Renowned Quebec film director Jean-Marc Vallée has died.
According to his U.S. publicist, Hive Collective, the award-winning Montreal-born director, with several Hollywood movies and TV shows to his credit, passed away at his cabin near Quebec City on Christmas weekend. He was 58.
For Montreal sound designer and friend, Gavin Fernandes, the loss is profound.
“He was genuine, he was selfless,” the Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident told Global News at Teresa Dellar Park, named for his late wife who also knew Vallée well. “This is such a big loss.”
He added that the filmmaker had just finished the script for his latest work about John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
“You know, he was in a really good place,” said Fernandes. “We’d gone out for dinner for Christmas a couple weeks ago.”
The filmmaker got his start in Montreal after studying cinema at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQUAM). His first big work was C.R.A.Z.Y., a film he wrote and directed.
Vallée went on to make several Hollywood films, many of which Fernandes worked on.
“We did Demolition, we did Dallas Buyer’s Club,” he recalled.
The latter won three Oscars in 2014. Another film, Wild, was nominated for three Academy Awards the following year.
Vallee also directed the HBO limited series Big Little Lies, for which he received an Emmy in 2017 for Outstanding Director. That series earned eight Emmys and four Golden Globes.
“His gift was working with actors,” noted Montreal Gazette columnist Bill Brownstein. “He just had this ability to — with the best of them, whether it be it a Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon — bring out the best. He was called an ‘actor whisperer’ at times.”
At a screening at the Toronto Film Festival for Dallas Buyer’s Club in 2013, actor Jake Gyllenhaal noted the director’s particular style.
“He’s an editor first,’ the actor pointed out. “He’s now developed this style where he shoots with no lighting. You come to work and you put on your wardrobe and there’s no makeup and it’s the best.”
Fernandes’ memories are more personal.
He cherishes Vallée’s support for the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care residence in Kirkland, named after Fernandes’ late wife who started the centre and who brought Vallée on board as ambassador.
“He embraced it all.” Fernandes stressed. “He would come, he would never say no to any request.”
On a social media post, officials at the centre say wrote, “he was often a fixture at our valentine’s ball and would be found helping to distribute the angel gifts or posing for a photo with anyone who asked.”
Politicians also noted the filmmaker’s contribution.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote, “through his work and with his art, he left a mark in Quebec, across Canada, and around the world.”
Montreal mayor Valérie Plante wrote in her tweet, “Jean-Marc Vallée has created works that I adored, and which have marked Quebec as a whole.”
Those closest to him, though, lost much more.
Through his publicist, his producing partner Nathan Ross said, “The maestro will sorely be missed but it comforts knowing his beautiful style and impactful work he shared with the world will live on.”
“I’m gonna miss him a lot,” said the sound designer, fighting back tears. “He was a good friend.”