On release day, PEOPLE caught up with Xavier Dolan, the brain behind the sepia-toned splendor that is the “Hello” music video. The Canadian director dished on working with the soulful Brit, how he kept it a secret – and, most importantly, why she’s using that janky flip phone at the 0:37 mark.
Here’s five things we learned about how the gorgeous video came together from its director.
1. Adele approached him to do the video – and he was initially nervous to sign on
Adele reached out, much to my surprise, and asked to meet. We met, and I listened to the song, and I knew instantly that I loved the song and that I’d love to direct the music video. I was sort of scared that the song would be great – I had no doubts the song would be great – but would I be able to imagine something, some story to tell? Would I be inspired? I was nervous to tell Adele, “Hey, I love the song. I don’t think I’m the right guy for it.” That didn’t happen! The song was so inspiring right away, and so was Adele.
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Everything appeared with such clarity instantly: It’s like I was watching a film listening to the song. I could close my eyes and just see Adele wandering about the house and making phone calls and ending up in the forest.
2. Adele’s just as amazing as you’d expect
We had a great time. [When we met], we spent the afternoon talking about our families and our friends and our lives, and it wasn’t much of a professional meeting more than an encounter on the human side, which was great Which is normal, I guess, when you think of who she is and the artist she is. She’s so generous and authentic.
She has a natural intellectual and artistic authority, but she gave me so much room to play and so much and so much freedom. I won’t call it a carte blanche because she wanted things, but we wanted the same things. It was a beautiful thing.
3. He had to keep it a secret for three months
[The video started coming together] in late July. I didn’t [keep it a secret] – that’s how I [kept it a secret]. I told my mom and my dad and my friends, and then I told them, “Don’t tell your parents or your friends!” I understand the value of keeping this a secret: There’s no reason in announcing things like these. Those are just artistic bombs that you want to drop on people’s hearts and have explosions here and there. And she’s right to have done it that way.
4. About that flip phone she uses…
It’s just not that big of a deal. It makes me uncomfortable filming iPhones because I feel like I’m shooting an iPhone commercial. And the same thing stands for cars: Drive them! Buy them! But on film, they’re distracting to me. They’re elements that you identify to our reality so much that – whether it’s a short film, a film, a music video – they just hurt the piece’s sensibility and reality, and it’s not as romantic.
Those things: iPhones, laptops, all those elements, to me, they bring me back to reality: That’s not what you want. You want to get out of your own life; you want to enter someone else’s; you want to travel somewhere; you want to be told a story. I’m realizing maybe I’ve been more distracting than anything else with that flip phone, but it wasn’t intentional!
5. He hopes the clip gets you misty-eyed
The only thing I’m hoping for is that they’re going to be touched by the video. That’s always what you sort of aim for. I’ve been living with it for like three weeks, and I couldn’t tell anymore if it was touching I see on Twitter: “Oh, I cried and I cried and I cried.” I’m like, “Great!” I guess I’m a horrible person wishing for other people to cry.