20-Year-Old Xavier Dolan was a Cannes Sensation. Will Someone Finance His Next Movie?

In March of this year, Xavier Dolan was still a teenager, but in May, he was a 20-year-old with one of the most awarded Cannes Film Festival debuts ever. Dolan wrote, acted in, and directed I Killed My Mother (screening at the AFI Fest today), the story of a temperamental gay teen (Dolan) thrashing to get out from under the thumb of his tacky mom (Anne Dorval). The film virtually swept the Directors Fortnight program at Cannes, winning three of the biggest awards, yet Dolan's attempts to mount his next directorial project (the transsexual love story Laurence Anyways) have been thwarted, so the Quebec native has returned to acting for the time being.

Still, it's hard to believe we won't be seeing more of Dolan soon, as he's a handsome triple threat who boasts the ambition of a director, the playful narcissism of an actor, and the self-effacement (bordering on self-flagellation) of a writer. In a talk about his whirlwind year, Dolan discussed the perils of making an independent film in Canada, his love for Kate Winslet, and his unlikely standing in the Twilight franchise as a card-carrying member of Team Jacob.

You were supposed to make your next film as a director this fall. What happened?

Laurence Anyways was too expensive to shoot, and it requires a greater budget. It's put on hold, it's on hiatus right now, and we've focused on another project that is more independent and easier to gather money from. Since Laurence was put on hold, I decided to act - it's my first passion, after all. It was my first job ever, my first profession, and before wanting to write and direct, I was an actor.

I would have thought that after I Killed My Mother's success, fundraising for your next movie might be a little easier.

No, absolutely not. We are in Quebec and even though some doors are being opened for financing, for a Quebec movie, it's still very hard to find financing. We don't really have private investors in Quebec -- they're so discreet and rare and interested in very commercial things, not artsy movies. We just turned to public financing, which is a very obsolete structure that doesn't focus on art, but rather on profit -- and here, profit in film is not really feasible. We have a very small market compared to American movies and foreign movies, so it's hard to make money here. Because of this, it's only commercial films and blockbusters that catch the eye of public entities. Once in a while, we have films that are more indie and underground, but it's so rare. It's so complicated and bureaucratic.

Have you thought about looking for financing from another country? You were so well-received in France, after all, and you'd prefer to work in that language, I'm sure.

You know, financing with Laurence will be a co-production with France -- it's been decided, but it still requires some time. In fact, to make things more easy since our lead actor is French, we decided to approach France to look for financial partners over there. For the movie I'm shooting right now, we don't have public money and we don't have coproductions. It's only private money, and money that I reinvested in the film from the few profits I had made on I Killed My Mother.

And you had already invested your own money into that movie.

Yes, all my money.

It sounds like there are a lot of frustrating elements to the Canadian film scene, but at the same time, your film was picked as the Canadian submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Were you privy to any of that, or did it come as a surprise?

Total surprise. You know, I've been very critical towards the movie. It feels like it was made ten years ago. If I were to do it again, it would probably be done very differently. I hate a lot of things in it, and I'm always surprised that people...I mean, I love a lot of things about it, too, and I'm proud of the discoveries and experiments, but basically it's a film that feels like it's been a decade since I made it. For me, art is a "roll on" thing: I end something, and I must do something again. There is no break. There is no oxygen needed. I just need to roll on nonstop. I don't want to sound dramatic, but I feel it has something to do with my survival. Some people have different things that make them happy and allow them to breathe, and the only thing I really need is shooting film.

So are you hoping to be a workaholic director like Steven Soderbergh?

I know someday it won't be like that, and it's not that I want to make a film every year. I'm not saying, "It's going to be like this for the next 35 years, and I'm going to make 35 films! That's not the way I see it. It's like, if I have an idea, I want to do it now. Creation is something that evaporates pretty quickly.

Would you direct something you didn't write?

I don't know -- it depends on the project. I have a problem with taking a screenplay and being unfaithful to someone's original invention. There is a word for it...hold on, let me check it in my virtual dictionary.

You can tell me it in French if you want.

I have it here! OK. I have a problem with misrepresenting...is that it? Disguising someone's vision, their writing, their universe. You have a feeling you are corrupting someone's world, and it is the feeling I would have toward someone who would take one of my screenplays and try to put it up on the big screen. I would probably have the feeling that it's not my writing anymore, not my nature. Sometimes it's to the benefit of the film to have this process of metamorphosis through one's eyes, but I feel like I could not like this exercise of directing someone else's words. I believe in control over the whole process. I want to be there for every step. When on I Killed My Mother, if something bad happened, I could take every fault and blame, but I can't do that if it's not my screenplay. OK, I'm going to stop talking about this because I've been talking for, like, thirty-five minutes and you probably hate me.

No, I think it's interesting. I mean, when you're simply acting, isn't that a process of taking someone's words and filtering them through your own perspective?

Acting is totally different to me. No one will take away from me my acting, they will have to deal with it. Maybe they will edit it badly...I mean, they can do whatever they want with it, but they can't misrepresent it, because it's me. My acting can't be denatured because it's my acting. It's a blessing to be an actor because it's a profession of very short intensity. You get on the set for short periods and work hard for 25, 35, 55 days, who knows, and then you leave and you've done what you had to do. People are not going to talk about the editing or the directing of the movie, they're gonna be like, "Oh my God, Kate Winslet was so good!" And you know, Kate Winslet is a great actress. I love her. When I got to Hollywood, I'm gonna...well, she lives in New York. Chelsea. I know way too much about Kate Winslet, don't I?

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