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Callum Keith Rennie - The Name of the Game (interview transcript)



I think in North America it's perceived as a rich man's game. But in Scotland, like, there's a golf course attached every... every town. Like, so you can walk to the course from main streets. So it's very... has this sort of working class roots. Which... which I dig. You know? Being from there.

To be a first-generation Canadian, I mean, uhm... because I grew up in a Scottish... home. With ceilidhs and kilts and haggis and Robert Burns Day and... that stuff, which people hold on to for... for a couple of- I am not sure how long, when they move to a different... different place. So I was, like, living in Canada, but growing up with a very... with a very Scottish herita... like, with a Scottish heritage.

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There's sports for health and there is certain sports, like golf, for me, works in... uh. It's a spiritual exercise in a sense. I mean that the highest... you know. You know, it's like all your shit shows up on the course. If you-  your ego, your vanity, your stupidity, your... whatever. You wanna blame everybody for your problems. All that stuff is there and available, but the most-  I find the best-  the most relaxed and easy, you know, gam-  rounds of golf I've played when I am more focused on the people that I am playing with than-  and that I am-  uh, you know, not really give a shit about the outcome. And it really works the same way for working in film or television. For me, the less... tightness I have about it the more creative it is. The less fear I have about the words or what, uh-  if I'm doing it right, if... you know. Am I good. Any of that shit, uhm, is gone, and you just actually work freely and happily, and it's creative and, you know, without tension. And I think that's maybe the, you know, the-  What you're always fighting against is tension, in almost any creative process. That you're not over-thinking things, your body is relaxed, and you just kind of, you know. You're accessible and available.



It's the most neurotic game in the world, kind of like acting. It's because, you know, you can-  continually it's something outside of you that's gonna fix your game. You gonna buy a bunch of junk, this is gonna fix it, you gonna get a coach, this is gonna help, that's gonna help. So there is this great neuroticism and marketing, and, you know, like, everything you need is actually inside. And it's, uhm... Sometimes the process of work, for me, in acting, is all that stuff too. Whether-  Like, I'm looking outside for all the answers, for what needs to be done in work, but it's really just about me. Really just making simple choices from inside and not looking for outside approval or values or any of that stuff.

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I think what it is, is learning, like, try to get results under pressure. I think that's the one thing. Like I, uh, it's similar. That, uh, when you're trying to have a good score, and it's going well, than how do you hold on to the good part of that. Much like you're doing a scene, or a show, like, just to keep the... the focus or the concentration on the right stuff and not on the stuff that... keeps coming into your head. Because, when you're shooting a good round of golf, you always-  you think, you start telling your friends, or you start-  There's all these things that you're doing before the end of the round that- that's, like, completely takes you out of the game. You're starting to think of the future, the results, all that stuff. The same happens in, for me, in the work. Like, as an actor, 'cause you just start-  if you're thinking about results, if you start thinking about... the film festival, or what you're gonna gain from it, then you... you're lost.



A friend of mine said, you have to choose to be the hero. And you have to do that in your life as well. And, I mean, in my career-  It seemed to start out playing a lot of hero-type characters, and then it sort of moved off into, uhm, some sort of darker, villainous place. And-  and then being-  recognizing it, is part of going; oh, maybe that's-  that challenge's been accomplished, now move into a different direction. So, but I think it's always continuously informing you about what and who you are. And I think it-  You gain from it, because you have to examine the good and bad of yourself. In almost all the work that I've chosen to do, there's a part of me that's... you know. So I'm working on a Carl Bessai movie right now, where the character is quite vile and evil, and you go; okay, what part of me is that? And you look at it and, you know, recognize it. You don't have to hold on to it, but, you know. You see it in yourself, and you see it in the world, and you see it in society. Like it's-  it's an okay place to be for a month, but after that it's not.

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As a young adult I worked in a-  at a library, and, uh-  You know, so there was access to tons of books, tons of, you know, information about... lots of different things. So I read a lot of bios; Monty Cliff, Jimmy Dean, Marlon Brando, and it seemed like that-  It sort of sparked interest but it's been like a very far away idea. It wasn't something that was-  You know, growing up in Edmonton, it just seemed Hollywood and that kind of... thing was very far from Edmonton, so-  Like that kind of started it, and I had a... an uncle who, um, had done some plays, and was involved in theater programs in England and-  But, uh... Yah, there was this-  It actually sort of found me, I wasn't-  There was not a big search for it, it just actually happened. It was more of an accident that anything.



I remember-  when I'm trying to remember my... Those-  what is it, like, those first memories. Like skipping school and-  I think in Edmonton it was siesta cinema, and watching East of Eden. And the character in it was called Cal Trask, so that's... oh, yah, I could be an actor, 'cause there is a guy named Cal in there. That kind of thing. You go- you know, there's always hints of little... you know, going; oh, that might be a good thing to do.

