There’s no­drama for the Tier­neys

Pro­ducer Kevin Tier­ney and his son, Ja­cob, talk about work­ing to­gether

Montreal Gazette - - Culture - BREN­DAN KELLY THE GAZETTE

You could call the Tier­neys the first fam­ily of Montreal film. Asked what he thinks of such a tag, Kevin Tier­ney laughs, and, al­ways the card, quips: “There’s prob­a­bly not a lot of com­pe­ti­tion. How many are there?”

Good point. In the rest of Canada, you can point to the tag team of Ivan Reit­man and his son Ja­son (the lat­ter was ac­tu­ally born in Montreal), but it’s true that our town doesn’t have a slew of ex­am­ples of par­ents and kids who are both do­ing well in the film­mak­ing game … and are hap­pily work­ing to­gether.

Kevin is one of the coun­try’s top film pro­duc­ers, best-known for mak­ing the bilin­gual Montreal laugher Bon Cop Bad Cop, which just hap­pens to hold the record as the top-gross­ing Cana­dian film ever on its home turf. His son Ja­cob Tier­ney, who’s been work­ing as an ac­tor since the ten­der age of 6, made his fea­ture di­rec­to­rial de­but with Twist, a dark 2003 up­date of Oliver Twist that played the Venice and Toronto fes­ti­vals and nabbed a few Ge­nie nom­i­na­tions.

Kevin was an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on Twist and, in the past two years, the fa­ther-and-son duo have made two fea­tures to­gether. The first film pro­duced by Kevin and writ­ten and di­rected by Ja­cob is The Trot­sky, which was filmed here in 2008 and is fi­nally due in cin­e­mas across Canada May 14. It is a com­edy about a kid at Montreal West High School – played by hot-shot N.D.G. thes­pian Jay Baruchel – who is un­der the delu­sion that he is the rein­car­na­tion of Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion­ary hero Leon Trot­sky.

Ear­lier this year, the two Tier­neys col­lab­o­rated again, this time on the comic noir thriller Notre Dame de Grace, which also stars Baruchel, along­side Emily Hamp­shire and Scott Speed-

“It’s such a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship, one in which you have to be ab­so­lutely com­plicit with the other per­son.”

Kevin Tier­ney

man. Film­ing wrapped on the flick last month.

You might think a fa­ther pro­duc­ing a film with his son di­rect­ing could lead to much con­flict, but both stren­u­ously deny this. In a chat on the set of Notre Dame de Grace, Ja­cob said he has no com­plaints about work­ing with his dad.

“It’s won­der­ful,” Ja­cob said. “I’m as­sum­ing that we’ll do it again, but even if we just had this, I’d be thrilled to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I made two movies with my dad.’ I’ll be thrilled with that my whole life. It’s very cool to be able to share the thing you love most with your fa­ther.”

His fa­ther is just as en­thused.

“I’d do it again,” Kevin said. “It’s truly been the best pro­duc­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of my life. It’s such an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship that can go so awry. It’s such a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship, one in which you have to be ab­so­lutely com­plicit with the other per­son. First of all, he to­tally knows what he’s do­ing and he’s an ex­tremely re­spect­ful per­son, not only of the pro­ducer but of every­one who’s on his crew – a well-broughtup boy, thanks to his mother, I’m sure. I say to ev­ery di­rec­tor, ‘If we have each other’s backs, we’ll be fine.’ That no­tion that it’s a kind of com­pet­i­tive or an­tag­o­nis­tic re­la­tion is ut­ter non­sense. We both have as much to gain or lose.”

The funny thing with the two Tier­neys is that they ac­tu­ally started in the biz at the same time. It was 1986 and the film was the Mon­tre­al­shot, Robin Spry-di­rected thriller Ob­sessed. Ja­cob, 6 at the time, had a role in the film; Tier­ney, a lot older than 6, was work­ing one of his first gigs as a pub­li­cist, hav­ing re­cently left his job as an English prof at John Ab­bott Col­lege. Then they didn’t work to­gether again un­til 10 years later with the fam­ily film Whiskers, with Ja­cob in the cast and Kevin pro­duc­ing. In be­tween the two, Ja­cob had starred in plenty of high-pro­file fare, notably the Hol­ly­wood flick Josh and S.A.M., and op­po­site Gena Row­lands in The Neon Bi­ble.

Then it was an­other six years be­fore they worked to­gether pro­fes­sion­ally, this time on Ja­cob’s first film as a di­rec­tor, Twist, in 2003.

“Our pro­fes­sional lives are strangely par­al­lel,” said Ja­cob.

Ja­cob’s younger sis­ter Brigid also acted as a child, but she’s no longer in the movie biz. She is in Van­cou­ver and is in­volved in po­lit­i­cal street the­atre there. Their mother, Terry Smi­ley, is a teacher at Royal West.

“Show busi­ness be­came the fam­ily busi­ness,” said Kevin. “Even as an adult, when (Ja­cob) moved to L.A. when he was 18, we spoke ev­ery day. Some peo­ple would find that pe­cu­liar. We talked ev­ery day about his au­di­tion or what he was writ­ing or what I was do­ing. I’ve read ev­ery word he’s ever writ­ten. It’s re­ally been par­al­lel lives.”

Next up for Kevin is mak­ing his first fea­ture as a di­rec­tor, a com­edy called French Im­mer­sion, while Ja­cob is de­vel­op­ing sev­eral orig­i­nal scripts. And yes, they might well do one of those orig­i­nal scripts to­gether.


Ja­cob Tier­ney (left) says film­ing Notre Dame de Grace with his dad, Kevin (right), was won­der­ful. “It’s very cool to be able to share the thing you love most with your fa­ther.”

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