Canadian filmmakers recall Cory Monteith as a down-to-earth, generous actor

Vancouver director Carl Bessai and Halifax writer-director Gia Milani talk to Playback about working with the Glee actor (pictured).
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Canadian filmmakers who directed Cory Monteith recall a down-to-earth actor, despite his Hollywood fame, whose talent is now lost to the industry with his untimely death.

“Potential lost is so sad,” Vancouver director Carl Bessai, who directed the Glee star in his 2011 family drama Sisters & Brothers told Playback on Monday, just two days after Monteith’s lifeless body was discovered in a Vancouver hotel room.

“He’s like a bit of a guiding light for people in the (Vancouver) community. They see possibilities for themselves through the moves he made,” Bessai added.

The theatrical drama, which explored four sets of intersecting siblings, included Monteith and fellow thesp Dustin Milligan in a brotherly rivalry.

What’s more, the main performances in Sisters & Brothers were improvised.

“He was a very generous and open and kind of a risk-taker. Being an actor and working off a script was one thing. But having to improvise is another challenge,” Bessai recalled.

Halifax-based director Gia Milani expressed deep sadness Monday on news of Monteith’s death, having only a month earlier screened a final cut of her latest film, All The Wrong Reasons, a debut feature in which the Glee star had a lead role.

“You’re going to hear it over and over. He was the genuine article. He was just a nice person,” Milani told Playback on Monday.

She recalled Monteith losing his wallet while on set.

“It didn’t phase him.  It will show up, he said. And it turned up a day later. It’s all good, he said. He was laid-back and sweet to everyone,” Milani remembered.

The ensemble dramedy about four co-workers at a big box department store stars Monteith as a store manager whose wife, played by Karine Vanasse, endures post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a family event.

“I’m so proud of his performance,” Milani said.

With the film just completed, and Monteith now deceased, uncertainty surrounds the eventual release of All The Wrong Reasons by Pacific Northwest Pictures.

“I am shocked, saddened and heartbroken to hear of the loss of Cory. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” Emily Alden, vice president of production and development of the picture, said in a statement Monday.

An initial autopsy was performed on Monteith’s body Monday to establish a cause of death.

But Barb McLintock, a spokesperson for the B.C. Coroner Services, said a conclusive ruling on the cause of death could take some time to establish.