Jean-Marc Vallée, the award-winning Canadian director behind the film “Dallas Buyers Club” and the hit HBO show “Big Little Lies” who was known for a naturalistic and generous approach that brought out the best in those he worked with, was found dead this weekend at his cabin outside Quebec City. He was 58.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Bumble Ward, who said that it had been unexpected. No further details were immediately available.
Mr. Vallée studied filmmaking at the Collège Ahuntsic and the Université du Québec à Montreal. His debut feature film, “Liste noire,” a 1995 thriller that follows the trial of a judge, was nominated for several Genie Awards in Canada, including for best picture. He went on to co-write and direct “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” a coming-of-age film, in 2005. That helped catapult him to Hollywood. In 2009, Mr. Vallée directed “The Young Victoria,” which starred Emily Blunt and explored the early years of Queen Victoria’s rule. The film received several major awards and nominations.
He took on the critically acclaimed “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2013, a drama based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider. After receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, the Texan fought to get medication (illegal in the United States at the time) for himself and others with the virus.
Matthew McConaughey dropped many pounds to play Mr. Woodroof, and the film was nominated for six Oscars, winning three, including Best Actor for Mr. McConaughey and Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto.
The following year, Mr. Vallée directed “Wild,” another film based on a true story, which starred Reese Witherspoon as the author Cheryl Strayed during a solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. That film was also nominated for several major awards, including an Oscar nod for Best Actress.
Mr. Vallée was at the helm of several films and TV series with strong female leads, including “Big Little Lies,” which starred Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Meryl Streep. The show, a cutting tale of violence and class in the wealthy beachside town of Monterey, Calif., won several Emmy Awards and another from the Directors Guild of America.
Later, he took viewers into the world of small-town Missouri with the series “Sharp Objects,” which starred Amy Adams as a troubled reporter, and was nominated for eight Emmys.
“It’s true that my last projects were featuring mainly female characters,” Mr. Vallée said in an interview published by HBO in 2018. “We pushed the envelope in order to capture something that feels real and authentic,” he said, adding that he did not want to put style above the storytelling and emotion in the series.
He added that there were no storyboards, shot lists or reflectors used in making the show, because he preferred to allow the actors to express themselves. “I’m reacting to what they’re doing, instead of being active, and telling them, this is what I’ll do with the camera,” he said.
He was also known to avoid artificial lighting — and even rehearsals.
Mr. Vallée was born on March 9, 1963, in Montreal. Two sons, Alex Vallée and Emile Vallée; and his siblings Marie-Josée Vallée, Stéphane Tousignant and Gérald Vallée survive him.
In a statement, Nathan Ross, Mr. Vallée’s producing partner and close friend, described him as a “true artist” who stood for “creativity, authenticity and trying things differently.”
“The maestro will sorely be missed,” he said, adding, “It comforts knowing his beautiful style and impactful work he shared with the world will live on.”
Mr. Vallée was set to direct and executive-produce another show for HBO, “Gorilla and the Bird,” a limited series based on a memoir of the same name about a public defender who suffers a psychotic break.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2018, he described his work as attempting to expose the flaws and imperfection in human nature.
“I see that I seem to be attracted to these stories and to underdog characters,” Mr. Vallée said. He added: “The humanity, the beautiful humanity, is dark.”