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Paul Schrader sensed mortality approaching, prompting him to create a film centered on the theme.

Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photographs (Via Scott Denver/Getty Images)

After several hospital stays due to long COVID, Paul Schrader had a realization. “If I’m going to create a film about death,” Schrader thought, “I need to do it quickly.”

The health of the 77-year-old filmmaker, known for classics like “Taxi Driver” and “First Reformed,” has since improved. But his urgency grew when Russell Banks, a longtime friend whose novel “Affliction” Schrader adapted into a film, fell ill and passed away in 2023.

Schrader decided to adapt Banks’ 2021 novel “Foregone” into a film, initially thinking it might be his last project. However, despite previously suggesting his retirement after films like “First Reformed,” he continued with “The Card Counter” in 2021 and “Master Gardener” in 2022.

Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photograph (Via Scott Denver/Getty Images)

“The irony is every time you think, ‘That’s the end,’ a new idea comes,” Schrader told The Associated Press at Cannes Film Festival. “You write it, you make the film, and then you say to God, ‘Hold on, I’ll be back after the film is done.'”

Jokingly, Schrader added, “I might start a new company called Post-Mortem Cinema.”

Schrader was set to debut his adaptation of Banks’ novel, now titled “Oh, Canada,” at Cannes on Friday. This marks his return to competition after 36 years, alongside fellow New Hollywood icons Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Schrader’s Cannes comeback evokes memories of the influential American cinema of the 1970s, when “Taxi Driver,” which he wrote, won the Palme d’Or in 1976.

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