted to a too commercial department, encouraged Dolan to submit it again in more appropriate "indie" department, which he did. In December 2008, SODEC gave him a $400,000 subsidy. In all, the film cost around $800,000 CAD.[4] Dolan said that the system to acquire funding is "an obsolete financing mechanism that holds the creative assets of Quebec hostage".[5]

The film premiered at the Director's Fortnight program of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival where it received an eight-minute standing ovation and won three awards: the Art Cinema Award, the SACD Prize for screenplay, and the Prix Regards Jeunes.[6] It also won a Lumière Award and four Jutra Awards, including Best Film, Best Screenplay, and Most Successful Film Outside Québec, beating out Denis Villeneuve's film Polytechnique (2009) in what was deemed an "upset".[7]

Dolan later said that the film was "flawed" and Peter Brunette of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a somewhat uneven film that demonstrates a great deal of talent". Brunette also called the film "funny and audacious", while Allan Hunter of Screen International said that it possessed "the sting of shrewdly observed truth".[8]

The film received the Claude Jutra Award (now known as the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature) at the Genies, and the Toronto Film Critics Association awarded Dolan the inaugural $5,000 Jay Scott Prize for emerging talent. I Killed My Mother was named one of Canada's Top Ten features of the year by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and chosen as Canada's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2010 Academy Awards, though it failed to receive a nomination from the academy.[8][9] Distribution rights were later sold to more than 20 countries.[10] Due to legal problems experienced by the film's U.S. distributor, Regent Entertainment,[11] it was not released theatrically in the U.S. until 2013, and once released, it earned little at the box office.[12]

The second feature film Dolan directed, Heartbeats (Les Amours imaginaires), was financed privately.[10] The film follows two friends who are infatuated with the same mysterious young man and their friendship suffers. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard category at the 63e Festival de Cannes in May 2010 where it received a standing ovation.[13] It won the top prize of the Official Competition at the Sydney Film Festival in June and screened at several film festivals throughout 2011, but failed to find audiences in non-French-speaking countries. It received several Genie nominations and the AQCC (Québec association of film critics) award for Best Film.[8]

His third film, Laurence Anyways, was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Suzanne Clément's performance in the film won the section's award for Best Actress.[14][15] The film received praise or qualified praise from critics.[16][17] A critic for MTV's The Out Take, which focuses on LGBT films, called the film "the best film of the year."[18] Despite the praise, the film was not released commercially for a year.[19] Upon release, the film struggled at the box office,[12] and only grossed roughly $500,000 in Canada.[20]

In May 2012, Dolan announced that his fourth film would be an adaptation of Michel Marc Bouchard's play Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme).[21] It received its world premiere in the main competition section at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on 2 September 2013 and won the FIPRESCI award. Though Tom at the Farm played the festival circuits in 2013, it was not released in the U.S. until 2015. In an August 2015 interview, Dolan said: "No one knows me in the States, because the movies have been released in such an awkward, irregular fashion, all by different distributors... I don't want to sound pretentious, but it's puzzling."[22]


Dolan's 2014 film, Mommy, shared the Jury Prize in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival with Jean-Luc Godard's film Goodbye to Language (Adieu au langage).[23] The jury president for the 2014 festival was Jane Campion and, upon receiving the award, Dolan stated:

The Piano [Campion's film] was the first film that I watched that truly defined who I am.... It made me want to write films for beautiful women with soul and will and strength. To even stand on the same stage as you [Campion] is extraordinary.[24]

The film was singled out by critics as Dolan's "most mature" film to date and proved to be a breakthrough in his career as a director.[25] It was his first film to achieve significant success at the box office, grossing over $3.5 million domestically in 2014, becoming the highest-selling film in Quebec for 2014.[26] According to the Montreal Gazette, over one million people saw the film in France.[26] Mommy won the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film in 2015.[27]

It's Only the End of the World[edit]

Dolan's next film was an adaptation of the play Juste la fin du Monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce, titled It's Only the End of the World. The film stars Marion Cotillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux and Nathalie Baye. Filming commenced in late May 2015.[28] The film was an official selection for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, in competition for the Palme d'Or, though it did not win.[29]

The film premiered to polarized reactions from festival audiences and critics, with Vanity Fair calling it "the most disappointing film at Cannes."[30][31][32] The Hollywood Reporter called it "a cold and deeply unsatisfying" film[33] and Variety dubbed it "a frequently excruciating dramatic experience".[34] During the festival, Dolan spoke out against the negative criticism in the media.[35][36] The film also received positive reviews from critics, including The Guardian, which called it a "brilliant, stylised and hallucinatory evocation of family dysfunction".[37]

The film won the Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize.[38][39] It was also featured in competition at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2016,[40] and later screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.[41] It was released in Quebec and France on 21 September 2016.[42] In France, It's Only the End of the World was released to 391 screens, where it debuted at number one at the box office and sold 1,034,477 tickets.[43]

