There’s nodrama for the Tierneys
Producer Kevin Tierney and his son, Jacob, talk about working together
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.”
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.”