Score! A Hockey Musical

Score! A Hockey Musical opens TIFF tonight

I have known Noah Reid since I was twelve. We both guest starred on a Disney television show called In a Heartbeat. From what I can remember, my character was having a party while her parents were away, invited trouble maker boys, only to be found out when she choked on a piece of bread and paramedics were alerted. Noah played one of the rebellious tweens, and didn't laugh too hard when I had to fake choke.

Since then, Noah and I have hardly hung out but we've always had a lot of mutual friends. For years, I've felt a real fondness for him from afar. This summer, I went to go see a play he did at SummerWorks called The Innocents. I was completely blown away by the show, and above all, Noah's performance. In it, he plays a passionate young man and I've never seen the confusion of being in your twenties be communicated with such poetry. He is a very fine actor. I really respect him.

This year, Noah is starring in Score! A Hockey Musical, a musical about, you guessed it, hockey, directed by Michael McGowan (Saint Ralph, One Week). It's opening the 2010 Toronto film festival. In Score, Noah plays a seventeen-year-old hockey whiz who becomes an instant star when he is signed by a junior league team. He soon discovers that stardom comes with a price - including the expectation to fight on the ice. I've heard Score unites Canada's national obsession with the overnight success stories of the classic Hollywood musicals.

When I run into Noah at Mercuryon Queen, I ask him if he wants to be interviewed about what it's like to star in a film that's opening the festival. Lucky for me, he did. I talk to him over the phone, during his midnight meal-break on a new Sci-fi pilot he's shooting, called Three Inches.

Noah, I had no idea you could sing and dance. What did you have to do to prepare for Score! A Hockey Musical?

I can't dance. I'm a terrible dancer, but I thought this project was amazing because they replaced the dancing with hockey. That I can do. The singing stuff, I've been singing since I was a kid in choirs and in musicals when I was like eight. As I got older, I stopped doing them because I thought they didn't focus on the acting which was what I was most interested in. So, then, I just started singing and playing piano and writing songs for myself. I kept the music and acting lives separated until this script along which was the perfect fit of all three things I can do; sing, act and play hockey.

To prepare, I joined the men's pick-up league of other male actors who play hockey and learned the songs as they were given to me.

What was the audition like?

I was doing a show at Soulpepper so I had to go on my lunch break to audition. I think I was the first person that they saw. I went in, did the audition, it went great. I did three scenes and SANG sing a song for them acapella. Then Mike McGowan said, "Can you skate?" I said, "Yeah, all my life," and he said, "We'll see." A week later it was he and I on the U.C.C hockey rink so he could see that I could skate. I could, and he said, "Okay, that's great so you can skate," and i said, "You don't want to play one-on-one?" A stupid thing to say because it was 8 am and I had no legs left, and so he skated circles around me. He thinks that I let him win but I didn't. Then we went out for breakfast and I couldn't eat because I was afraid I'd puke it up.

Do you know why TIFF chose Score! A Hockey Musical to open? Do you feel a lot of pressure, or are you excited?

I think they are a few reasons why. Firstly, last year TIFF didn't open with a Canadian film and that was subject of much discussion. Secondly, Barneys Version which would have been the opening film, couldn't open because the opening is Roshashana. Barney's Version is a Jewish film, and they wont put a Jewish film on a Jewish holiday, so our Gentile hockey movie stole the spot.

Thirdly, Mike's movies have always done well at TIFF, he has a great track record, is a great Canadian film maker, and building on his success with One Week it seemed, I guess, like the obvious choice. It's often a heavy drama never this kind of a movie, and Score! is a joyous film, a romp, and such a feel good movie that I think that's a bit of a departure for them, and for their 35th anniversary I think they were feeling good about doing something different.

What are you doing now to prepare for TIFF? Are you nervous?

I have never done TIFF as an actor, and I've never even been to the fest before - which is ridiculous being a Torontonian. It's my first movie in my home town, and we're opening. It's really cool. I think it's a rule that if you live in a city, you don't always take advantage of the cool things to offer. I never had the hook ups for tickets before, either. In the years where I would have liked to go and would have been able to, I was at theatre school.

