Where is this talent wave coming from? Oh, CanadaLook out Hollywood and America, you're being invaded by Canada. Again.
Last week, Canadian newspapers were abuzz over the strong showing by Canucks at the Golden Globes. "Juno," directed by Canadian-born Jason Reitman and starring Canadians Ellen Page and Michael Cera, nabbed three nominations, including one for Page. Ryan Gosling has a nom for "Lars and the Real Girl," and thrice-nominated "Eastern Promises" comes from Canadian David Cronenberg. "Away From Her," which saw Julie Christie nab a nom, was written and directed by Torontonian Sarah Polley.
The summer saw Vancouverite writer-actor Seth Rogen making waves like a beaver slapping its tail. He starred as an illegal alien Canadian in the $148 million hit "Knocked Up," and he co-wrote with friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg "Superbad," basing the movie on their high school life.
Canadians have played a part in Hollywood going back to Toronto-born Mary Pickford. The Canadian comic sensibility seems to manifest itself about once a decade: Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Ivan Reitman skated across the border in the late 1970s and early '80s, while Jim Carrey and Mike Myers slipped in under the cover of hockey jerseys in the '90s. With 600,000 Canadians living in L.A., it could be considered the sixth-largest Canadian city.
The latest wave has a comedian component, though it is not so much part of the Second City circuit as in times past. But it also boasts dramatic actors, as evidenced by Gosling, Polley, Rachel McAdams and Sandra Oh.
One factor fueling the wave is years of runaway production. American productions have been hitting the shores of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal since the introduction of tax incentives in the late '90s before moving to such other centers as Halifax and Winnipeg.
"(Film production) is almost commonplace there," says Winnipeg's Rachel Shane, a Red Wagon executive. "People have much more access to being in movies and TV, and more people are being discovered because of that. Kids who would have been doing community theater or stand-up are now finding a real outlet. That was not the case before, not at this level."
Many of the actors and filmmakers of the current wave also keep one foot in the homeland. Page and Cera come to Los Angeles from their respective hometowns of Halifax and Brampton, Ontario, to conduct business, then fly back. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who helmed the 2005 French Canadian film "C.R.A.Z.Y.," recently shot "The Young Victoria" in the U.K., then went home to Montreal.
The outsider status gives the filmmakers and actors a different sensibility, an edge that leads to thinking outside the Hollywood box.
"You have this Eurocentric auteur style of awareness combined with the geographic proximity as our neighbors to the north, which gives them this solid grasp of American pop culture," says ICM's Nathan Ross, who represents such Canadian helmers as Vallee and Deepa Mehta.
The new crop isn't shy about flying their Maple Leaf flag, either. It was Rogen's idea to make his character in "Knocked Up" an illegal Canadian, and he and Goldberg like to pepper their works with references to Canada.
"It's a shout-out," Rogen says. "We just know that when our friends in Canada see the movie they'll be happy."
It's too early to measure the long-term impact of the latest wave, and Rogen isn't spending too much time analyzing it, insisting, "I'm just happy when Americans aren't mean to us."