Callum Keith Rennie Climbs To The Top
Toronto's Globe and Mail
Saturday, December 14, 1996
Callum Keith Rennie plays tragic hero Jerry Bines in For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down (Sunday, CBC at 8 p.m.), based on the novel by David Adams Richards. In his recent movie roles, he played a punk rocker in Hard Core Logo, Sandra Oh's nerdy boyfriend in Double Happiness, an ex-junkie in Curtis's Charm and a charismatic outsider in the TV-movie Paris or Somewhere.
Before that he was on stage at the Edmonton Fringe Festival and the Shaw Festival, though his career was stop-and-go for the first few years due to "lifestyle problems."
Then, three years ago, Rennie almost lost an eye after being hit by flying glass in a barroom brawl -- and hasn't had a drink since. It was definitely a decisive moment in the 36-year-old actor's career, but not the first, he said by phone from Vancouver.
"I was a mountaineer, through high school, and for about four years after that, that's what I did. I climbed mountains and worked at odd jobs and would go climbing. There was some sort of pull toward the arts, a couple of girlfriends who were painters. I worked at a library for awhile and I read a lot of biographies and I read a lot about acting, and I thought that would be something to do at some point. But there was something about it that seemed very ego-oriented and I was very shy, so it was hard to know how to approach it...
"I was working at a restaurant and some friends had a radio show. They asked me to listen in to see if I liked it. It was interesting, and they suggested I come down and do a voice on it.
"After doing the one show, on that one day, Saturday, I took all my climbing gear and books about it and threw 'em out, and I said, this is what I do now. I'm going to be an actor...
"It was actually the first time I quit drinking to do something. I was a bit of a rounder but I thought, if I'm going to do this and get up on stage... We rehearsed this play for three months and I quit drinking and doing anything that would take away from my focus before I got on stage...
"Not that it worked out."
Rennie laughs and explains that, as much as he loved acting, he took a long time to take it seriously, quitting every so often for up to two years at a time.
"I'd gone tree planting and I was involved in a lot of different things which were, you know, not so great. But I thought the best thing -- and the last time I was ever really focused on something -- was the Fringe stuff, which was acting. So I went and took a couple of classes with a guy in town here [Vancouver], Alex Bruhanski, and for the first time I saw that the nature of being an actor could be an art, and the nature of it could be important in the sense of culture. Yeah I was completely inspired."
ETA: Added most of this to the theater post where it belongs...