Jean-Marc Vallée who died suddenly at age 58 at his Quebec home was a hugely successful Canadian writer, director, editor and producer. He won Emmy Awards and a Directors’ Guild of America Award for Big Little Lies and was Oscar nominated for editing Dallas Buyers Club, the film that won Oscars for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto and was nominated for Best Picture.
Born on March 9, 1963, in Montreal, Vallée began making short films and soon moved into features with his 1995 debut Black List. His breakthrough came with 2005’s C.R.A.Z.Y., which won four Genie Awards in Canada, including Best Picture, Screenplay and Director for Vallée. After directing The Young Victoria and Cafe de Flore, Vallée really hit his stride with Dallas Buyers Club, based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who was diagnosed with AIDS and given a month to live.
Released in 2013 with McConaughey, Leto and Jennifer Garner starring, the film became a critical darling. Both McConaughey and Leto won Golden Globe Awards, and they repeated those wins at the Oscars, where the film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, with Vallée also receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing under his alias, John Mac McMurphy.
He followed with an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, which starred Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. The film was nominated for three Oscars.
In 2017 Vallée received the DGA Award and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for the HBO limited series Big Little Lies, which he also executive produced. It won eight Emmys including Outstanding Limited Series and four Golden Globes. He also directed and executive produced the 2018 HBO limited series Sharp Objects, which was nominated for eight Emmys.
Vallee’s big Hollywood break came when he was selected to direct The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt. For the film’s director, producer Graham King wanted someone “who would steer us away from the traditional BBC-type costume drama,” and “make a period film for an MTV audience.” By chance, someone recommended King watch the 2005 film C.R.A.Z.Y. by Vallee, and became immediately interested in hiring him. King offered the job to Vallée on their very first meeting. Though at first expressing disinterest, Vallée agreed to direct after reading the script. He commented, “When I read the script, I saw it’s a family drama, a romance, a political plot at the same time.” Vallee considered Victoria to be a rebel because “she has this attitude, which is you make noise, you want to yell and yell loudly to your parents and all the people, to authority… ‘I’m going to do it my way.’ That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. That’s what I liked about her, this energy. [Victoria] was special and had this mystical quality.” The film won both BAFTA awards and and Oscar for best costumes.
Said his producing partner Nathan Ross: “Jean-Marc stood for creativity, authenticity and trying things differently. He was a true artist and a generous, loving guy. 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.”
“Jean-Marc Vallée was a brilliant, fiercely dedicated filmmaker, a truly phenomenal talent who infused every scene with a deeply visceral, emotional truth,” HBO said in a statement. “He was also a hugely caring man who invested his whole self alongside every actor he directed. 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 longtime producing partner, Nathan Ross.”
Vallée is survived by his sons, Alex and Émile, and siblings Marie-Josée Vallée, Stéphane Tousignant and Gérald Vallée.