The Grand Seduction premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but the movie’s star was more concerned about an audience a little east of there.
“I felt they would let us know if they didn’t like it,” says Brendan Gleeson.
The film is set in a small Newfoundland harbour named Tickle Head where the town fathers have a bid on a petrochemical byproduct repurposing plant that makes … well, it doesn’t matter, as they say in the movie, it makes jobs.
One key element that’s missing, however, is a local doctor.
When Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch), a city slicker plastic surgeon, lands in the harbour for a month-long residency, the entire place (population: 121) bands together to convince him to stay — by any means necessary.
“I really wanted to be at the premier in St. John’s,” said Gleeson, who is best known as Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody in the Harry Potter series, “because to me, if the movie worked there, I could let it go.
“That’s all I cared about, really. It needed to have the imprimatur of the Newfoundlanders on it for me. Their reaction was quiet until they felt the reassurance that it was OK, that they could trust it a little bit more.”
The production spent seven weeks shooting on The Rock.
“The land and the sea in Newfoundland has a way of worming itself into your heart where you don’t feel quite complete without it,” said Gleeson.
Co-star Kitsch concurs. “It’s a very simple (way of life),” he says, “and obviously the pace is a lot slower, but once you get into that, you don’t want to leave it.
“They are very in the moment when you’re talking to them.
“You feel like they are incredibly genuine and grounded and there’s no ulterior motive,” he said. “Maybe I’m a bit jaded because of the business, but it is refreshing. It is kind of what it means to be a Canadian.”
Kitsch spent his off hours training for Lone Survivor, a Mark Wahlberg war film he shot immediately after wrapping on The Grand Seduction but he took some time to enjoy a great Newfoundland pastime — fishing.
“My best friend is an avid fisherman,” he says, “so he’d be figuring out what was going on with the moon and what the best tide is and when we should go and would get genuinely upset if we weren’t there at exactly 6:12 a.m. dropping lures into the water.”
The Kelowna, B.C.-born Kitsch is an in-demand actor these days and can currently be seen in the HBO movie The Normal Heart, but says he’d love to do more work in Canada. “I absolutely loved being in Canada,” he says, “working on home soil with a bunch of Canadians. “If the opportunity presents itself and it’s right, I’m in.”