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And the cinema was a very big part of being a kid. To go to watch Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster was, like, an event, right? Cause you could eat the popcorn, and then flatten the box, and then fire it really hard off the back of someone else's head. That was cinema for me.

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It was never, like, a burning desire, but more something that I knew in the back of my mind as a kid-  It was one of those things that would be a great adventure. That it'd be a great adventure to be an actor, auto racer, bull fighter, uhm, you know, mountaineer... all those things.

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Growing up-  my family was, you know, Scottish, I was born in England but-  You know there was a lot of... Goon Show radio stuff. And, uh, Spike Milligan... these guys... Dudley Moore. Peter Sellers. And, uh, there was a-  in Edmonton-  a radio station and a friend had started working for the radio station and they had this live theater performance every Saturday. And I worked at the restaurant with, uh, my friend Scott. And... So he had me listen in one Saturday and it was, you know, he wanted me to critique it and see if it was any good, and it wasn't. As-  in my opinion-  so as a threat he invited me to come down and participate, and-  So I did, and it became a sort of ongoing thing for a year, where we'd write our own shows, with the sound effects... all that stuff. It was very fun.

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And it was with the same group of people that we formed a theater company and, and then just... did some theater.



I was never really comfortable doing theater, like I didn't-  There was never-  I never felt as comfortable as I did-  Once I shot some film and worked in that medium, I didn't think I would go back to it. Cause there was also the process of, for me-  Like, if a show, if a theater show worked I wasn't sure why, if it failed I didn't know why either. I always felt like I was bad. I might have been, you know. I couldn't really discern or... watch it, you know. Obviously I couldn't watch it back to learn from it, whereas in film and television there was a lot of experimentation. I could try things then and look at it or... or, you know. What I thought worked didn't, what I thought was bad was good. And so, I was trying to find how to work within that medium.

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Actors always go through, like neurotic... uhm. You know, not knowing their craft well enough, you know, and of course not having trained at all and only learned by getting books and reading and watching films and seeing plays. I just never felt... schooled enough. So I never really had a foundation to fall back on. So. And theater worked in a different way for me. Like, like film works in small... snippets. And you can... do it again, you can replay it. So, theater-  It was always this stepping off point to start the show was always a bit... you know. Tons of stage fright, not very comfortable at all. Whereas film and television work... There is, there is a little bit more control of the time frame that you're working in. And you get to repeat shots, repeat scenes, repeat; come in tighter, wider, whatever.

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I just don't think they make that many, uh, light-hearted Canadian films, you know. There's just not-  a lot of the roles for men-  I think it went to a period where it was all sort of a... a geek mentality for the male leads and now it's a lot of damaged, you know. But there's a-  Not really-  We don't really make romantic stuff. We don't really make out and out comedies. We, you know, stay within this sort of... odd format. What we-  I'm not sure, French cinema is a completely different-  I am not even touching that. 'Cause it's got its own life, it's own world, and they can make a-  They can make a drama, they can make comedy, they can do everything. But I think the western-  We just get caught in a certain... you know. And it's weird to think that you're typecasting, like, Canada, but there is a certain-  You play a couple of intense roles and so-  then you're the guy they get when they want someone... intense, I guess.



For me, I did Suspicious River and then the stigma of that carried for a while, which I didn't really think it would. Where you go, oh, you play this dark character, and you're-  That's what you do. I think, well, no, I-  There's been some lighter fare in there and... a lot of different things, and a lot of varied things, but I guess the ones that stick with-  uhm, certain people are the heavier ones. So, that's how they identify me. Like, course Due South was certainly not anything heavy. There's been lots of work that has been quite light and silly and with, uh, you know, some tongue in cheek, and has... has been... really, you know... not that. And even Falling An- like, Falling Angels, to me, is a comedy, and it's only a comedy because that, you know, that character is played, you know, head on and oblivious. And that makes him, to me, funny.

Clip from Falling Angels.


On Falling Angels, luckily, uhm, I think when we're talking about the project, I was in Los Angeles, and Molly Parker, a friend of mine, put me on to this, uh, acting coach, who gave me a couple of notes on the piece. She just read the script and then we talked about it. That was that part of that process. And then also having the book and... uh, and then basing it a little bit on... on-  It was fragmented, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. There wasn't any... secure... one thing. And then you're also working with the director. So process is such a hard thing to define for me, because it chan-  it seems to change on every show. There's always a, you know, given a time frame to work, given-  If it's from a novel, if it's-  Just how... how to approach it. Like I'm working on a movie now that's... a serial killer, but I didn't get the job until... Friday. I'd read the script a month before, but you don't really start working until... someone, you know, says you're gonna do it. And, uh, you say you're gonna do it and it's all agreed upon. So that's been a real scramble trying to find an honesty and a... uh... reality to that type of character.



It's the world of... qualities. Like, you seek out qualities, and... certain characters have qualities that are a little more pronounced.

