Monteith went on multi-day nature hike, had dinner with friends before death

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

A woman places photographs at a memorial for Canadian actor Cory Monteith outside the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver on July 15, 2013. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

On the second to last night of his life, Cory Monteith was just back from several days hiking on Vancouver Island, and was bursting with plans to help a charitable performing arts organization for children on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“He wanted to have dinner and discuss expanding his involvement with Project Limelight,” co-founder Maureen Webb told The Globe and Mail. “He was very enthusiastic about spending more time with Project Limelight and helping us raise awareness and money.”

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With the shock of his death still palpable, the Glee star is being remembered on both coasts not just as a Canadian guy who made it big in Hollywood, but as a fine human being who never forgot where he came from, and who was always willing to help a worthy project – whether it be a charity or a low-budget, independent film.

Mr. Monteith, 31, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room on Saturday. On Thursday night, he had dinner with Ms. Webb and his long-time manager, Elena Kirschner, at the East of Main café. He had just returned from hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, described by BC Parks as largely “designed for strenuous day or multi-day hiking in this rugged and isolated area.”

Ms. Webb believes Mr. Monteith spent about four days hiking. “He said it was an amazing experience. He had a great time.”

Ms. Webb is a casting director who helped Mr. Monteith discover acting when he was 19, living in Nanaimo and at loose ends, as he described it in an interview last year.

“She was a friend of a friend who suggested … that I come into her studios and take these acting lessons,” Mr. Monteith told The Globe at the Project Limelight launch in May, 2012. “It was that initial inspiration that started me on what’s going to be a 10-year career so far, culminating in Glee.

He never forgot it. When Ms. Webb’s mother died, she and her sister Donalda Weaver came up with the idea for Project Limelight, and bounced it off Mr. Monteith. He loved the concept, and offered to help. He starred in videos for the organization, he got Richard Branson – and Sir Richard’s bank account – involved. He was here last year for the launch, and on Thursday he spoke eagerly about stepping up his involvement – possibly directing a public service announcement, and helping get air conditioning installed.

“He kept saying, ‘How much is air conditioning going to cost? You’ve got to get air conditioning. Let’s do something about that,’” said Ms. Webb, who recounted a great dinner full of laughs, memories – and plans for the future.

“He wanted to be involved and he made that very clear at our meeting, to tell me that he wanted to commit time to help Project Limelight.”

Meanwhile in New Brunswick, director Gia Milani was emotional Monday, as she discussed working with Mr. Monteith on her film All the Right Reasons, which began production exactly one year ago. This wasn’t charity work – but Ms. Milani was quick to point out that Mr. Monteith was not well paid, and was doing it because he loved the script and wanted to stretch his acting muscles.

Mr. Monteith plays a big-box store manager whose wife has post-traumatic stress disorder. Ms. Milani sent the script to Mr. Monteith’s agent, after seeing the actor interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos. She then heard from Mr. Monteith himself.

“He called me immediately and said this is for me,” she said. “Like within hours of reading it, he phoned. He said he couldn’t believe it fell into his lap.”

The film shot for four weeks in Halifax last year. With a budget of $1.2-million, Ms. Milani was unable to pay Mr. Monteith the kind of salary the Glee star could have easily demanded. “Oh, he lost money coming to do my film, for sure. He could have done other stuff. He took a big risk. I’m just so grateful.”

Last month, on her birthday, June 10, Ms. Milani screened the film for Mr. Monteith and two of his co-stars – Kevin Zegers and Emily Hampshire – in Los Angeles. “He seemed really good, really fit. Healthy, like tons of energy, like he was last year.”

Ms. Milani says Mr. Monteith not only displayed his acting chops in the dramatic role, but was also a nice guy – and a prankster. After wrapping his final scene, he revealed that he had hidden his signature Ray-Ban sunglasses in every one of his shots. “He said, ‘During the DVD commentary, I will point them out to you,’ and then he reached over and pulled them out from where he had hidden them. I don’t know where the rest of them are. … And now I will have to go back and actually look for them.”

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