Wither­spoon, Kid­man on why Hol­ly­wood is crazy for Que­bec’s Jean-Marc Vallee

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT - BY BILL BRIOUX

Their se­ries is called “Big Lit­tle Lies” but here’s the truth: Reese Wither­spoon and Ni­cole Kid­man are crazy about the show’s French Cana­dian di­rec­tor.

“It’s hard for him to talk about how in­cred­i­bly ge­nius and amaz­ing he is,” says Wither­spoon about Jean-Marc Vallee, “but I’ve never worked with a di­rec­tor who felt the per­for­mances, who will sit and cry with you about what your char­ac­ter is feel­ing, is there with you.”

Mon­treal-born Vallee directed Wither­spoon to an Os­car nom­i­na­tion in the 2014 film “Wild.” Kid­man had never worked with him be­fore “Big Lit­tle Lies,” but she, too, came away a big fan.

“He is an au­teur,” says Kid- man. “To have some­body else step in and try to mimic his style and his voice, it wouldn’t have worked, so we were very lucky.”

Based on the best­seller from Liane Mo­ri­arty, “Big Lit­tle Lies” is set in the trendy, sea­side town of Mon­terey, Calif. It is the story of three mothers: Made­line (Wither­spoon), Ce­leste (Kid­man) and Jane (Shai­lene Wood­ley from “Snow­den”). Their worlds seem per­fect at first, but scratch the sur­face with a well-man­i­cured nail and up pop those big lit­tle lies.

Ev­ery re­la­tion­ship in town seems at risk. Be­yond all the gos­sip lies death, per­haps even mur­der.

At first, Vallee was only signed on to di­rect one or two episodes, “and then we all at­tacked him and begged him to do more,” says Wither­spoon, “be­cause it just be­came clear, it was in him. Th­ese char­ac­ters were part of a story he needed to tell, which is real.”

In 1995, Vallee directed and co-wrote one of the most suc­cess­ful Que­bec films ever, “C.R.A.Z.Y.” Three films later, he directed Matthew Mc­Conaughey to a best ac­tor Os­car in “Dal­las Buy­ers Club.”

His move to pre­mium TV con­tin­ues with his next project, “Sharp Ob­jects.” The eight-episode se­ries is also at HBO, with an­other A-List ac­tress, Amy Adams, in the lead.

Why is Vallee, 53, so in de­mand with top Hol­ly­wood stars? Those Os­car nom­i­na­tions haven’t hurt, but he’s also prized for his warm and compassionate work­ing style.

On “Big Lit­tle Lies,” ac­cord­ing to Wither­spoon, he en­cour­aged the main cast mem­bers “to have din­ner and drink wine and talk about our lives and be­come real friends and ac­tu­ally share each other’s ex­pe­ri­ence so that when you get to the ac­tual scene on the day, there’s an un­der­stand­ing of each other that’s so much deeper than char­ac­ter.”

The seven-part se­ries pre­mieres Sun­day on HBO Canada.

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