Xavier Dolan Cuts Jessica Chastain From 'Death and Life of John F. Donovan'

Xavier Dolan Directors Q+A - H 2016
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The Canadian director took to Instagram to say the edit suite move "has nothing to do" with the Hollywood star's performance.

Canadian director Xavier Dolan has edited Jessica Chastain out of his English-language debut, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, now in the last stages of postproduction.

But Dolan on Sunday evening took to Instagram to insist the edit of his newest drama "has nothing to do" with the A-list actor's performance. "What you need to hear from me is that Jessica Chastain’s character, after what was a long period of reflection, had to be cut from the film,” he wrote, mindful of speculation likely to arise around his editing choices.

"It was an extremely difficult decision to make. I feel, toward Jessica, a very sincere love, and a great admiration. The decision was editorial and narrative, in that it has nothing to do with a performance, and everything to do with a character and the compatibility of its storyline," Dolan added in his post, which includes an on-set photo of the director and Chastain in character.

Chastain also went on Instagram to respond to Dolan's creative choices, and to ease concerns among her fans. "Darlings there's some #johndonovan news. Don't worry, I was informed in advance of this letter. This has been handled with the upmost respect and love," she said.

Set in the early 2000s, The Life and Death of John F. Donovan centers on an American TV star, played by Kit Harington, and his correspondence with a young actor-to-be (Jacob Tremblay) living with his mother (Natalie Portman) in England. Their lives take dramatic turns when the existence of their pen pal relationship is publicly exposed, eliciting the most ill-founded assumptions and sending Donovan into a tailspin.

The movie is set in two time periods, the other being a decade later, when the young actor recollects his relationship with his past idol over the course of an interview. The drama also stars Susan Sarandon and Kathy Bates.

Dolan added the "villain" subplot in which Chastain was featured "didn’t feel like it belonged to the rest of the story, which ended up not being on heroes or their enemies, but rather on childhood and its dreams."

Dolan thanked Chastain for supporting and defending the film from the outset. "She is a terrific actress, a politically engaged artist, what is more, who relentlessly champions the cause she believes in," he said on Instagram.

"She is respected by her peers and beloved by her public. I am disappointed that we didn’t get to reveal the exciting things we crafted together on this one adventure, but life is long, and missed opportunities almost always bode of even greater future collaborations," Dolan added.