Friday, July 01, 2011

O Canada: A look at the acting chops of some of our homegrown talent

Happy Birthday, Canada! In honour of Canada’s 144th Dominion Day, I thought I’d write a piece about our great country. Canada is known for many great things like maple syrup, the beaver, multiculturalism, free health care, the Stanley Cup and the Royal Canadian Mounties. We’re a country rich in talent with world-renowned representatives in the sports world (Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash), in the arts (Margaret Atwood, The Group of Seven), in music (Neil Young, The Guess Who), and in film.
Canada’s bevy of talented Canucks have become big movers and shakers in Hollywood with roles in hugely successful films. Several Canadian actors have garnered both critical and commercial success to become household names and sought after players in the film industry. As Canada celebrates its 144th year as a nation, we honour its great acting talent with a look at some great Canadian actors.

Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey was born in Newmarket, Ontario. He began his career in comedy performing at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. He landed his first major starring role in the hilariously popular Ace Venture: Pet Detective, which began the snowball effect of great comedic performances by Carrey in films like The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy and Liar, Liar. Proving his wasn’t a one-trick pony about to be typecast; he stretched his acting chops in more dramatic films like The Truman Show and Man on the Moon, earning Golden Globe Awards for both performances.
Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams was born in London, Ontario. She graduated from the drama program at York University in 2001. In 2004, she starred in two major motion pictures – Mean Girls and The Notebook – roles which raised her profile in Hollywood and led to other prominent roles in Wedding Crashers and Red Eye. After the success of these films, McAdams was dubbed the new “it girl” and quickly became Canada’s sweetheart. When she’s not making movies, McAdams lives with her brother in a small town outside Toronto. She’s been quoted in People Magazine as saying, “Acting is my job. It's not my life. My life is in Toronto.”
Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling was born in London, Ontario. At age 12, he appeared on The Mickey Mouse Club. He earned mainstream success alongside compatriot Rachel McAdams in The Notebook. In the film, they play a young couple whose love affair begins one summer and lasts a lifetime. In a classic case of life imitating art, McAdams and Gosling became romantically involved after finishing production on The Notebook and dated for three years before calling it quits.
Switching gears completely, Gosling next starred as a drug addicted middle-school teacher in the drama Half Nelson, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination. He followed that performance with another staring turn in Lars and the Real Girl, an unconventional love story about a quirky guy named, Lars, who develops a relationship with a doll named Bianca. Critics loved the movie and Gosling’s performance was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Last year, Gosling once again wowed critics with his turn in Blue Valentine.
Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox was born in Edmonton, Alberta. Fox became a household name when he captured the hearts of television viewers in the role of Alex P. Keaton in the sitcom Family Ties. In 1985, he starred in what became the highest grossing film of that year – Back to the Future. Back to the Future was a critical and commercial success and became a pop culture phenomenon. It remains one of the most beloved films of all time and graces numerous “best movies” lists. Fox remains one of Canada’s most beloved actors not only for his body of work, but for his personal and courageous battle with Parkinson ’s disease. He’s become a strong advocate for Parkinson’s disease awareness and research, creating a foundation called The Michael J. Fox Foundation to help advance promising research in finding a cure for the disease.
Sandra Oh
Sandra Oh was born in Nepean, Ontario. Oh became widely known in Canada for her lead performance in Double Happiness for which she won a Genie Award for Best Actress. Double Happiness is about an aspiring actress trying to fulfill her dreams amidst competing duties and obligations. She has starred in other noteworthy Canadian films – Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity and Last Night. In 2004, Oh became known to American audiences when she starred in the Academy Award nominated film Sideways. Currently, in her role as Christina Yang in the medical series Grey’s Anatomy, Oh has solidified herself as one of the best known characters on television.
Leslie Neilson
Leslie Neilson was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. When he was young, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force then worked as a disc jockey. His acting career began with dramatic roles in television, but Neilson found his true niche as a great comedic actor. He is best known for his performances in comedy disaster film parodies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun Series. Neilson’s knack for portraying characters with deadpan seriousness while hilarity and absurdity surrounded him was pure comedy gold. The American Film Institute ranked Airplane! on its list of the top ten comedy films of all time. Neilson passed away in November 2010 due to complications from pneumonia. In an effort to garner one last laugh perhaps, Neilson chose “Let ‘er Rip” as his epitaph.
Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He broke onto the scene with a starring role in the National Lampoon movie Van Wilder. Reynolds displayed his great comedic timing and leading man charisma and went on to star in other funny flicks like Just Friends and Definitely, Maybe. Stretching his acting chops and showcasing his physicality and ability to play darker roles, he strayed from comedy and starred in the supernatural action film Blade: Trinity and in a remake of the horror film The Amityville Horror. Reynolds continues not to favour one genre over another, splitting his starring roles between comedy – The Proposal – and action ­– Green Lantern.
John Candy
John Candy was born in Toronto, Ontario. He began his career as a standup comic and rose to fame as a member of the improv troupe The Second City. Candy’s superb comedic timing and remarkably endearing and hilarious characterizations helped to make films like Splash, Spaceballs, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Great Outdoors and Uncle Buck great critical and commercial successes. Candy dabbled in drama and took on more serious roles in the early 1990s, but his dramatic films could not rival the success of his funny films. Sadly, Candy died from a heart attack at age 43.
Who are your favourite acting Canucks? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. Good post, I have also been thinking about all these actors that most people assume are American, especially those from outside of North America (like me) where it's virtually impossible to differentiate.

    Love those actors listed and also Ellen Page and Christopher Plummer

  2. Where the hell is Sandra Oh's Emmy? I'd love to see her back on the big screen, though.

  3. Christopher Plummer for me.

    I had no idea how many of these great actors came form Canada.

    Great post.

  4. @Squasher88 - there are so many talented Canadians making movies. When I was doing research for this post, I was amazed at some of the actors I came across that I thought were American. I'll never forget Ellen Page in Juno - great movie, great performance. Christopher Plummer is a great veteran actor and a great addition to the list.

    @Andrew - an Emmy (and an Oscar)are the only big awards she's missing. I agree - Oh needs to make movies again. I'd love to see her in a great starring role soon.

    @Duke - glad you liked the post. Canada is being represented very well in Hollywood, and Christopher Plummer is one of our great actors for sure.

  5. I have always had a soft spot for both Sarah Polly (The Sweet Hereafter, Go, Dawn of the Dead) and Molly Parker (Kissed, The Road, Marion Bridge). Donald Sutherland is great as well.

  6. Leslie Neilson was a Canadian treasure and was always willing to gat involved in Canadian projects like the Littlest Hobo and Men with brooms.

  7. It's great to know that some of these actor/actress were born from. Good post! Love the Rachel McAdams quote.


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