Canadian films seem to take their time getting onto the screens of the nation. If, that is, they make it there at all. The Trotsky is a case in point: It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was enthusiastically received, but only this week, eight months later, is it getting its commercial release.
The second feature from Montreal writer-director Jacob Tierney, The Trotsky could be described as a Bolshevik Ferris Bueller's Day Off - a comedy about Leon Bronstein, a teenager (played by Tierney's long-time pal Jay Baruchel) from an affluent Montreal family who, convinced he's the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, wreaks mischief on his public high school.
Tierney, who's 30, actually wrote the first script for the film when he was 19 or 20, but by his own admission, the effort was "terrible" and "much too serious." Tierney is currently editing his third feature, a "black comedy/thriller" called NDG, short for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the Montreal neighbourhood in which he and Baruchel grew up.
I know you lived with your parents [Kevin Tierney and Terry Smiley]in China when you were a little kid and they were teaching there in the early eighties. Obviously, they were of the Left . . .
I was a red diaper baby, yeah.
And you were interested in Trotsky?
Oh yeah. I read about him all the time through my adolescence. And, for sure, if you'd asked me at 16, I would have told you I was a Trotskyite. I no longer consider myself that, but then… it was a great way to piss people off.
Not my parents, obviously. They were like, 'How tame.'
Well, I think it's clear watching the movie, I'm not making fun of [Trotsky] There's an affection there. At least for the legend. But the people I've met have tended to be from the other side. I mean, at least one person at every festival I've gone to has stood up to tell me how appalling I am for having turned a despicable murderer into a laughing matter. 'How could you do this? Why would you inflict Leon Trotsky on youth? Why should children be interested in this repulsive man?'
Your buddy Jay Baruchel has now been in two of your movies, and this July he's appearing as the apprentice in Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice.…
Another small, independent movie.
Do you think he might ever become too expensive for you? Or do you guys have a kind of a deal that if something you think is good for him or vice-versa, then you'll collaborate?
We've never had that particular conversation, but I would never hesitate to take anything to Jay. I think he and I are in it for the long haul. We like the idea of working with each other and I hope one day to be able to pay Jay what he should be paid. Because if somebody's valued internationally we should be able to pay them that for a Canadian movie too.
Are you taking a breather now? You went pretty much from TIFF last year and other film festivals right into making NDG.
Actually, I'm about to act in a movie my father is directing, his first. [Kevin Tierney served as producer for The Trotsky and NDG as well as Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Canada's all-time box-office champ.]It's called The French Immersion. Then I have another script to write: I have a terrific producer, Niv Fichman [ Silk, The Red Violin]who got me the rights to The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing and we're hoping to make that in 2011. I'm adapting that novel - kind of transposing it to the October Crisis [in Quebec in 1970]
I don't think that's going to be a comedy.
It's not a comedy. Not on purpose.