It often feels like Canada is searching for a versatile actor to call our own, someone who can do it all. It turns out he's been sitting right under our noses this entire time in the form of Colm Feore, a man working steadily in TV ("24," "The Borgias," "Sensitive Skin"), movies ("Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," "Thor," "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), and theatre, currently prepping for the Stratford Festival. Of course he's going to be in two plays: the titular role in "King Lear" and Archer in "The Beaux' Stratagem."
TIFF certainly isn't ignorant of Feore's accomplishments: on Monday, July 28, the film festival headquarters is putting the spotlight on him, holding an "In Conversation With..." evening with the oft-overlooked thespian. HuffPost Canada TV spoke with Feore (who's in Stratford getting ready, natch) about his Canadian citizenship, his incredibly diverse career, and how his chameleon-like presence allows him the greatest freedom imaginable.
HuffPost Canada TV: I’ve been trying to talk to you for years, so this is a pleasure. You and Christopher Plummer are tough to get a hold of.
Colm Feore: What? I’m easy enough to get a hold of! He’s a lot busier than I am. If he were less busy, I’d be more busy. I always joke with him: “Please Chris, just retire. Sweet Jesus, stop.” [Laughs]
Did you ever debate with Plummer about who plays the better King Lear?
No, you know what? We actually agree on how to play him. Of course I saw Chris play him, and I stole some aspects of his performance. I’ve been stealing from him for a long time. He’s extraordinary. The way he can communicate Shakespeare is effortless. In all seriousness, they’re not making actors like him anymore. It’s not possible with the way the industry’s evolved now. You can’t be some punk kid from Montreal and say, “I’m going to take over the world.”
Your career is remarkably vast, it’s impossible to hone in on one specific area. Do you ever look back on it in wonderment?
Not quite wonderment, but maybe a little bit of “Wow, I’ve managed to get this far and keep working, and not have to ask my parents for money, which is really gratifying.” To me, that’s a very good indication of some level of success. [Laughs] This is a hard business, and it’s cruel, a very merciless mistress. She only wants you when she wants you and she discards you immediately thereafter. I am really heartened, though, by the steady growth of my career.
Again, I know this is probably tough considering the length of your career, but have there been any roles or groups of roles that hold a special place for you?
I love doing film and TV, I like talking to the crew and figuring out how to use the cameras properly. I always seek to master the technical elements that allow me greater freedom artistically. But, I’d have to say, quick snap, probably “32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.” It was a very cool thing for me to do, because it opened all the doors to do things in New York and L.A. that I would never dream of getting into. That led to “Face/Off,” “Paycheck,” Sidney Lumet, Clint Eastwood, Stephen King … subsequently here in Canada doing “Trudeau,” and then something like “Bon Cop, Bad Cop,” which was hugely successful in a way that blows all Canadian models away.
What are your thoughts about this TIFF spotlight? Does it feel satisfying to know that you’re revered as an actor?
Oh, it’s terrific. I don’t want to sit around and talk about myself. I’m happy to talk about the work and everybody else, maybe how we do it, illuminate that for people if I can. Tell some stories, if there are any to tell. Answer questions if there are any. It’s a little uncomfortable being celebrated, as it were, and I don’t see that there’s any need to do that, but I do want people to come and see my play, so maybe I can convince a few people to venture out to Stratford to see a couple of the shows.
That’s a very Canadian answer.
[Laughs] I’m sorry, but what do you expect? [Laughs]
On the whole, Canadians assume you were born here, but you were actually born in Massachusetts. But you still consider yourself a Canuck, right?
No question. My parents are Irish, they got off the boat in New York, got married. My father ended up being a landed immigrant in Ottawa in the 1960s. We moved to Windsor and I’ve been here ever since.
You have this unique chameleon-like quality. You could probably convince me you’re British too.
I would put some effort into fooling you if I thought that was the job. [Laughs] Occasionally people come up to me on the street and ask, “Hey, are you famous?” I have to say, “Well, clearly not enough or you would know.” The great advantage of that is you can show up in a dozen different things, and sometimes I look precisely the same or I’ll talk a little differently or I’ll move a little differently and people just won’t make the connection. If I get onto Air Canada, they think I’m a pilot. Some people think I went to high school with them, and I’m happy to partake in that bit of improvisation. [Laughs]
Throughout your career, you’ve seen the Canadian TV and movie industry ebb, grow and change. Do you have any thoughts on the current state of Canadian media, or the way things are made and produced?
It’s always in flux. It requires money that we don’t have and that people don’t want to give us. I’m a member on the board of Reel Canada, which is a wonderful organization, but it’s enormously difficult to get the word out there. It’s easier to make a horror film in Toronto with American stars than it is to get a Canadian story made with people we don’t really know all that well. Obviously there are challenges, but I have a great deal of faith that the right people are still working hard at it. We’re doing it in a much more penny-fisted type of way, and it’s just harder.
Part of the TIFF thing is admitting that we’re not going to have a Canadian star system. It’s not going to exist, we can’t make it exist. If we go before the public regularly enough – like TIFF, like in Stratford – it just might work. I can only cross my fingers and hope that the people who’re making the decisions are doing them for the right reasons, balancing the more commercial element with a realistic appreciation for how much 32 million Canadians want to see something.
Colm Feore will be appearing at Colm Feore … In Conversation at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Monday, July 28 at 7 p.m. You can also catch him at the Stratford Festival.