Jessica Chastain’s part in the upcoming film “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” has been removed from the final cut, according to an Instagram post by director Xavier Dolan.
The film, which stars Kit Harington, Kathy Bates, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon and Bella Thorne, follows an actor named Donovan and his correspondence with an 11-year-old boy, who reflects on the memories he shared with Donovan 10 years after he was killed in a storm.
In the lengthy post explaining Chastain’s removal from the already-shot film, Dolan said that he originally thought the film would be ready for release last fall, but decided that it required extensive editing to streamline the story.
Chastain’s character was one of the elements that he felt needed to be removed, saying that her subplot took the focus away from the central conflict.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to make. I feel, toward Jessica, a very sincere love, and a great admiration,” he wrote. “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.”
“This ‘villain’ subplot, albeit funny and entertaining, didn’t feel like it belonged to the rest of the story, which ended up not being on heroes or their nemesis, but rather on childhood, and it’s dreams. There is, in this film, a conversation on show business, yes, but it was in the family dynamics–and, once again, in mothers and sons relationships–that the heart of the film resided.”
Dolan spoke of Chastain in glowing words, calling her “a terrific actress, a politically engaged artist, what is more, who relentlessly champions the cause she believes in.”
Chastain returned the compliments in her own post, saying she was made aware of the cut well ahead of time.
“This has been handled with the upmost respect and love,” the actress wrote, adding in a note to Dolan that she is “always impressed with your true commitment to telling a story. To be an artist in each moment, you move beyond past ideas and expectations. I love you dearly and look forward to our future collaborations in life and art.”
Chastain may no longer be seen in this film, but you can catch her in the Aaron Sorkin film “Molly’s Game,” in theaters now, and in the upcoming “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” this November. A release date for “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” has not been set.