As we celebrate Canada's 150 birthday this year, we look back at some of our own discussions with Canadian actors, writers and filmmakers about the intersection of their craft and their country.
It's both appropriately humble and patriotic that the first Canadian movies ever filmed were of the Prairies, farms and the Canadian Pacific Railway. The man behind the camera was farmer James Freer, who emigrated from England and settled in rural Manitoba and his movies, made in 1897, launched a tradition of filmmaking in this country that includes Canadian-born pioneers like Mary Pickford (the screen star who helped establish multiple film studios, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself and who became the first Canadian to ever win an Oscar -- Best Actress in 1928/29 for Coquette), filmmakers Graeme Ferguson and Roman Kroitor (co-founders of IMAX), May Irwin (one half of film's first onscreen kiss in 1896's The Kiss), Nell Shipman (who performed one of mainstream film's first nude scenes in 1919's Back to God's Country), Christopher Plummer (who still holds the record for oldest person to win an Oscar in an acting category, at 82) among countless celebrated films, filmmakers, actors/actresses and innovations.
As we celebrate Canada's 150 birthday, we look back at some of our own discussions with Canadian actors, writers and filmmakers about the intersection of their craft and their country.
From Saturday Night Live to The Blues Brothers to Trading Places and Driving Miss Daisy, Ottawa's Dan Aykroyd, 63, is one of the most famous and successful Canadian performers ever. Fiercly proud of his Canadian roots, Aykroyd, Zoomer's March 2016 cover subject, took us inside his family's century-and-a-half-old ancestral home near Kingston, Ont., and, in particular, the séance room – with its forest green walls, low wood-beamed ceilings, faded photographs and fireplace – where he explained how one of his most famous films actually has Canadian roots.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: I wanted to ask you about this room we're sitting in -- the séance room. You said that this is where you conceived the idea for Ghostbusters.
DAN AYKROYD: Well my great-grandfather Sam was a dentist in Kingston and he was the reviewer for the local newspaper for whatever psychic acts were coming through town. After World War I … you've got families that were desperate to try to reach [their deceased relatives] and mediumship and spiritualism became very popular then. But you had to have someone to sort out the hoax from the real thing. So my great-grandfather was considered basically an observer of this phenomenon.
This room was where they had the séances … On Sunday, three or four big black cars would roll up, and the women would come dressed for Sunday church and the men in suits. And my great-grandfather Sam would hold the table here. And [medium] Walter Ashurst would sit and [they'd] hold hands. The circle would form and then within minutes Ashurst would go into a full-on, open mouth agog trance, and they would ask him questions.
So this is kind of my family business. So I'm reading this and I'm sitting one afternoon reading about quantum physics and parapsychology and I go, "Would it be great to do an old-style ghost comedy but use the knowledge that people have been researching for years?" So that was where Ghostbusters came from.
The famed Canadian filmmaker and two-time Oscar nominee, 55, who sits on the board of NCFD, told me that, "There's a broad section and diversity in terms of the people who are appreciating [NCFD] because they're also seeing their own stories reflected back at them."
When I ask Egoyan which Canadian film he'd recommend people check out on NCFD, his answer comes quick:
"I love The Grey Fox. This is a film that was made by Phillip Borsos and it was the story of Bill Miner, this legendary sort of bank robber told in B.C. and it's a lovely, lovely film. I'm so thrilled. That's a revelation for people who haven't seen it before. That's a great movie."
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