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There are qualities and types of people that you know that you can take certain things from. And I mean, I don't know, what, you know, like-  I-  This is like hard because it's sort of like-  there's a lot of me in the work, and there's a lot of bits and pieces that I'm taking from moments, from things that I've seen, from other people, or qualities of how they go through their lives. And because they make certain choices, certain things are eliminated. So if you-  Like, the character in Falling Angels; he's extraordinarily protective of his environment, but he's completely insane about it at the same time. So it makes him, just some-  A lot of stuff gets disregarded, and the specific focus is on certain things. So, like in that particular instance that was to commit whole-heartedly to that kind of tunnel vision. And then sort of let whatever out happen, without any judgment or concern of, you know, what the other characters were thinking of you or... why.

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Like, I find-  I don't judge the characters negatively, because I find always something positive about them, no matter how bad they are- - Or-  Their actions are bad, but they may not be bad. It's making sort of points like that. And then say this Carl Bessai movie that I'm working on now; there is a sort of detachment by having read a lot about these types of characters. That-  I am kind of in it and out of it at exactly the same time.

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Say, playing a serial killer in-  Then you're just caught in that wor-  You're in a world. You're in world where, uh, where the mind in friable, where... people are disposable, where... you're thinking about a society where there's a percentage of people in the world who, uhm, do certain things like-  uh... and it's... terrible. And-  but it's the world we live in. And so without judgment I just try to kind of look at it. But it's not, you know, a world where one wants to be for that long. But there's information in it, for me, and as I'm looking at the world we live in, and the problems down in certain areas of, you know, most major cities, and how people can become victims, how people evolve into predators, all of those things...



It's a fine balance between playing somebody who's a terrible charact-  Like, who has a terrible behavior, and still making him likable. And still making him human enough that you go, we see ourselves in that person, we recognise that in ourselves. And that's, to me, I like that. I like it that it doesn't move too far, you know, one way or-  That-  that you get something from it rather then just being able to go, oh, that person is that. But, there's just, you know, there is... qualities in everyone that are negative and positive. So finding, you know, some have more and less, and-  It's just, you know, that fine balance between picking and choosing when it works and when it doesn't. Like, let's say, in Flower & Garnet, that character was broken. He wasn't a bad person. He was just broken, and he had a hardship that-  that he didn't get over. Like, in-  And everybody knows what that's like. Maybe they don't know it to that degree, and they don't know it-  His response to it wasn't very good. But he also didn't leave. And so, he's a good father 'cause didn't leave. He wasn't accessible, he wasn't available, he wasn't... a lot of things. He wasn't a good father. Except he didn't leave. And, you know, that was his good quality. And, you know, and how-  You know, the film's, for me-  He's... he's just waiting to start to open up again. And he's having... he's having a tough time. And we all recognize that, in people around us and in life. And so I'm just trying to find life in these characters. In a way that's ... recognizable, I guess.



For me, I mean, we've all had stuff that's happened to us. If we'd decided, if we'd made the choice to hold on to it and victimize ourselves, it would change our lives. So this, you know, like, in that process I didn't actually have that much... fun, on that show. I wasn't as goofy as I usually-  I think-  I say goofy but just not-  It's like a-  There's this eerie sort of... sad place to go and and just sort of hang around in. Somebody who-  You're around kids and I love kids, and-  Like, we're just never really-  As actors we didn't really connect all that much. Because I just-  That was that part of the process on that one where there was... people to spend time with but I just didn't. And when we're doing scenes we're being like strangers, rather than my own children that I was supposably the father of.

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(About his art) I've had a couple of shows in uh... the last-  Ah no, I've had one show in the last probably ten years, and then I had one, before, in uh... Edmonton. And I like painting as a-  The process is so completely different that working in film, where there's so many people around, and there is an audience that's gonna see it afterwards. And I find working just with your hands and making something-  It's your choice if you show it to somebody, you're making the choices of what it is that you're gonna represent or not represent or... you know. And uh there's something quite satisfying- and completely opposite from working as an actor, so.

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I've probably been very selfish on a lot of levels, and, you know. I've passed over certain things that may have-  You know, relationships and whatnot, 'cause I was focused on career. But trying to find an equal balance between career and having a- a life. And a life with... you know, some great people, to have that work out, I think is the way to go.



Getting to do lots of different things through many different ages, you know. Like, in my thirties, now my forties, and hopefully my fifties and sixties, that I get longetav..., you know, how do you say it? Longetivity. Longétivité. That's what I want.

*The Bravo interview or Name of the Game interview or simply The Golf Interview has been aired by Bravo!Canada in November 2006.
*Number of 'You knows': 58
*More pictures here and here.

ETA: The video of the interview is now available on YouTube; part 1, part 2, part 3.
Tags: .genre: interview, .genre: transcript, film: falling angels, film: flower & garnet, film: unnatural & accidental, misc: golf, misc: painting, year: 2006
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