It was chosen as Canada's submission for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[44] In December 2016, it made the shortlist of nine films under consideration for nomination as Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards,[45] but it was not nominated in January 2017.[46] On 7 December 2016, the film was named to the Toronto International Film Festival's annual Canada's Top 10 list.[47]

Dolan with his César Awards at the 42nd ceremony in 2017

AlloCiné, a French cinema website, gave the film an average of 3.3/5, based on a survey of 44 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[48] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 44% approval rating based on 32 reviews, with an average score of 5.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It's Only the End of the World is stocked with talent and boasts a story steeped in conflict, but the end result proves a disappointing misfire from writer-director Xavier Dolan."[49] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 48, based on 11 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[50]

For his work on It's Only the End of the World, Dolan won the César Award for Best Director and Best Editing at the 42nd ceremony on 24 February 2017.[51] For his work on the film, Dolan also won 3 Canadian Screen Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay.[52]

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan[edit]

In March 2013, Dolan was in pre-production for his first English-language film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan;[53] he co-wrote the screenplay with Jacob Tierney. The film follows John F. Donovan (Kit Harington), a Hollywood film actor whose life and career are turned upside-down when a gossip columnist (Jessica Chastain) exposes his private correspondence with an 11-year-old British fan. The film also stars Susan Sarandon as Donovan's mother and Kathy Bates as his manager.[54] In February 2018, Dolan confirmed via Instagram that Chastain had been cut from the film, and that the story had been altered throughout post-production.[55]

The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, making it Dolan's first film to premiere at the festival. Following its premiere at the festival, it received universally negative reviews from critics.[56] IndieWire dubbed the film Dolan's "worst" of his career.[57] The Guardian gave the film one out of five stars, deeming it a "dubious mess".[58] NOW Magazine called the film "mediocre at best".[59] In a more positive review, Screen International wrote that the film "may revisit a lot of familiar territory for Dolan but on this form it is good to welcome him home."[60]

Other work[edit]

In 2015, Dolan was selected to serve on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[61][62] Also that year, he directed the music video for "Hello", the lead single from the album 25 by Adele.[63] The video broke the Vevo record for most views in 24 hours, over 27.7 million views.[64] The video was also notable for featuring footage shot in IMAX.[65] Dolan received the Juno Award for Video of the Year for directing the video.[66]

Dolan played supporting roles in two 2018 American films: Boy Erased, opposite Lucas Hedges and Troye Sivan, which premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival; and Bad Times at the El Royale, as a British-accented music producer, Buddy Sunday.[67] He will appear in the forthcoming It sequel, which is slated for a 2019 theatrical release.[68]

Influences and style[edit]

Dolan has said that he is not particularly influenced by any specific directors, though in 2009, Dolan identified Michael Haneke as one of his favourite directors for his precise camerawork and strong writing, citing Haneke's Funny Games and The Piano Teacher as favourites.[69]

At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Dolan said that The Piano by Jane Campion was a major inspiration for him. He has also cited seeing the film Titanic as an early influence on his decision to enter the film industry.[70] He has mentioned paying tribute to My Own Private Idaho with a sequence in I Killed My Mother,[71] and that he was influenced by the frog rain scene at the end of Magnolia, but said in 2013:

What I'm trying to say is that I'm not that influenced by directors.... I've read basically every review of my films because I'm crazy and I focus on what's negative and I want to know what people think—and why they think it. So many times I've been bullied into references and influences that were never mine by viewers that would project their opinions and associations and assumptions on me.... But let's get real: ideas travel and everything's been done, it's all a matter of interpreting things again now.[72]

Personal life[edit]

Dolan is openly gay,[73] and described his first film, I Killed My Mother, as semi-autobiographical.[9][74]


As director[edit]

As actor[edit]

As voice actor[edit]

Note: Many films that are dubbed in French are also dubbed in the French spoken in Québec or in one of the versions of French known as international French. DVDs may be labelled VQ for "version Québécois", which uses a Québécois accent and terms unique to that variety of the French language, or VFQ for "version francophone québécoise", which presents a generally neutral accent but pronounces English words in a way found in North America rather than in France.

As music video director[edit]

Recurring collaborators[edit]

Actor I Killed My Mother Heartbeats Laurence Anyways Tom at the Farm Mommy It's Only the End of the World Matthias & Maxime
Anne Dorval NoN NoN NoN NoN NoN
Suzanne Clément NoN NoN NoN
Antoine Olivier Pilon NoN NoN
Manuel Tadros NoN NoN NoN
Patricia Tulasne NoN NoN NoN
Pierre-Yves Cardinal NoN NoN
Nathalie Baye NoN NoN
Monia Chokri NoN NoN
Niels Schneider NoN NoN
Monique Spaziani NoN NoN
Perrette Souplex NoN NoN
Jacques Lavallée NoN NoN
Pierre Chagnon NoN NoN

Awards and nominations[edit]

Books on Xavier Dolan[edit]

  • Pierre-Alexandre Fradet, Philosopher à travers le cinéma québécois. Xavier Dolan, Denis Côté, Stéphane Lafleur et autres cinéastes, Paris, Éditions Hermann, 2018, 274 p.


