Big year ahead for Canadian directors Dolan, Vallee, Villeneuve

TORONTO -- The new year is shaping up to be a busy one for some of Quebec's biggest directors, with Denis Villeneuve, Xavier Dolan and Jean-Marc Vallee among those heading into 2016 with high-profile international projects in the works.

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The acclaimed auteurs each have varied film and TV ventures involving big-name stars, ranging from Ryan Gosling to Nicole Kidman to Kit Harington.

Here's a look at the year ahead for five of Canada's biggest players:

XAVIER DOLAN

Quebec's wunderkind is riding high from one of his shortest works -- the sepia-toned music video for Adele's now-ubiquitous single, "Hello," which reportedly earned a record-breaking 27 million views in 24 hours when it debuted.

Dolan is expected to return to theatres in 2016 with "It's Only The End of The World" starring Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. It's based on Jean-Luc Lagarce's play about a writer who tells his family he's dying.

But anticipation is especially high for Dolan's English-language debut "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan," which is set to begin shooting in the spring.

The film stars Jessica Chastain and Harington and centres on a young actor who recalls the correspondence he shared as a teenager with a U.S. TV star.

The star-studded cast also includes Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Canadian actors Taylor Kitsch and Emily Hampshire, who teased earlier this year that "the movie is just epic."

"He's a genius, he really is the real deal," Hampshire gushed of Dolan, a longtime friend.

"But I think what really speaks to who he is as a person is he wrote this part for me four years ago. Tons of huge-name actresses have wanted this part and he has said, 'No.' (There was) not even a thought that he would get someone else."

The film explores the hardships of fame through the lives of both actors while delving into the issues of identity and diversity in Hollywood.

"It is a movie about a man trying to make it, trying to live his dream and his life all at once, and being told that he basically can't," Dolan said earlier this year in a statement.

"It also is about a kid dreaming of having this man's life for all the wrong reasons, not realizing how painful it actually is. I was that kid, writing love letters to actors -- as a matter of fact it seems like I still am. And that story is a tribute to both the kid I was and the idols of my childhood -- some died, some just disappeared without a trace, because they didn't fit."

PHILIPPE FALARDEAU

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker is known for tender dramedies that tug at the heartstrings, so the subject matter of his newest movie seems like new territory.

"The Bleeder" is the true story of Chuck Wepner, a liquor salesman from New Jersey who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali.

Liev Schreiber stars as the journeyman heavyweight, whose life of hard knocks inspired the billion-dollar film series "Rocky."

During 10 brutal years in the ring, Wepner endured two knockouts, eight broken noses and 313 stitches. But there were more battles outside the ring, involving drugs, booze and women.

"The Bleeder" also stars Schreiber's real-life partner Naomi Watts and "Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss. It's expected to hit theatres in the fall.

Falardeau's last Hollywood foray was "The Good Lie," starring Reese Witherspoon. That centred on a group of Sudanese refugees given the chance to resettle in the United States.

His francophone classroom tale "Monsieur Lazhar" was nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign language category.

PATRICK HUARD

During a round of interviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Quebec actor, writer and director said "Bon Cop Bad Cop 2" would finally be ready to shoot in May 2016, roughly 10 years after the first bilingual comedy hit theatres.

"I'm still working on the script, we're going to rewrite it basically until Day 1, in comedy that's how it works," Huard said back in September.

"The only thing I can tell you is this time instead of being Quebec versus Ontario, it's going to be Canada versus the United States."

As in the successful 2006 original, the followup will be bilingual and follow two very different police officers -- Huard's Quebec detective David Bouchard, and Colm Feore's Ontario investigator Martin Ward.

"This time around I can promise you one thing --Colm is going to be the star. I wrote him a great part, he's going to have a blast," said Huard, who also helped write the original.

On top of that, Huard said he's busy working on a francophone TV series for Quebec audiences. It'll be a dark comedy he describes as "'Jerry McGuire' meets 'Entourage."'

"It's about hockey -- and there's no hockey in it. It's the business side, it's an agency and agents, so it's all the (politics) and business and money."

Huard will star as "one of the worst agents possible."

JEAN-MARC VALLEE

The acclaimed director of "Dallas Buyers Club" returns to the big screen with Jake Gyllenhaal and Watts in "Demolition."

The off-kilter drama centres on a grieving widower, played by Gyllenhaal, whose inability to express his sorrow sends him spiralling into bizarre and sometimes violent outbursts. It's set for release in April.

During a round of promotion at TIFF, Vallee talked about falling in love with an "irreverent, edgy, provocative, deeply moving" script.

"It's mainly a film that celebrates life and reminds us to not forget the love, it reminds us to love, to take care of this beautiful feeling."

Meanwhile, HBO has said Vallee will direct all seven episodes of "Big Little Lies," starring Kidman and Witherspoon. Vallee will also serve as executive producer.

The limited series will be an adaptation of Liane Moriarty's 2014 comic novel about three mothers whose apparently perfect lives unravel to the point of murder. Laura Dern, Adam Scott and Zoe Kravitz also star.

At TIFF, Vallee admitted the Oscar attention surrounding "Dallas Buyers Club" catapulted him to a new sphere of fame, but he didn't expect it to affect the kind of projects that interested him.

"I'm not into big-budget, I'm into good scripts and if the good script has a big budget maybe I'll go there," he said.

"Normally the scripts that I relate to -- that I want to do, want to direct --are character-driven. They don't ask for big budgets."

DENIS VILLENEUVE

Fresh off his acclaimed handling of the cartel thriller "Sicario," the Oscar-nominated director moves onto what could be his career-defining gig: the hotly anticipated "Blade Runner" reboot.

Gosling is reportedly tabbed to star alongside original lead Harrison Ford, with original director Ridley Scott serving as producer.

Earlier this year, Villeneuve spoke gingerly about his affection for the iconic neo-noir film from 1982, taking care not to reveal too much about the new script.

"'Blade Runner' is one of my favourite projects of all time and ... this movie is linked with the birth of my passion for cinema, so I take that very seriously," Villeneuve said.

Despite being better known at home for cerebral arthouse fare like his Oscar-nominated "Incendies" and the black-and-white Montreal massacre feature "Polytechnique," Villeneuve said he's "been dreaming" of tackling sci-fi since he was 10 years old.

But it will be a big project, he admitted, noting he expected to spend most of 2016 preparing for the shoot.

In the meantime, he'll be courting audiences with another sci-fi feature, the alien invasion film "Story of Your Life." That film stars Amy Adams as a linguist tasked with determining whether alien invaders come in peace or not.

"What (excites) me is that I'm given the opportunity to work with artists that I really admire, that I'm learning a lot with," Villeneuve said.

"It's very, very exciting. I cannot say no."



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