One of the most spectacular, and Canadian, corporate upsets of the 21st century is getting the feature film treatment.
On Tuesday, producers announced that production has wrapped on BlackBerry, a new film chronicling the rise and fall of Research In Motion, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company whose BlackBerry device forever changed the way that the world communicates.
Adapted from the award-winning 2015 book Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry, written by Globe and Mail journalists Sean Silcoff and Jacquie McNish (the latter of whom later moved to the Wall Street Journal), BlackBerry is written and directed by Matt Johnson, the Canadian filmmaker and actor best known for his acclaimed Viceland television series Nirvanna the Band the Show and the subversive indie films Operation Avalanche and The Dirties. (Johnson and his producing partner Matthew Miller also last year debuted their first animated project, the Amazon Kids+ series Matt & Bird Break Loose.)
The film, which was mostly shot in and around Hamilton this summer, stars Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as onetime RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, with Canadian actor Jay Baruchel (Goon, Knocked Up) as Balsillie’s business partner Mike Lazaridis. Other cast members include noted Canadian character actors Michael Ironside (The Dropout) and Saul Rubinek (Unforgiven), plus Martin Donovan (Tenet), Rich Sommer (Mad Men) and Carey Elwes (The Princess Bride). Johnson also joins the cast, playing a member of the company’s original engineering team.
“BlackBerry is the kind of movie I never thought I could make in this country, but it’s a bright new day for Canadian film,” Johnson said in a statement to The Globe. “Bold, director-driven cinema is back with the full force of the 1980s. Let’s go.”
Now known as Blackberry, the company was founded as RIM by Lazaridis and Doug Fregin in 1984, but took off in the early aughts with the release of the BlackBerry smartphone, with users, including Barack Obama, fond of its full keyboard and BlackBerry Messenger service. But after the introduction of Apple’s iPhone and various Android devices, BlackBerry moved too slowly to respond to competitors, resulting in a crushing retreat from the market that it helped launch. Today, the company, led by CEO John Chen since 2013, has shifted into connected car technology and cybersecurity, with a foray into “meme stock” territory last year.
The new film will be distributed theatrically in Canada by Elevation Pictures at a date to be determined, with co-financiers XYZ Films shopping the film to international buyers during next month’s Toronto International Film Festival. BlackBerry is produced by Canada’s Rhombus Media (Niv Fichman, Fraser Ash and Kevin Krikst) and Zapruder Films, which is Johnson and Miller’s production company, in association with CBC Films, XYZ Films and private equity investor IPR.VC.
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