15 Minutes with the Director and Cast of ‘It’s Only the End of the World’

Montreal native Xavier Dolan’s latest film, It’s Only the End of the World, tells the story of a dying playwright visiting his family for the first time after 12 years. Dolan and his three French stars-Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel and Nathalie Baye-spoke about the award-winning film at a TIFF 2016 roundtable held by Nespresso Canada on Sept. 11.

Xavier Dolan, Nathalie Baye, Lea Seydoux and Gaspard Ulliel of Its Only the End of the WorldPhoto: Nespresso Canada

Meet the director and cast of It’s Only the End of the World

Director Xavier Dolan on making a movie about a dysfunctional family:

“There’s been nothing in my life that could give me any particular insight or inclination towards the dysfunctional family. If you want to describe [the characters], you’ll say they’re loud, brash, brutal and petty. But you can also say that they’re very vulnerable, fragile and concealing a lot of pain. To me, those are the stories that I want to tell and those are the characters that I want to portray. It’s what interests me-how flawed people are. People can relate to these flaws. They think, “That’s me.”

Actor Gaspard Ulliel on playing a character with very little dialogue:

“There are infinite ways in portraying and inhabiting silence. At some point, you think of silence as the basis of an actor’s work. Before talking, there is silence, reflection and introspection, so in the end, it wasn’t that different from another role with more dialogue. It’s all about being the character and reacting to the moment.”

Actress Nathalie Baye on working with Xavier Dolan:

“I’ve had the chance to work with wonderful directors, but Xavier is for me in the top three. He does everything. He writes the script, he directs actors perfectly well because he’s also an actor, and he does the editing by himself too. He even writes the English subtitles. He knows exactly what he wants. And he’s the youngest director I’ve ever worked with. When we were shooting [our previous movie together], he was only 23.”

Gaspard Ulliel on filming a movie made up mostly of close-ups: 

“You feel like you have to adapt your acting to these tight shots, because everything is amplified. But at the same time, it’s very comforting and reassuring to know that every breath, every quiver, and every twitch is going to be captured on camera. And when you watch a movie that’s 90 per cent close-ups, the slightest movement becomes a potential explosion. It keeps the audience on the edge of their seat.”

Actress Léa Seydoux on playing emotional scenes:

“The emotion comes from the body, and you just need to stop thinking, basically. It’s not intellectual at all. You go for a very deep emotion, and for me, cinema is all about emotions.”

Xavier Dolan on casting actors against type:

“Something that baffles me about this industry is that we go to the same people for the same parts. “Oh, she’s so good as the alcoholic mother, so let’s give her another role as an alcoholic mother.” What’s fulfilling for an actor is that you are far from your own self. To me, it made sense to get actors who are willing to do anything, and probably can do anything. That’s the aspiration that a lot of directors have-you and the actor going somewhere else, not somewhere you’ve already been.”

Xavier Dolan on the Toronto International Film Festival:

“It’s actually a pleasure to get back into the mood and atmosphere of this film, talk about it, and see the cast again. There have been many beautiful moments at TIFF for me. Also this is a festival that’s way less stressful to be a part of. Here in Toronto, I feel home. I’ve always loved my experiences here.”

It’s Only the End of the World hits theatres in Canada on Sept. 21.