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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.