Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/3/2016 (2125 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sordid activities cast a skeevy shade over an otherwise beautiful sunny spring day at Leo Mol Garden in Assiniboine Park Wednesday afternoon.
Two sketchy underworld types — one of them a familiar malefactor — could be seen having a furtive discussion at the pond in full view of sculptor Mol’s grandiose statue of Moses, who himself appears to be engaged talking to God. In the parking lot, a beautiful blond woman in floozy attire honks a car horn at one of the two men, yelling obscene suggestions backed up with obscene gestures... in full view of Moses, mind you.
One might fear for the integrity of these wholesome, tourist-friendly surroundings if not for the presence of cameras and a film crew.
The movie is Stegman Is Dead, a low-budget dark comedy that has largely been shooting under the radar in Winnipeg since February. Wednesday was its 20th and final shooting day.
The two men on the bench are Michael Ironside and Michael Eklund, both veterans of previous Winnipeg shoots (Black Ice and The Arrow for Ironside; The Divide and Walk All Over Me for Eklund). The blond with the time-warp upsweep bouffant is Winnipeg actress Andrea del Campo, whose improv work with the local troupe Outside Joke seemed to serve her well under the freewheeling direction of director David M. Hyde. (Apparently, the obscene gestures and comments aren’t in the script.)
In North America, Ironside is the most familiar actor here, on the strength of the rogue’s gallery of villains he has played in movies as diverse as Scanners and the original sci-fi epic Total Recall (no easy thing playing a character who can intimidate Arnold Schwarzenegger), as well as imposing authority figures in Top Gun and Starship Troopers.
Belying his oft terse, dangerous screen persona, Ironside, 66, is a personable, gregarious and funny guy in the privacy of his trailer, stationed this day in the parking lot of the Assiniboine Park Zoo. With an astonishing 236 acting credits on his imdb.com profile since 1977, Ironside, sporting a grey goatee, is a one-man treasury of off-colour stories, including a knee-slapper about how actor Donald Pleasance had the ability to employ precision flatulence to force a radio production to take an early lunch break.
"I read the script and it was f----good," Ironside enthused about the Stegman is Dead screenplay by Stephen Kunc. "Because it’s usually one out of 100 that you can call somebody back about."
In the film, Ironside plays Don, a low-level crime kingpin facing the loss of his best thief (Eklund) when his protege decides to go into business for himself. The actor says he wanted to do the part out of love.
"I called my manager, and he said: ‘They won’t give you any money.’" he says. "But I had this or two or three episodes of a Fox show to do. And it was this one. The writing is good. And it’s very hard to get a good script these days."
On a more global scale, the recognition factor may favour Bernice Liu, hovering on the periphery of the scene on this particular day. Liu was born in Prince Rupert, B.C., but after winning the title of Miss Chinese International in 2001, she has made a career for herself in Asian film (The Legend is Born: Ip Man; The King of Fighters) and television. Stegman is Dead is the first full Canadian production she’s made in the country of her birth.
Liu is secretive about Evy, the character she plays, but with local firearms trainer Dave Brown showing up to attest to her superb abilities in handling guns, it’s safe to assume the role qualifies as a femme fatale.
"My character has two guns, a Glock and a pistol, and (Brown) knew how much I like to handle guns," she said. "Because I don’t really get a chance to in Asia. You do a lot of sword stuff and flying around."
After the shoot, Hyde, who is based in Toronto, was downright jubilant about getting production bang for your buck in Winnipeg.
"There were extraordinary things that this city had to offer me that nowhere else did," he said. "The filmmaking community here is just so much more sophisticated than in other places.
"There’s a spike of energy here. The crew here really gets behind you as a filmmaker," he said. "They didn’t care that I wasn’t from Manitoba, and they really love the project, and they really put their backs into it."
Stegman Is Dead will be distributed by Canadian company Raven Banner Entertainment. Producer Juliette Hagopian says she hopes it will be ready to enter into the Sundance Film Festival in 2017.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.