f there ever was an "everyman" for Canadian entertainment, it's got to be Paul Gross. He writes, acts, directs, and even produces. He's done film, television and stage work. Why does he do so many things? "I have a short attention span," Gross tosses off in a gentle, self-deprecating way. He also explains that these activities all essentially feed into telling a story. "It's not like I finish acting and then go and perform thoracic surgery," he adds. True.
However lately, just "telling the story" has afforded Gross little rest. He co-wrote, directed and acted in his most recent film, Men With Brooms, which is set for release in March. "The hardest thing I've ever done is direct a movie. There are endless decisions to make," he says.
The new Canadian romantic comedy follows four estranged friends who must reunite to overcome the past and win a second chance at life, love, and the
pursuit of the perfectly thrown rock.
When curling star Chris Cutter (Gross) left Long Bay, Ontario, 10 years ago, he didn't just throw away his team's chance to win the Golden Broom - the "Stanley Cup" of the curling world, he also threw away a chance at love, leaving his beautiful fiancée Julie Foley (Michelle Nolden) standing at the altar.
While Julie survived Cutter's rapid retreat (she's become a top-flight astronaut), he sunk the sporting dreams of his three teammates - Neil (James Allodi), James (Peter Outerbridge) and Eddie (Jed Rees). And last, but not least, is Julie's sister Amy Foley (Molly Parker), a single mom who battles alcohol alongside regrets that she never spoke up to claim Cutter for herself.
Cutter finally returns to his roots for the funeral of Coach Foley (Amy and Julie's father), his old friend and mentor. If guilt weren't enough to make him stay, his plans change when he hears the codicil to Coach Foley's will and discovers that his former coach wants his ashes placed in the curling team's Copernicus stone. He wants Cutter to put the old team together and, moreover, he wants them to place his stone - now his urn - on the "button" (the curling ring bulls eye) to finally win the prestigious Golden Broom.
Realizing his motley (and out of shape) crew will be hard-pressed to win without a coach, Cutter swallows his pride and calls upon a retired curling champion - his estranged father Gordon Cutter (Leslie Nielsen).
"This is a film about redemption. It brings people together," says Gross, who picked up writing and acting Gemini awards for his work on Due South. The series was the first to be produced for a primetime U.S. market in 1994 and Gross became known outside of our borders for his role as Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser. Not bad for someone who claims he went into acting because, "I quit math in grade eight. I had no visual ability and I can't dance."
Actually, a high school drama teacher inspired him to go into acting while he was living in Washington. An army brat, Gross moved around a lot as a kid. He was born in 1959 in Calgary. But his father was a tank commander in the Canadian army so the family lived in England, Germany, and the U.S., before settling back in Canada in the 1970s.
The summer he spent working at the Stratford Festival box-office when he was 16 cemented his interest. After high school, he attended the University of Alberta's acting program, which he left in his third year.
Gross met his wife, actress Martha Burns, while they were both performing in the play Walsh in 1982 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. They were married in 1988. Now the couple has two kids and they make their home in Toronto.
As the conversation wends its way back to Men With Brooms, Gross becomes animated again. "It's the finest curling movie ever made. Okay, it's the only one. But I think it can reach out to everybody," he says, slyly adding, "'I'm trying to get my MP to table an act of legislature, where it will be treason not to see it."
So, go see Men With Brooms.
- Deena Waisberg