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Longtime producing partner Nathan Ross confirmed his death in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter. According to Vallée’s rep, he died suddenly over the weekend of a suspected heart attack in his cabin near Quebec City, Canada.
“Jean-Marc stood for creativity, authenticity and trying things differently,” the statement read. “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.”
Born in Montreal, Vallée broke into directing through music videos. His debut film feature, the 1995 thriller Black List, earned nine nominations for Canada’s Genie Awards, while his 2005 coming-of-age movie C.R.A.Z.Y. won 11 Genies.
Emily Blunt starred as Britain’s Queen Victoria in his 2009 film The Young Victoria, which picked up three Oscar noms, including a win for best costume design.
The director went to the next level with 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club, the fact-based story of Ron Woodroof, who sold experimental drugs to AIDS patients. The emotional drama earned six Academy Award nominations, including best picture, and led to trips to the podium for stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.
Vallée’s knack for bringing out the best in A-list talent was further exemplified by HBO’s star-studded adaptation of Big Little Lies, the David E. Kelley-penned project that Vallée directed and executive produced. Vallée earned an Emmy and a DGA Award for directing Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and the rest of the high-profile cast on the highly lauded show’s first season, which aired in 2017.
In a statement shared with THR, HBO’s team said they are “shocked at the news of his sudden death” and extended “heartfelt sympathies” to his family and loved ones.
“Jean-Marc Vallée was a brilliant, fiercely dedicated filmmaker, a truly phenomenal talent who infused every scene with a deeply visceral, emotional truth,” the network’s message stated. “He was also a hugely caring man who invested his whole self alongside every actor he directed.”
McConaughey, Witherspoon, Dern and Leto were among the stars who took to social media to remember the late filmmaker.
“I will always remember you as the sun goes down. Chasing the light. On a mountain in Oregon. On a beach in Monterey. Making sure we all caught a little magic in this lifetime,” Witherspoon wrote alongside a series of photos of Vallée with his castmembers, at work and accepting an Emmy. “I love you, Jean Marc. Until we meet again.”
“With a gentle hand and heart Jean-Marc was a true receiver — he didn’t romanticize life so much as he saw life romantic — from the struggle to the pain to the wink and the whisper, love stories were everywhere in his eye,” McConaughey wrote.
Vallée went on to direct Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson in HBO’s 2018 limited series Sharp Objects, which he also executive produced. Earlier this year, Vallée and Ross’ production company, Crazyrose, signed a first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max.
Other film-directing work includes Wild (2014), which landed Oscar noms for Witherspoon and Dern, and the Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Demolition (2015).
During a 2016 interview with THR, the helmer revealed what he loved most about working in Hollywood. “The dream,” he said at the time. “Dreams can come true. I’m living the dream right now.”
Vallée is survived by sons, Alex and Émile.
Dec. 27, 1:34 p.m. Updated with a summary of tributes from Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Jared Leto and others.
Dec. 27, 4:29 p.m. Updated with suspected cause of death.
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