His name should be vaguely familiar to you if you’re a dedicated follower of this country’s most esteemed cinematic works. After all, from David Cronenberg’s Oscar-nominated A History of Violence to 2014’s cult sci-fi hit WolfCop, Toronto-based Aidan Devine has appeared in over 100 film and television projects since making his onscreen debut in 1985.
At this year’s Calgary International Film Festival, Devine is adding two more acclaimed productions to his resume with the adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Keely and Du, and the slow-boil thriller I’ll Take Your Dead in which he plays a man whose business is making dead bodies disappear – that is until one corpse turns out to have a pulse.
We caught up with Devine to discuss his familiarity with film festivals, playing bad guys and why Canadian productions play an important role in his life.
Q: Certainly film fests must not be unfamiliar with you. Have you been to the Calgary International Film Festival before?
A: I don’t think I’ve been to the Calgary one before. I’ve been to TIFF a couple of times and Fantasia in Montreal, but that was a little while ago with (2005’s) The Dark Hours.
Q: What is it like to be a Canadian actor and be able to travel around to these film fests – what does it mean to you?
A: I haven’t been to that many film festivals, frankly. So I’m kind of excited about going to this one because I’ve got two films in it and it’s an unusual situation for me.
Q: And you’re introducing both films. Are you prepared? Have you introduced a film before to an audience?
A: No, I don’t normally do the introductions because I’m just an actor so I show up for the Q&A afterwards and try to answer the questions as best as I can. Usually the filmmakers are better at answering the questions. I can answer questions about my character or my process that I went through and whatever I had to deal with. Like this film, I’ll Take Your Dead, was a particularly tricky one because I had to put my hands into a guy who is in a pretty dire predicament. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but you know pretty soon that the guy disposes of dead bodies under threat. He is a butcher, so it’s like your typical lead bad guy in a horror film only he’s not really the bad guy.
Q: It seems like a meatier role for you. You often get cast in supporting roles so what aspect of this project did you respond to the most?
A: Well, it was a fantastic role and I like these guys at (production company) Black Fawn – they got a great outfit and they make cool films that look fantastic so I was interested right away. And this film is a horror film, but it’s a departure from a horror film because it’s a drama and suspense as well. So there’s a few different boxes ticked off with this one, and it was an opportunity to play – you know, I’ve played tough guys, bad guys, but I don’t often get to play a bad guy with a real heart and a real journey that he goes on.
Q: I wanted to ask you about thrillers shooting in rural settings. Whether it was Mike Figgis’s Cold Creek Manor, which you were in, or the new Stephen King thriller that’s filming now in Port Hope, or I’ll Take Your Dead which filmed in Orillia, many thrillers are shot in rural settings. What do you think it is about the Canadian landscape that lends itself to this kind of film?
A: I have the same question. Although every time I do shoot one of these things, where we are shooting is as much part of the film as what is happening in the film. We shot I’ll Take Your Dead in this farmhouse that was on top of this little plateau where you could see for miles around and it was all snow-covered because it was winter. It’s so stark and so lonesome that you could really get a sense of the desolation. I mean, we felt it while we were there even though it was a bunch of us making a film. I mean, this is a big country and there are parts of Ontario that are spectacularly beautiful and yet desolate at the same time.
Q: On that note, you have starred in both Canadian and American films and TV productions. What is the best part of being a distinctly Canadian actor and having the opportunities to dip your toes in both worlds?
A: I love doing American stuff because it’s American stuff. A lot of times they have a lot of money and hopefully I get a bit of that so I can continue to be an actor. Canadian stuff is – well, it’s changing now. It’s starting to look better and better because you don’t need a lot of money to make a beautiful looking and fantastic film. You need less money because of all the equipment and skills that around now. But I love doing Canadian stuff. I mean, when I do Canadian stuff I get bigger parts and I get to work with people in my community to practice my craft – which I’m totally committed to with other people who are totally committed to their craft. We get to make something together and it’s a beautiful feeling. Every time I do a Canadian feature, I feel like this is the best thing that’s happening in this country right now and I’m involved – this is awesome! Every single time, I get that feeling.
I’ll Take Your Dead makes its world premiere Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9:30 p.m. at the Globe Cinema (downstairs), and screens again Sat, Sept. 29 at 11:20 a.m. at Eau Claire 2. Keely and Du screens on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 8:45 PM at Eau Claire 2.
Steve Gow has spent a good amount of his time conducting interviews for a variety of publications as well as on television. Most notably, he was a film reporter for The Movie Network/HBO Canada and his written stories that were regularly featured in Calgary’s former “go-to guide” FFWD weekly, as well as Metro, Toronto Star and more.