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French-Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee made Toronto go mad with his 2005 family drama “C.R.A.Z.Y.” — the film won the festival’s Audience Award and swept the Genies the following year. Now he returns with “The Young Victoria,” the Graham King/Martin Scorsese-produced period film looking at Queen Victoria’s fledgling romance with Prince Albert. Vallee talked to the Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit about his return, the Queen as a babe, and how directing a movie is a lot like building your dream house.
The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel returning to TIFF?
Jean-Marc Vallee: I wasn’t nervous before, but now I’m becoming nervous. To present the film in Toronto, and have it at the festival. … I know the people, they are waiting to see what the guy from “C.R.A.Z.Y.” has done. Many are expecting another “C.R.A.Z.Y.” I’m nervous about the reaction.
THR: Your Queen Victoria is reimagined as a young coveted woman, which is the opposite of the more commonly held view of her as an older, dowdy woman. What is going on there?
Vallee: We remember Queen Victoria as on old, black-dressed widow, but in the drawings of her when she was young, she was close to being a babe. Short, but cute. She had something. (But) we didn’t go for the reality — she was five-foot-one. We were faithful to what she was in her mind and her heart.
THR: How did Emily Blunt come to play the Queen?
Vallee: When she heard that Julian (Fellowes) was writing “Young Victoria” — I wasn’t involved yet — she asked for a meeting with Graham. “I heard you are doing a film on Queen Victoria, I want to audition,” etc, etc. Marty had met her, too. A month later, when I met with Graham, and it was my turn to jump on the train, the decision wasn’t made yet but it was now the director’s turn to have the meeting. When I met with her in L.A., it was obvious that we needed a British actress, a damn good one. And there she was.
THR: Many movies have been made about the various British royals. What was it about this one that seemed different to you? Are you a fan of period movies?
Vallee: I wasn’t a fan of those movies. That was not my cup of tea. When I was asked to read “Young Victoria,” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to pass.” But my agents were, “C’mon read this, it’s from Julian Fellowes,” and I said all right. And when I read it, then I said, “There’s something there.” The family relationships, all those siblings and their world. They were like normal people except they were royalty. And so it was an opportunity to make something different about the royalty. Something with no wars, no blood. I didn’t want to do another “Elizabeth.”
THR: You just moved into your dream house in Montreal, a house you were building while shooting the movie in London. How did you even manage that?
Vallee: I talked a lot with the architect and with city people, going thought the papers. It was something to manage. Fortunately, we could get all the postproduction in Montreal, so I could be at my (old) place to work on the house as well.
THR: It’s like directing two movies at once.
Vallee: It’s funny you say that because (building a house) was very similar to making a film. Once you’re in production, with the construction people, it’s like a set. You have to make decisions on a daily basis, be creative on the spot, they call you for this and that. And if you can’t make a decision on the phone, you come the next day to the site. There’s always something you have to change, like on a set, and not be upset and just do it.
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