Don Cherry has always been something of a mover and shaker when it comes to hockey and its venerable place in the broadcasting realm of the CBC.
But for the purposes of the CBC miniseries about Cherry's life in hockey Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story, the mover and shaker -- also the screenwriter and executive producer -- is his son, Tim Cherry.
Last July, while the movie was shooting in Winnipeg, Tim was overseeing a location shoot at a house on Crescent Drive just east of Pembina Highway, immediately prior to his dad's first arrival on the set.
"When I was writing this, I was getting a lot of advice from writers," Tim says. "And they asked, 'What's your father's arc?'"
The writers were referring to the accepted dramatic wisdom that a hero must go through a transition in the course of a story.
"I said, 'He doesn't have an arc,'" Tim smiles. "He's the same when he was 10 years old as he is now. He hasn't changed at all."
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When Don Cherry does arrive on the set, the first thing he does is pose for some pictures with some police officers patrolling the neighbourhood. The youthful 76-year-old, clad in a crisp grey and white pinstripe jacket with the inevitable high-collared shirt, checks out the house intended to duplicate the residence he shared with his wife Rose in North Andover, Mass. and is satisfied with not only the location but the flare on the striped pants of the actor portraying him, Jared Keeso.
This is hardly the first time Cherry has been on the set of a TV drama. In fact, he once played a dramatic role as a coach on the largely forgotten TV series Power Play.
"But that was nothing like this," the senior Cherry says. "Nothing can compare to this. I can't believe all the people."
Cherry is quick to say the four-hour miniseries was never conceived as a whitewash of what is, after all, one of the most irascible Canadians to ever inhabit the Canadian broadcast airwaves. In fact, he asserts he took a hand in the script process to make sure that didn't happen.
"I had a lot of writing in it," Cherry says. "When the director read it, he said (to Tim), 'Geez, your dad doesn't look too good in this.'
"But that's the way it was and that was the kind of guy I was way back then," he says.
"We told the truth. I guess I don't look too good in it. But it's more of a tribute to Rose," he says, referring to his wife, who died of cancer in 1997. "The way she stuck with me when I was unemployed and couldn't get a job, and down and out, she was still the same as when I was going good," Cherry says.
"That is the point of the movie: Don't give up," Cherry says. "When you don't have a job, I think a lot of people give up. Nobody could be worse than me. I was 36 years old, and no education, no trade, no nothing.
"But you stick it out," Cherry says. "And you don't change."
Don Cherry is a self-proclaimed rabid movie fan. So on the occasion of having a movie made from his own life, we asked him to list some of his personal favourites.
Best Hockey Movie:
"Oh, Slap Shot (1977). There's nothing even close to Slap Shot. It was a classic. The girl that wrote that, (Nancy Dowd) picked up a lot from her brother who was in the minors. I tell you the truth, what happened in Slap Shot happened. Things that happened to us back then, you couldn't even put in a movie.
"Everything that happened, happened, except getting stitched on the bench. We got stitched in the hall. Never on the bench."
Best Sports Movie (Non-hockey):
"The one that I really liked when I was a kid was the Lou Gehrig story... The Pride of the Yankees (1942). I went with my dad and when Gary Cooper made that speech... I think that was the best one."
Best Cop Movie:
"It would have to be The Maltese Falcon (1941). (Humphrey Bogart) isn't exactly a cop, but it's close enough."
Best Overall Movie:
"The very first movie that inspired me was Gunga Din (1939). I loved Gunga Din. But I'd have to say Lawrence of Arabia (1962). I'm sort of a fan of T.E. Lawrence. There's so many good ones, but Lawrence of Arabia was very moving."