Chris Zylka Bella Thorne
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Michael Gambon, Bella Thorne and Chris Zylka are joining the cast of director Xavier Dolan’s much-anticipated “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” Variety has learned.

Actress Emily Hampshire will also be part of the ensemble, which includes Jessica Chastain, Kit Harington, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon and Taylor Kitsch. Production is set to begin this spring, and the film will be the first English-language feature by Dolan, whose recent credits include the Cannes drama “Mommy,” the Venice thriller “Tom at the Farm,” and Adele’s “Hello” music video.

Further details about the actors’ roles have been kept under wraps. “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” tells the story of a American TV star (Harington) who enters into a pen pal relationship with a young man from England.

“Exactly one year ago, we announced Jessica, Susan, Kathy and Kit’s participation,” Dolan told Variety in a statement. “A whole year has passed ever since, with the typical hindrances of an independent movie trying to step out of the usual ‘indie’ sandbox. But the movie was green-lit last week by eOne and I’m thrilled to announce, at last, that other actors are joining the cast, all of whom I have been a fan of for a long time.

“Emily Hampshire and I have been friends for years now and we’ve been longing to work together,” Dolan continued. “Chris is great on ‘The Leftovers’ and he’s one of the first people I met when I first came to LA.” Dolan added that he admires Gambon’s work as Dumblebore in the “Harry Potter” films. “I’ve got a Dumbledore quote on my right arm, and Bella, who’s brilliant, is on to play Jessica’s assistant in the movie, which is cosmically interesting given they came as sisters on the same spaceship from Red Splendors Planet to Earth.”

“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” is produced by Lyse Lafontaine of Lyla Films, and Dolan and Nancy Grant of Sons of Manual. The project will shoot in New York, Montreal, Prague and London.

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