Chris­tensen did some kitchen prep for new role

Lit­tle Italy ac­tor is a pizza purist

Calgary Herald - - MOVIES - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO Be­ing a quar­ter Ital­ian and a foodie with his own pizza oven, Cana­dian ac­tor Hay­den Chris­tensen fan­cied him­self a de­cent pie maker be­fore film­ing his new ro­man­tic com­edy Lit­tle Italy.

But he wanted to brush up his skills to play the part of an Ital­ian cook, so he took lessons and went incog­nito at a pizze­ria in Toronto’s Lit­tle Italy neigh­bour­hood, where the film was set and shot.

“I wasn’t re­ally work­ing there, al­though they did let me make piz­zas for pay­ing cus­tomers, and I did de­liver a pizza,” the Van­cou­ver­born star, who gained in­ter­na­tional fame play­ing Anakin Sky­walker in the Star Wars fran­chise, said in an in­ter­view.

“(The cus­tomers) didn’t know who I was. I had a base­ball cap on and my apron from the kitchen. I looked the part.

“So I was there with ... the debit ma­chine, I got a 20 per cent tip. I was on time, the pizza was still hot. It went well.”

For Chris­tensen, who grew up in Thorn­hill, Ont., and has a farm in Uxbridge, Ont., the film al­lowed him to work close to home.

“Just get­ting to make a movie in Toronto that’s set in Toronto was very mean­ing­ful to me and def­i­nitely part of the ap­peal off the bat,” said Chris­tensen, who re­ceived a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion for his sup­port­ing role in the 2001 film Life as a House.

“I’ve worked here be­fore, lots, but you’re usu­ally dou­bling the city for an­other lo­ca­tion. And this movie is a bit of a love letter to Toronto and cer­tainly to the Ital­ian com­mu­nity here.”

Chris­tensen felt a con­nec­tion with that com­mu­nity and its cul­ture hav­ing Ital­ian rel­a­tives in­clud­ing his grand­mother, who he said makes a mean egg­plant Parme­san and fos­tered his love of cook­ing.

“I’m a purist when it comes to pizza, so I like just the very simple cheese pizza, like a Margher­i­tastyle pizza with some fresh basil,” Chris­tensen said.

“But if I had to put top­pings on the pizza, I have made pizza be­fore with pineap­ple, pro­sciutto and some jalapeno and it was pretty good.”

The film shoot drew in some lo­cal stars, in­clud­ing Toronto Rap­tors guard Kyle Lowry and Blue Jays start­ing pitcher Mar­cus Stro­man, to whom Chris­tensen got to throw the first pitch in the team’s game ear­lier this week.

“I was ner­vous — I threw the first pitch, I got it across the plate, I was very pleased with my­self,” said Chris­tensen, not­ing he used to go to Blue Jays games as a kid.

“Def­i­nitely a child­hood dream that’s been re­al­ized now.”

Chris­tensen said he tries to get back to his Uxbridge farm as of­ten as pos­si­ble, where he used to have sheep, pigs and chick­ens un­til he had his daugh­ter with his now-ex, ac­tress Rachel Bil­son.

The an­i­mals got to be too much to look af­ter while fo­cus­ing on parenting, so they found good homes for them, he said.

“It’s a creative en­deav­our for me as well,” he said of the farm.

“I’ve been restor­ing this old cen­tury home for some years now and am pretty much done with it. It’s been a very ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing out in the coun­try.

“That’s part of the fun be­ing out there, is just get­ting your hands dirty and build­ing stuff. It’s a great es­cape for me.”

This movie is­abitofa love letter to Toronto and cer­tainly to the Ital­ian com­mu­nity here.

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