Brian Linehan’s classic interviews go live online

Brian Linehan

In a partnership between The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, NSI and TIFF, the foundation’s website has launched a trove of archival interviews from the 70s, 80s and 90s between Linehan and some of Hollywood and Canada’s greats.

The material is provided by TIFF, housed permanently in its film reference library, and features classic chats with Christopher Plummer, Bette Midler, Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg.

Foundation director Michael Levine says that he felt an obligation to Linehan’s memory to make his work available to the public.

“He was a brilliant journalist. [He never] thought of the entertainment business as frivolous. He saw how important storytelling was, how many people’s values and sense of life, sense of belonging and sense of country, were really a direct reflection of the media. To be able to make his interviews available, to give a little bit of background to him – I was really determined that that would always be a part of anything we ever did,” he tells Playback Daily.

Linehan was the first host of CityLights, which was produced by Citytv Toronto and broadcast from 1973 to 1989, and featured Linehan interviewing film and TV personalities about their lives and roles in various projects. He became known for his well-researched interviews, during which his guests often responded with, “How did you know that?”

Linehan died in 2004 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2001.

The foundation was established from the proceeds on Linehan’s estate, for the purpose of creating a star system in Canada, including providing training and creating work opportunities. The foundation has supported programs at the NSI and Humber College, the CFC, CanStage and actor Allan Hawco of Republic of Doyle – the foundation’s very first grant, says Levine.

“Brian left me one mandate – to create a star system in this country – and give all the very talented young people an opportunity in the way he had come from Hamilton, as a 17-year-old, and a bunch of people over the years reached out and they just treated him [with] respect because of his knowledge base and all the things that he could do well,” Levine says.

The foundation partnered with the NSI and TIFF – custodian to Linehan’s library – to build the website, which is meant to be a market hub for the entertainment industry, and eventually, Levine hopes, far beyond.

“The whole question from our point of view is ‘how do we create bankable stars?’” Levine explains. “I’m fascinated by first, excellence, and second, centered personalities who can use this opportunity to build careers and can give us something that we’ve never had in this country, which is to be able to build a vehicle around someone.”

In addition to more than 50 interviews going live on the site over the next year, Levine says the goal is to regularly update the site with blogs from the NSI and other industry resources.