During the time I should be prepping for TIFF, I'm shooting this pilot which is taking up most of my mental energy. But I have a great support team. My agent, publicist etc. are looking out for where I need to be and making sure that I look good. Luckily, I got a suit from Hugo Boss which is pretty snazzy, I'm just going to go and see what the Festival is like and kind of roll with it.

Mike McGowan is one of my favourite Canadian directors. His movies are so distinctly and proudly Canadian, and very different most other Canadian cinema. What was it like to work with him and what do you think makes him such a good story teller?

That's exactly what he is, a great story teller. I haven't worked with a lot of Canadian filmmakers but his emphasis is on many different things. Sometimes, it's making it look tremendous and sometimes it's getting in there with the actors. His philosophy is if you hire the right people you let them do their thing and then he's a puppet master, just fine tuning. He welcomed anyone's ideas, but he was always into just getting the story out. He's a really kind of inventive guy, he would run things by his kids, and if they laughed, he'd use it.

On set he set the tone with this amazing familial vibe. His kids were around, his wife, and it was like that with the whole crew. The crew was always saying we've never been on a set like this, no tension, no nothing, an amazing set. We played shinny at lunchtime, that doesn't happen very often! We got along great, Mike and I have similar sense of humor. Avi Federgreen the producer said to me, "You know, Mike always puts himself in his movies, and I think he saw something in you that reminded him of him."

What do you think Score! says about Canada?

The kind of obvious thing is that we love hockey and that we love music and that we love having a good time. The other thing, the message of the film, is to be aware of who you are, what your values are, and I think Canadians are very aware that way. I think there are a lot of people who are aware of their own values and what they believe and who are interested in staying true to that. It's very easy to lose that, as well. In this movie, my character is thrown into the world of hockey and celebrity and he loses his way a little bit. I think the message of this movie is about holding onto who you are, something that's valued in Canada.

You went to the National Theatre School in Montreal and though you worked during the summers, you were basically focused intensely on that for four years. You've been an actor since you were a child, but how did going to school for it change you as an actor?

I think when I was making the decision to go to theatre school, a lot of people asked me, "Well, why would you go? You could just start working now." I saw it as an opportunity to step back and take some time away and focus on a bit of a craft, which is a word I hate, but it's true. Ultimately, what it did with for me, well, there were two things. Going in, I knew i would have to do a lot of things there, such as rolling around on the ground and pretending to be animal, making strange noises, that I would have kicked my own ass for a year before and I just had to say yes to and do them. I had to see what they did to me. That is very important to say yes as an actor.

The other thing, I think I came away with a greater sense of self-awareness and what I was doing and therefore, communicating. I learned to be self-aware without being self-conscious, without watching myself. It helped to go away from the industry. I got a chance to also play some incredible roles. I got to play Macbeth when I was 19. I hope I get to go back to that role again later in life, to see what I missed the first time. Also, Montreal is the best place in the world to live as a young artist. There is an amazing artist culture there.

Selfish question, is Olivia Newton-John cool?

[Noah laughs at me, really hard] She is so cool! She really is! She shot for like a week with us and it was such an amazing week, I cannot describe to you. We would shoot scenes and in between takes she and Mark Jordan who plays my Dad, would grab instruments and start singing and playing music. She was really funny. We couldn't get through takes because we were laughing so hard. She's also incredibly environmentally conscious, a really smart woman.

What are you up to next?

I'm shooting this pilot is called 3 Inches about a guy called Walter Spackman, played by me, who gets hit by lightening on the worst day of his life and wakes up in a hospital with the ability to move things three inches with his mind. He thinks it's the stupidest gift ever. In the show, he gets co-opted by a group of super heroes who are similarly not gifted and they go around fighting crime. It's got a great awkward, under-dog type of humour, and it's really fun to play.

Writing by Katherine Boland

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