Jean-Marc Vallée, the Canadian writer-director-producer behind critically acclaimed projects including Dallas Buyers Club and HBO’s Big Little Lies, was found dead at his cabin outside Quebec City. He was 58.
Vallée’s publicist, Bumble Ward, confirmed Monday that the director died of a heart attack.
“What you may not know is that he was sweet and kind, full of gratitude, remembered birthdays and sent awesome mixtapes, while still being a creative genius,” she tweeted. “Rest In Peace.”
Born on March 9, 1963, Vallée studied filmmaking at the Collège Ahuntsic and the Université du Québec in Montreal. He made his first feature film Liste Noire (“Black List”) in 1995, which was nominated for several Genie Awards—the Canadian equivalent of the Oscar. His Hollywood breakthrough came a decade later when he co-wrote and directed a coming-of-age film titled C.R.A.Z.Y., which won four Genie Awards.
In 2009, Vallée directed The Young Victoria, a film starring Emily Blunt, which explored the early years of Queen Victoria’s rule. Then in 2013, he directed the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club, which was based on the story of Dallas Cowboy Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985.
The following year, Vallée directed Wild, a film starring Reese Witherspoon and based on the bestselling memoir about a former heroin addict who embarks on a solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. Wild was also nominated for several awards including an Oscar nomination for best actress.
He teamed up with Witherspoon again in 2017 on the hit HBO drama, Big Little Lies, about violence in a wealthy beachside town, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Meryl Streep.
Vallée worked with award-winning actor, Amy Adams, on the HBO mini-series Sharp Objects. In an interview published by HBO in 2018, Vallée talked about directing the eerie show and why he enjoys telling stories with female leads.
“It’s true that my last projects were featuring mainly female characters,” Vallée said. “So, am I the lucky guy? Maybe — maybe I am. I’m not afraid of intelligent, strong women. You got to create a space where they’re going to feel respected and comfortable.”
Witherspoon, Dern, and Woodley took to social media to mourn Vallée’s sudden death.
“My heart is broken,” Witherspoon wrote on Twitter. “My friend. I love you.”
Dern tweeted, “Beautiful Jean-Marc Vallee. The world has lost one of our great and purest artists and dreamers. And we lost our beloved friend. Our hearts are broken.”
Beautiful Jean-Marc Vallee. The world has lost one of our great and purest artists and dreamers. And we lost our beloved friend. Our hearts are broken. pic.twitter.com/v9WXikI48e
— Laura Dern (@LauraDern) December 27, 2021
Woodley, posted a heartfelt tribute to Vallée on Instagram, saying that she was in “complete + utter shock.”
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His producing partner, Nathan Ross, said in a statement, Vallée “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.”
Vallée, who was known for his “naturalistic” approach to filmmaking, was set to direct and serve as the executive producer of Gorilla and the Bird, a limited HBO series based on the memoir by Zack McDermott with the same name about a public defender who suffers a psychotic break and the ways his loving mother helps him get through it.
Vallée is survived by two sons, Alex Vallée and Emile Vallée, and his siblings Marie-Josée Vallée, Stéphane Tousignant and Gérald Vallée, the New York Times reports.
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