Friday, February 29, 2008

In the News: Michael Therriault

Those of us not in London will soon get a chance to see Michael Therriault.

A vetran of the then-Stratford Festival and graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training, Therriault left Toronto to film the CBC miniseries Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story (2006) in Saskatchewan, then hopped the pond to resurrect his role as Gollum in the West End production of The Lord of the Rings: The Musical (2007, London).

There isn't even rumour of his return yet, either to Toronto or to Stratford (it wouldn't be this season, anyway), so we will tide ourselves over with his appearance in Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy (2008).

And this feature about it in the Toronto Star:

"Nicholas Campbell and Michael Therriault have been arguing for an hour.

"It's the same argument, endlessly repeated, with movie director John N. Smith looking on intently.

"Therriault, the stage actor who made his screen debut as Tommy Douglas in a CBC film in 2005, is back in Saskatchewan, playing a screenwriter on the trail of a good yarn. He's all sincerity and earnestness.

"Campbell, a craggy-faced film and TV veteran who still wears the cloak of Dominic Da Vinci, is an old cowboy with a terrible secret. He's all pugnacity and pigheadedness.

"'Don't go off half-cocked,' the Therriault character pleads.

"'If I went off half-cocked, you wouldn't be standing where you are,' the grizzled Campbell snarls back.

"It's very much a Da Vinci moment, recalling the combative style of the Vancouver coroner portrayed by Campbell through Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall.

"But the deserted, burnt-out ranch house and barren moonscape terrain of the Dirt Hills, an hour or so southwest of Regina, meant to be a ranch in the Hollywood Hills in the 1920s, are light years from Da Vinci's Vancouver.

"Campbell and Therriault [pictured below], along with British star Bob Hoskins, are headlining The Englishman's Boy, which was shot in Regina and area in 2006. The $11 million two-nighter airs Sunday and March 9 on CBC. It will be out on DVD on March 11.
"Scripted by Saskatoon writer Guy Vanderhaeghe from his novel, an international bestseller and Governor General's Award winner, the miniseries was directed by Smith, who did the Tommy Douglas film and a slew of other TV projects, including the multi-award-winning Boys of St. Vincent.

"The Englishman's Boy story unfolds in two interwoven strands: the first, in 1873, involves the infamous Cypress Hills Massacre, a pivotal moment in Western Canadian history. A young drifter known as the Englishman's boy (played by newcomer Michael Eisner) joins a band of wolf hunters tracking horse thieves, a hunt that leads to the slaughter of a group of Assiniboine Indians. The second part of the story takes place some 50 years later, with Campbell playing the grown-up 'boy,' a legendary cowboy actor called Shorty.

"Besides Hoskins, playing the Hollywood studio head obsessed with a vision of the True West, and Therriault, as the scriptwriter assigned to write Shorty's story, the film also stars veteran Canadian film and stage actor R.H. Thomson as the leader of the wolf hunters. Don McKellar also turns up in a small role as a Hollywood director.

"Besides the plum role in The Englishman's Boy, the 55-year-old Campbell has several other projects on the go, including some directing and production work. He has filmed The Quality of Life, in which he reprises his Da Vinci character, but the movie has yet to air.

"His colleague Therriault is busy too. The actor, a favourite of Toronto audiences, who ate him up in The Producers [2003] and as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings [2005], has had 'an amazing, amazing few years. It's been a whirlwind, really.'

"Immediately after wrapping up the Tommy Douglas film, he went to New York for a five-month run in a revival of Fiddler on the Roof [2004], then, a week later, he was in Toronto doing LOTR. After the show closed, he had 'just one day off and then I was here, shooting this. It's fantastic, an actor's dream.'"

Part one of The Englishman's Boy (2008) will air Sunday, March 2, at 8 PM on CBC.

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