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Goon actor playing himself, sort of, in sitcom pilot for ABC

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Jay  Baruchel was at TIFF to promote his new film The Art of the Steal.

GRAHAM HUGHES / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Jay Baruchel was at TIFF to promote his new film The Art of the Steal.

TORONTO -- Jay Baruchel says the pilot he's developing for ABC is based on a "thinly veiled" version of himself, with at least one crucial difference.

"He's a bit more famous than I am," the down-to-earth Montreal native said with a laugh Wednesday in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Well, that and the fact that a U.S. network likely wouldn't bite on a show based in Baruchel's beloved Montreal, so he opted for Burlington, Vt.

"The American town geographically closest to Montreal," Baruchel explains, cracking a wry smile.

Otherwise, many details are rooted in the experiences of the 31-year-old star of This Is the End and Goon.

The show revolves around an actor who falls "ass-backwards into a rom-com career in L.A." but who never wanted to be famous.

"All he wants to do is write this 12-volume history of Burlington," Baruchel explains. "So finally once he's made all his money, he says goodbye to fame and fortune or whatever, Hollywood, moves back home to Burlington, buys a house down the street from his mother, moves his two best friends from high school in with him and, ideally, hilarity ensues."

While Baruchel concedes he would have loved to set it in Montreal -- where he does live near his mother and friends -- he says Burlington offered opportunities of its own.

"(It's) really one of the world's weirdest places and Burlington is a very strange town, super colourful, super interesting," he says.

The actor is in town to promote director Jonathan Sobol's The Art of the Steal. The film stars Kurt Russell as a fading motorcycle daredevil trying to forget a previous life as a master thief that landed him extended prison time. However, he's soon lured into a cross-border heist plot that would seem to hinge upon his capacity to trust his duplicitous brother Nicky (Matt Dillon).

Baruchel plays Russell's inept, motor-mouthed confidant, and relished working with a cast that included Terence Stamp and Jason Jones of The Daily Show.

The heist caper is much more light-hearted than much of the comparatively heavy prestige fare that populates the film festival, and Baruchel suspects that could allow the movie to stand out.

"There's a lot of incredibly taxing, heavy content in this festival and then you see ours and it's a good time, man," he says. "There's a place for both types of movies."

Added Sobol: "Hats off to TIFF for beginning to do that, which is realizing that there's many different types of filmic behaviour."

TIFF runs through Sunday.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2013 D3

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