by Steve Tilley, The Edmonton Sun, March 22, 2001
Callum Keith Rennie is now officially the coolest actor in Canada.
Not because he grew up in Edmonton and still visits often, though that certainly has something to do with it. Not because he's starred in seminal Canadian indie flicks like Hard Core Logo and Last Night, or our country's most popular TV export, Due South.
No, Rennie is officially the coolest actor in Canada because he's going to be in Slap Shot II. Yes, you read that right. A sequel to the greatest. Hockey film. Of. All. Time.
"Yep," a clearly pleased Rennie said yesterday, on his cellphone after wrapping up a rehearsal for the shooting-in-Vancouver feature. "Monday was the first day on ice."
Given that the interview was supposed to be about Rennie's co-starring role in Suspicious River, screening tonight at the Local Heroes International Film festival, it was tough to be polite and not grill the actor mercilessly about this revelation.
Rennie did say he's playing a character who's sort of an amalgamation of two characters from the 1977 original, which starred Paul Newman and introduced the world to the Hanson Brothers.
"They originally wanted me to come in for some other part and I said, 'Look, I'm 40.' "
Like any red-blooded Canadian kid, Rennie played minor hockey while growing up in Edmonton. When working in Los Angeles, he also plays pickup games with other actors from Toronto and Vancouver.
"As soon as I started spending time in L.A., I needed a lot of distraction," said Rennie. "When I'm down south, I just feel like I'm in a foreign country, and I'm away from friends and people who keep me connected and interested in what I do."
No doubt, eh. Not that Rennie is spending undue amounts of time south of the border. The bulk of his recent films have been with top-flight Canadian directors like Bruce McDonald, David Cronenberg, Don McKellar and Suspicious River's Lynne Stopkewich.
Not bad, considering Rennie didn't begin seriously pursuing an acting career until his early 30s. While growing up here, he worked at odd jobs, attended the U of A for a while, and drank. A lot.
A bar fight that ended up with a window being shattered and a sliver of glass lodged in Rennie's left eye (which he nearly lost sight in as a result) became a kind of epiphany. He went off the booze and got serious about acting.
His breakthrough role was as Sandra Oh's nerdy boyfriend in 1994's Double Happiness, with John L'Ecuyer's Curtis's Charm and Bruce McDonald's punk band mockumentary Hard Core Logo (also starring the Headstones' Hugh Dillon) following in successive years.
And although he prefers film over TV, Rennie is probably best known for his Gemini Award-winning role in the kids' series My Life as a Dog, the recurring character he played in Nikita, and especially for Due South, in which he played Chicago Det. Stanley Kowalski opposite Paul Gross's Mountie.
Suspicious River sees Rennie playing a dangerous drifter who fulfils Molly Parker's character's disturbing desires.
"In the book (by author Laura Kasischke) the character is described as unremarkable, and I kind of liked that," Rennie said.
"He wasn't this, he wasn't that. He's one of those characters that's a fine line to play, so he's somewhat sympathetic in some way."