Canuck cinema captivators
10. Leslie Nielsen
Canada has produced lots of successful movie comics, some of whom are actually funny. Gary Farmer, Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, and John Candy are just a few, but none of these funny-men were Leslie Nielsen. Some could argue that Nielsen was just as unfunny as Jim Carrey or Mike Myers, but Nielsen makes the list because he was around forever; he was in movies basically from the mid-1950s until his death in 2010, and he was hilarious. Just look up the Dutchtone commercial he filmed in 2007 on YouTube—I dare you not to laugh. I can’t. Maybe you’re laughing from embarrassment that this brand of humour has come to represent Canada in the film business thanks to Nielsen, but you might as well accept the fact that the man made his mark.
9-8. Ellen Page and Michael Cera
I put these two together because they stole the hearts of a generation in 2007’s unforgettable Juno, but both were active before Juno and haven’t been idle since. Claiming roles in the X-Men franchise and Inception, Page has arrived in a big way, and in modern times, does anyone better represent the overly polite/dorky Canadian stereotypes better than Cera in Superbad and Scott Pilgrim? I think not! Pilgrim is definitely a notable movie, as it was actually filmed in Toronto and features quite a few notable Toronto landmarks including Lee’s Palace, Casa Loma, and so on. These actors are young, so expect more greatness from them in future years.
7-6. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling
There was another love story that stole our hearts in the 2000s, however, and it was The Notebook, featuring London, Ontario natives Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. I disagree that Gosling is as pretty as everyone thinks he is, but he didn’t become Hollywood’s leading man by accident. Gosling earned a reputation as a silent bad boy in Drive in 2011 and Only God Forgives in 2013, but the guy’s got chops, as he demonstrated in 2013’s Gangster Squad, which in my opinion was a highly underrated and unwatched movie, probably because of the underwhelming title.
And although McAdams came on the scene somewhat more quietly, with her prominent roles in Sherlock Holmes and now her Oscar nomination this year for Spotlight, it’s impossible to deny McAdams’ rise as an acting titan. As they’re both still fairly young as well, we should expect more from them in the future too.
5. Seth Rogen
A Vancouver native, Rogen appeared in major roles in modern classics such as Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express, to name just a few of his movies. He’s also appeared in the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda children’s franchises. Although he’s been in the fewest movies out of everyone on this list, Rogen has played such a significant role in shaping the landscape of American comedy movies in the 2000s and 2010s that it is impossible to ignore him as the true staple of Canadian talent that he is.
4. Chief Dan George
Chief Dan George wasthe first First Nations actor to receive an Oscar nomination, for his role in 1970’s Little Big Man, which plays off Hollywood stereotypes of First Nations peoples that had existed largely unchallenged until then. I’m reluctant to put him higher on the list becausehe started acting relatively late in life, in his 60s, and was therefore in comparatively fewer movies, but I think that really only contributes to his unconventional and awesome legacy. George is undeniably a cinema legend.
3. Donald Sutherland
He’s the third most popular person named Donald on Google—Trump and Glover beat him out (and Donald Duck isn’t a person), but Sutherland definitely deserves more recognition. Most people perhaps know him as President Snow from the Hunger Games series, but many will also recognize him in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, Cold Mountain, and the 2003 ItalianJob. Really, Sutherland has acted in a million movies since the ’60s, and he’s done everything from horror to voice acting, including a weirdly proto-steampunk music video/short film alongside Kate Bush from 1985. The fact is that although he’s never even been nominated for an Oscar, Sutherland will most likely be remembered as one of the finest actors Canada has ever produced, and let’s hope we’ve got many more years with him.
Fun fact: although Sutherland was born in New Brunswick, he studied at U of T. During his time here Sutherland lived at South House at Victoria College, and there’s an urban legend that several of the scenes from 1978’s Animal House, which Sutherland performed in, are in fact based on anecdotal stories from notoriously riotous parties that Sutherland probably attended at the all-male Gate House residence, also at Victoria College.
2. Christopher Plummer
Both Sutherland and Plummer have been around forever and have led careers that span generations, but Plummer has arguably had a more impactful career (to be fair, Sutherland has a few years to catch up with him on). Plummer portrayed Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1965, and has been in around 12 million movies since then. Plummer is in his 80s now, but the man has not slowed down, appearing in several memorable roles in the 2000s and winning his first Oscar in 2011 for Beginners. The man is inarguably a Canadian and theatrical legend.
Fun fact: did you know Plummer’s great-grandfather was John Abbott, Prime Minister of Canada from 1891 to 1892? Well, it’s true!
Although she died in 1979, in her prime, Pickford was bigger than any comparable star in Hollywood today. In fact, she’s still the biggest star ever to come out of Toronto, although if Drake can keep it up for another few decades, he stands a chance of surpassing Pickford’s level of fame. She was arguably also the most influential woman to ever work in Hollywood. Pickford debuted in her first movie in 1909 and immediately took the film industry by storm. Pickford played in 175 movies, a massive number explained by the fact that she was not only a silent film era star (and played in an era where movies were comparatively short by today’s standards), but she was a rare star who made the transition into “talkies.” It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of her, but make no mistake: there’s never been a more famous movie star than her to come out of Canada.