‘Oh, Canada’ First Look: Jacob Elordi Is a Draft-Dodging Documentarian in Paul Schrader’s Ode to Russell Banks

Jacob Elordi is swapping eras and countries for Paul Schrader’s “Oh, Canada.” In the new feature, the Australian actor portrays Leonard Fife, a Vietnam War draft evader who restarts his life in Canada and becomes a documentarian. Richard Gere plays the older version of Elordi’s character as he reflects on his life while dying of cancer and gives one final interview to share his secret. The feature is an adaptation of late author Russell Banks’ 2021 novel “Foregone.” Banks and director Schrader previously collaborated on film “Affliction.”

“Oh, Canada” is premiering in competition at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, marking Schrader’s return to the festival since 1988’s “Patty Hearst.” Schrader recently shared a photo with fellow auteurs Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, who will also be in attendance at the festival, with Coppola debuting “Megalopolis” and Lucas receiving an honorary Palme d’Or.

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“Oh, Canada” itself also serves as a reunion of sorts, with Schrader back once more with actor Gere, who starred in his 1980 film “American Gigolo.” Filmmaker Schrader previously told Letterboxd that Robert De Niro was first approached to lead “Oh, Canada” before he reached out to Gere.

“I like the kind of top spin of doing the dying gigolo, the emaciated man in the wheelchair, bald and sick, and trying to get his life straight. Now I have to cast a younger version of him,” Schrader said before Elordi came onboard. “So there’ll be two characters. When you package these kinds of films, you have to keep in mind a little bit of the buzz, what I call the top spin. Bret Easton Ellis said to me the other day, ‘I was told that you’re doing a remake of “American Gigolo.”‘ I said, ‘I’m not, but if they want to think that and it can help me get money, they can think that.’”

Schrader additionally described the film to IndieWire as about “Canada being a metaphor for death,” he said. ‘It’s my ‘Ivan Ilyich.’” The Oscar winner later shared that he is working on a new script about the “post-dying” process.

“I was sort of saturated with dying at that time,” Schrader said. “I had been to the hospital multiple times during COVID. Friends had been dying; they still are dying. And I thought, well, geez, if you’re going to make a film about dying, you better hurry up. And so I did it.”

Schrader added, “I feel like it went quite well, so now I’ll make a post-dying film.” He continued of the currently in-the-works script, “I’m writing something right now. I’m going over it today. … I’ve written a script about a sexual obsessor. So that’s what I’m doing now.”

Elordi’s “Saltburn” co-star Barry Keoghan is also leading a Cannes feature with Andrea Arnold’s “Bird.”

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