When Bon Cop, Bad Cop debuted in 2006, hopes were high for a film that crossed both linguistic and genre borders. But in typical modest Canadian fashion, few were bold enough to predict it would become the top-grossing homegrown film of all time, earning $12-million (besting Porky's long-held record of $11.2-million – though things get more complicated when adjusting figures for inflation). On Monday, producers finally announced that shooting would begin for Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2 later this month in Montreal, confirming what industry watchers had been expecting a decade ago. The Globe talked with Colm Feore, one half of the buddy-cop comedy, about the long road of a CanCon franchise.
The first film was the highest-grossing Canadian film of all time, so the obvious question to start off with is, why did it take so long to get a sequel greenlit?
Well, [co-star and writer] Patrick Huard had written a second instalment just a year after the first one opened. He tried various stuff on for size, and there were so many things that had to line up for it to happen: interest, excitement, availability. And you get sidetracked. But a year and a half ago, he said, "I think I'm there. I'm ready." So now we're only about 12 days out from shooting. It's been very, very carefully considered.
Huard did express frustration a few years ago that "men in suits and ties" were the reason for the sequel's delay.
Listen, there's always a limited amount of money available, and getting a Canadian film made at all is a miracle – there's only so much money to go around. You have to have a very worthy cause, and be able to say my film is ready to go, no questions necessary. We have action, a lot of things blowing up, which costs a fair bit of money. And if you're going to go further in the sequel, you have to have a good reason. Patrick wasn't interested in just making it again and calling it No. 2. He wanted to see where the ideas took him. This is his brainchild – he had to let it percolate for a while.
Did you have any involvement in the script's development?
Patrick said, "When I'm ready, I'll show you something." A year and a half ago, he sent me something along, and I read it and it was wonderful. But he's changed a bit of it all over again, too – it's constantly evolving. He wrote another script last Friday. For financial and dramatic reasons, he's rearranging it, until it's absolutely everything he wants it to be. Once we start shooting, he wants to just put on his actor hat – and he has a producer hat this time around, too. But he wants to be sure he's finished writing.
I was recently thinking about TIFF's Canada's Top Ten Film Festival, which included a number of Quebecois films that hadn't travelled outside of the province. How do you see Bon Cop bridging that language gap?
The fundamental thing about Bon Cop, Bad Cop is that first and foremost it's half and half. It comes ready-made for you to half-understand it no matter which side of the fence you come from. Patrick was saying that one of the most surprising things about the film is how it won best Canadian film at the Genies [in 2007], because we were really the only true Canadian film in the category.
The new film also has a new director, Alain Desrochers. Was there any hesitancy in working with a different filmmaker?
Not from me. You have to understand, the actors are the last people to get involved. A lot of smart people have put their heads together to put this team in place, so by the time they ask us, I'm just delighted to be considered. I've met with Alain, we went out to dinner and beyond with Patrick in Toronto, and he has a wonderful sensibility. We simply start running in this version, assuming and hoping that people have exposure to these characters beforehand. There's more of a buy-in – we're not going to regurgitate what happened the first time.
How much do you think about the film's box-office prospects?
I'm sure those people who invested are hoping to make money, but for those of us creatively, we can't think of that. It doesn't help the day-to-day shooting to live up to any pressure. We can, however, match the conditions of the last one, by getting a great team with a great script and working harder than everyone else does on the bigger films that pay better. This is because it's our film, our story. It's a chance to show off the vulgar amount of skills that technicians and actors and directors have developed while working on various projects, like multi-million-dollar American shows. When making films for Canadians in Canada, every single frame counts.
You can easily speak of making that switch from Canadian to American productions, thanks to your time on House of Cards, Gotham…
Well, I've been lucky. I got to work on all kinds of things. I was excited about working on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but equally excited about Mean Dreams, which we made for lunch money and is now going to Cannes next week. If you can go from those kind of films to big American projects and take what you learned and put it to use here, you cannot but be grateful.
Do you know when Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2 will be slated for release?
They're looking at the summer of 2017, that's the plan. It'll be Canada's 150th birthday, so it's probably a good idea to celebrate with something profoundly Canadian like Bon Cop.
This interview has been condensed and edited.