Playback 2013 Canadian Film and TV Hall of Fame inductee: Colm Feore

Feore's impressive acting career has encompassed the portrayal of such Canadian icons as Pierre Trudeau and Glenn Gould, as well as roles in Hollywood hits like Pearl Harbor and the bilingual Canadian box-office hit Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
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Colm Feore is an actor’s actor.

A chance conversation Feore had with a Hollywood casting director while the veteran actor was waiting to audition explains that accolade.

“I wasn’t sure at all why I was there. It seemed to me a ridiculous long shot,” Feore remembers. So he asked the casting director why he was up for the part.

It was simple, she replied: Hollywood has three lists.

The first, an A-list, has six names on it.

Everyone knows who they are, though the names keep changing.

And the second, the B-list, has the names of actors who once were on the A-list.

That’s a long list.

But the third list is a short one.

“It’s called actors. You’re on that list,” Feore recalls the casting director telling him.

And that’s a list Feore favours, as it features actors always in demand for their skill, versatility and professionalism.

“Chris Cooper, Dylan Baker, Campbell Scott, Ed Harris – those guys are always terrific and always keep showing up and are going to do exceptional work every time. That’s the list I want to be on,” he says.

If anything, Feore has been around the Canadian stage and screen game for so long, it’s easy to overlook that, in a fail-or-succeed business, he has succeeded so often.

“Well, I’ve been extremely lucky,” he says, modestly attributing his success to the actors and directors with whom he’s worked. Those credits include his first TV show, right out of the National Theatre School in Montreal, a CBC drama called For The Record, directed by Donald Brittan.

Then, in 1993, Feore portrayed Canadian piano genius Glenn Gould in François Girard’s Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.

That performance got Feore away from Stratford, where he had been performing classical stage roles for 16 seasons, to finally dipping his hand in the Hollywood till with film and TV credits like John Woo’s Face/Off and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.

Timing-wise, Feore insists he got it right by going south to Hollywood to contend as a possible star only when he was ready as an actor.

“I thought that everything I was doing in Stratford was going to be useful and translatable when I actually did go there, and I went when I had something to show them,” he remembers.

What he showed them was an actor with the stamina to play Hamlet and King Lear for three-and-a-half hours straight, and to get it right on the first take.

“There is no respite and you don’t have much flexibility to get it wrong – there is no take two,” Feore says of performing at Stratford.

That meant Feore comes to work on film or TV set primed to take his marks and perform.

“I’ve had the great good fortune of working with people like Sidney Lumet, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann – people who shoot rehearsals in maybe only a few takes. And I’m fine with that, because I know there will be no take 17,” he explains.

Feore has carved out a thriving career in Canada as well, borne by starring roles like playing former Canadian PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau for the CBC and the straight-laced investigator in Erik Canuel’s bilingual Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Not bad for someone born in Boston and taken for an American in Hollywood, as he has lived in Canada for virtually all his life.

“Canadians assume I’m Canadian, and I don’t disabuse them,” he admits. “And in America, they don’t put a label on me. They just say actor.”