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Xavier Dolan was tossed a politically hot potato in Cannes on Thursday afternoon but managed to handle it with suitable panache. Speaking at a press conference for his latest film, Mommy, the Canadian actor and director, now the favorite for the Palm d’Or following high critical praise of the emotional tragicomedy about a mother dealing with her disruptive teenage son, was asked if a win would be a victory for Quebec or for Canada.
“I’m from Quebec and Quebec is in Canada and that is a fact, that’s one thing we know for sure,” he said. “Whatever my political views are, I feel like my movie is very Quebecois, but it would certainly be an international victory. It’s not about a country or province, or old dilemmas that my generation don’t associate with anymore. It would just be an extraordinary message to the people my age and of my generation.”
A victory would see Dolan, at just 25 years old, become the first Canadian and the second youngest to win the Palm. Earlier in the press conference, the director — who first came to Cannes in 2009 with the lauded I Killed My Mother and then again in 2010 with Heartbeats — showed his youthfulness by revealing one of his major influences.
“I feel like we should talk about Titanic,” he said of the film, which he first saw as an eight-year-old child actor and, in previous interviews, admitted being so drawn to it that he wrote directly to Leonardo DiCaprio.
“It was so ambitious that it gave me the faith in crazy and ambitious ideas, and I’m not afraid of that. I’m not afraid of ambition. I’m not scared that people won’t like it, or will hate it. I have fears: I have the fear of falling on those red steps outside, I have the fear of stuttering when I shouldn’t, but I don’t have the fear of telling a story and creating it with people that inspire me.”
Dolan later said that he has written the script for his first English-language film, called The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, together with fellow actor-director Jacob Tierney. “I don’t know what’s happening with [the film]. We’ve sent it out there to get actor’s agents attention and are expecting an answer anytime soon.”
But before shooting begins, Dolan says he’s planning to return to school. “I’m going back in the fall to kill that wait, to try to have a bit of a more normal life and go back to hanging out with people my age. And hopefully kissing them a little.”
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