Jean-Marc Vallée the Canadian filmmaker dies aged 58

Reece Witherspoon and Laura Dern have paid tribute to Jean-Marc Vallée
Reece Witherspoon (centre) and Laura Dern have paid tribute to Jean-Marc Vallée

Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, whose work included Dallas Buyers Club and Wild has died aged 58. The Oscar-nominated director also won an Emmy award for his work on the HBO series Big Little Lies.

He died over the weekend in Quebec City, his long-time producing partner Nathan Ross confirmed in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, though no cause of death was given. Ross said Vallée “stood for creativity” and “authenticity”.

“He was a true artist and a generous, loving guy,” he wrote. “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.”

US actress Reece Witherspoon, who starred in both Wild and Big Little Lies, tweeted on Monday: “My heart is broken. My friend, I love you.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau wrote that 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.”

Montreal-born Vallée began his career making music videos before moving into film in 1995, with his debut thriller Black List, and then the critically-lauded 2005 coming-of-age movie C.R.A.Z.Y. His 2009 feature, The Young Victoria, starring British actress Emily Blunt as Britain’s Queen Victoria, picked up three Oscar nominations.

Jarde Leto (left) and Matthew McConaughey starred in Dallas Buyers Club
Jared Leto (left) and Matthew McConaughey starred in Dallas Buyers Club

But perhaps his best-known work arrived in 2013, with Dallas Buyers Club – the emotional story of Ron Woodroof, who sold experimental drugs to fellow Aids patients in Texas. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both put in Oscar-winning performances in the movie, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture and best original screenplay.

The next year, Vallée directed Reese Witherspoon in Wild, a film based on the bestselling memoir about of a former heroin addict who tries to re-discover herself by backpacking and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. He worked with her again on HBO’s Big Little Lies, which saw him win the Emmy for best directing on a limited series, movie or special.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning show, a screen adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s top novel, featured Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz and Shailene Woodley as five California-based women who become embroiled in a murder investigation.

Paying her respects on Monday, Dern posted: “The world has lost one of our great and purest artists and dreamers. And we lost our beloved friend.” Vallée went on to direct Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson in another HBO series, Sharp Objects, which he was also an executive producer on.

Jean-Marc Vallee alongside Big Little Lies stars Laura Dern (left) and Nicole Kidman at the Golden Globes in 2018
Jean-Marc Vallée alongside Big Little Lies stars Laura Dern (left) and Nicole Kidman at the Golden Globes in 2018

HBO commented that he was “a brilliant, fiercely dedicated filmmaker, a truly phenomenal talent who infused every scene with a deeply visceral, emotional truth”. “He was also a hugely caring man who invested his whole self alongside every actor he directed,” the network added in a statement.

“We are shocked at the news of his sudden death, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to his sons, Alex and Émile, his extended family, and his long-time producing partner, Nathan Ross.”

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, Vallée revealed what he enjoyed most about making movies and TV shows. “The dream,” he said. “Dreams can come true. I’m living the dream right now.”

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