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  2. ^ Perreaux, Les; Renzetti, Elizabeth (25 May 2009). "Québécois filmmaker electrifies Cannes". The Globe and Mail.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes 2016". Festival de Cannes 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Acceuil remarquable pour Dolan". Radio-Canada (in French). 20 May 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Provencher, Normand (15 May 2009). "Xavier Dolan". Le Soleil (in French). Retrieved 27 May 2009.
  6. ^ "Québécois filmmaker electrifies Cannes". The Globe and Mail. 25 May 2009.
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  9. ^ a b Lacey, Liam (4 February 2010). "Xavier Dolan's long road to instant success". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b Hopewell, John (10 February 2010). "Rezo wraps up Dolan's 'Love'". Variety.
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  24. ^ Xan Brooks (25 May 2014). "Cannes festival ready for shut-eye after Winter Sleep wins Palme d'Or". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
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  26. ^ a b Kelly, Brendan (18 November 2014). "Mommy continues its box office dominance". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
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  33. ^ "'It's Only the End of the World': Cannes Review". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  34. ^ Debruge, Peter (18 May 2016). "Cannes Film Review: 'It's Only the End of the World'". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
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  45. ^ "Oscars: Nine Films Advance in Foreign-Language Race". Variety. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
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  52. ^ Ahearn, Victoria. "Xavier Dolan, 'Orphan Black' big winners at Canadian Screen Awards". CTVNews. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  53. ^ "Xavier Dolan Writing His First American Film 'The Death & Life of John F. Donovan' & More From MoMa". Blackbook. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  54. ^ "Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates Board 'Mommy' Director's First English-Language Project". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  55. ^ Dolan, Xavier (February 4, 2018). "Please bare with me and read. Perhaps not the news you were waiting for, but something I had to tell you nonetheless. I will have other kind of information over the next few weeks. Please don't doubt my eagerness to share The Death and Life of John F. Donovan with you. - XD". Instagram.com. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  56. ^ "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  57. ^ Kohn, Eric (2018-09-11). "'The Death and Life of John F. Donovan' Review: Xavier Dolan's Worst Movie Stars Kit Harington as a Depressed TV Star". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  58. ^ Lee, Benjamin (2018-09-11). "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan review – Xavier Dolan's wild misfire". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  59. ^ Ritchie, Kevin (2018-09-11). "TIFF review: The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan". NOW Magazine. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
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  61. ^ "The Jury of the 68th Cannes Film Festival". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  62. ^ "Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller and Guillermo del Toro Join Cannes Film Festival Jury". The Wrap. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  63. ^ "Watch: Xavier Dolan Directed Video For Adele's "Hello"". The Playlist. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  64. ^ "Adele's 'Hello' breaks Taylor Swift's record for single-day views". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  65. ^ "Meet Xavier Dolan, the Indie Director Behind Adele's "Hello" Music Video". Vogue. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  66. ^ "Xavier Dolan – Hello – Adele". Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  67. ^ "First 'Boy Erased' Trailer Reveals Joel Edgerton's Gay Conversion Therapy Drama". Collider. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  68. ^ Sharf, Zack (2018-06-21). "'It: Chapter Two': Xavier Dolan Joins the Cast Opposite Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  69. ^ Provencher, Normand (15 May 2009). "Xavier Dolan: "J'ai toujours vu Cannes dans ma soupe"" [Xavier Dolan: I've always seen Cannes in my future"]. La Presse (in French). Retrieved 1 April 2015. Michael Haneke... est un réalisateur extrêmement précis... que ce soit la réalisation, le jeu de caméra, la direction d'acteurs. Il possède aussi un calcul incroyable de l'écriture... J'ai beaucoup aimé Funny Games… ainsi que La pianiste. (Translation: Michael Haneke is an extremely precise director when it comes to directing, camerawork and working with actors. He is also an incredibly strong writer... I very much liked Funny Games… and The Piano Teacher.)
  70. ^ Blasberg, Derek (20 November 2015). "How Titanic Changed Director Xavier Dolan's Life". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  71. ^ Guillen, Michael (7 February 2010). "PSIFF10: I Killed My Mother: Q&A With Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval, François Arnaud, & Patricia Tulasne". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  72. ^ Myers, Emma (24 June 2013). "Interview: Xavier Dolan". Film Comment. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  73. ^ Kirchner, Lisa (23 February 2011). "Xavier Dolan: The New Woody Allen, Only Younger, Cuter and Gay". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  74. ^ Provencher, Normand (15 May 2009). "Xavier Dolan: "J'ai toujours vu Cannes dans ma soupe"" [Xavier Dolan: I've always seen Cannes in my future"]. La Presse (in French). Retrieved 1 April 2015. C'est en partie autobiographique... ceci étant dit, il m'a fallu ajouter des éléments de romance et de fiction (Translation: the film is partly autobiographical... having said that, I had to add romantic and fictional elements)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]