"Actor and semi-reformed rogue Callum Keith Rennie bought a place in town this year. It's just about time to settle down. Maybe. Sort of. Pretty soon."
Callum Keith Rennie figures he's got the way to spin this profile. He offers up a possible headline: "Now he golfs and he's tired." It's coming up on noon at the Hotel Georgia but the actor is feeling a little, shall we say, dozy. A touch laconic. "The cutting edge is now dull," he suggests. Rennie's a kidder. But he does carry quite a reputation, a famously dissolute past that he might regret having revealed to the press in the first days of his career, now that he's a little older, just a touch wiser. Born in the U.K., raised in Edmonton, a seventies punk rocker with a Mohawk. Edmonton scene veteran Jerry Jerry, talking to Exclaim: "I can remember when there were four punk rockers in this town. And I don't know that you would call them punk rockers now. One of them was Callum Keith Rennie, the actor. He was quite funny. He had his own bodyguard, a guy who's a cop now. He needed it! He would wear this blue blazer with a package of strawberry Kool-Aid pinned to his jacket, and he'd find glasses on the street and drive with them. He drove his car into my house once." Rennie blew his student loan on a truck and went fishing for two months instead. Split for Toronto, ended up in a dubious crowd. Came out to Vancouver in 1988. Why?
"There's entanglements, there's... we won't get into that. I ended up here. We'll just call it that. Circumstances landed me here. I was out in Toronto in my early twenties but through some obscure things, you know, the deportations, some other stuff, I ended up in Vancouver."
Revealing all the details—a morally dubious past, a serious drinking problem—to an audience now makes him cringe. "It made me look like..." He rolls his eyes. Look like what? He cuts himself a break. "A person in their twenties scrambling to make a life." He's not so interested in romanticizing his story any more. He stopped drinking after he nearly lost an eye in a 1993 bar-fight here in Vancouver.
Back then, did he know he was going to end up on the big screen? "If I actually had thought I was going to be an actor - that would make me an egomaniac. But if it came and found me, hungover, laying face-down somewhere, then, yeah, I'd be an actor. Which it did."
Now he's got one of the best career arcs a Canadian actor can have without leaving the country. After starting off in his mid-twenties doing live radio (Rennie grew up on the classic British radio comedy, The Goon Show), he moved into theatre, short films, and then achieved his breakthrough in Mina Shum's Double Happiness (1994) and Bruce McDonald's Hard Core Logo (1996). Since then he's worked with Don McKellar (Last Night, 1998), David Cronenberg (eXistenZ, 1999), Lynn Stopkewich (Suspicious River, 2000) and Christopher Nolan (Memento, 2000). He was also featured for two seasons on the earnest and much-loved television show Due South, and he's been in decidedly less ambitious movies (Slapshot 2: Breaking the Ice, 2001).
So why is he still here? Most actors split for L.A. tout de suite, right? Rennie tried it, but it didn't take: "Any excuse to leave, I would. And that included my mom making Sunday dinner. I'd be on the road back to Canada. At that time in my life—right now I'd be fine there, but at that time in my life... It was a year and a half. It was the wrong timing for me, because if you go to L.A. you'll be provided with a lot of fears and career issues. I felt like a kid from Edmonton, and what the hell was I doing in Los Angeles?"
"I'm more mature now and this is where I want to live. To have a romance about a place, I think, is one of the most important reasons to be there—and Los Angeles didn't have, at that time, the romance for me. It's just how much you're willing to take on at a certain time, or how many weird scripts or bad scripts you can read. Headkicker III, y'know? I don't know if I want to do that."
He breaks into an imaginary conversation with an imaginary Los Angeles agent: "'You're hard to send out.' No I'm not. I just don’t want to do Headkicker III. 'You're difficult.' No I'm not. I just don't want to do Headkicker III." He's content to stay in Vancouver and work with Canadian directors because "you can see the landscape here. It's nice to have a career. It's nice to be in a position where they may come to you first. You know, when I go out to Toronto I'm a part of the community. It just feels like I'm in the right place. Down in L.A. I don't know anybody and it just gets a bit... all over the place. I don't know what I'm serving. If it's self-serving or what."
But these days: a whole lot of golf. He's 42, after all. He's a shell of his former self, right? Crazy days done gone, yes? "No. Crazy twenties, crazy thirties, crazy…until about half an hour ago."