Gay movie bound to cause stir

NHL, Leafs give flick full sup­port Due out in the­atres next De­cem­ber

Toronto Star - - Sports - RANDY STARKMAN SPORTS RE­PORTER

The ap­pear­ance of the first gay Toronto Maple Leaf will be ground­break­ing, even if it is only in cel­lu­loid.

Ac­tor Tom Ca­vanaugh plays a gay ex-Leaf in a com­edy film Break­fast With Scot cur­rently be­ing shot in the GTA and Hamil­ton. He’s one-half of a ho­mo­sex­ual cou­ple — his part­ner is the team lawyer — whose lives are turned up­side down af­ter be­com­ing guardians of Scot, “a bud­ding queen of an 11-year-old boy,” ac­cord­ing to the sto­ry­line. What makes this movie even more unique is that the NHL and the Maple Leafs — part of a sport where no player has ever come out of the closet — have given the film­mak­ers their bless­ing to use their lo­gos and uni­forms. The Leafs have even agreed to let them do some film­ing with them at the end of a prac­tice next month.

Ca­vanaugh, a huge hockey fan who was born in Ottawa, ad­mits to be­ing shocked they got the go-ahead from the league and Leaf brass. He vividly re­calls his first thought when he read the script a year ago and saw in the open­ing scene that his char­ac­ter, Eric McNally, was a Maple Leaf.

“I never in a mil­lion years thought when we fi­nally went to shoot­ing we’d be don­ning Leaf sweaters,” Ca­vanaugh said yes­ter­day. “I thought it’d be that thing where it’s the Toronto Ra­zor­backs or what­ever. There’s some­thing in­stant to the viewer when you put on a Leafs jer­sey or any Orig­i­nal Six jer­sey.

“It’s harder to tell the story ask­ing the pub­lic to re­mem­ber this is sup­posed to be the NHL, even though we have to call it the NHA. You have to give full credit to the NHL and the Leafs for sign­ing on. It also shows the pos­si­bil­ity for if some­one were to come out, per­haps it wouldn’t be as big a deal as we think.”

That re­mains to be seen, course.

Leafs gen­eral man­ager John Fer­gu­son, for his part, said it wasn’t hard for them to give the project the go-ahead af­ter it got the green light from the NHL, which had screened the script.

“On our end, we’re cer­tainly not try­ing to make a state­ment,” said Fer­gu­son. “We agreed to host them and we’re com­fort­able with it.”

Don Cherry, on the other hand,

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may not be quite as com­fort­able.

“I know that Gary Bettman wanted a kin­der and gen­tler league, but this is too much,” a laugh­ing Cherry told the Star’s Chris Zelkovich. Olympic swim cham­pion Mark Tewks­bury, a board mem­ber of the Gay and Les­bian Ath­let­ics Foun­da­tion, said pro hockey has yet to be put to the acid test.

“It would be in­ter­est­ing to see how they would re­act if it was non-fiction,” said Tewks­bury, a Cal­gary na­tive. “I think it’s re­ally great that they are sup­port­ing it. I know it’s an iconic team, but I think it makes sense this is hap­pen­ing in Canada be­cause we’ve been far ahead on th­ese is­sues. The Mon­treal Cana­di­ens would also prob­a­bly have agreed. Cal­gary Flames, I’m not so sure about.”

Dar­ryl Sittler and Mats Sundin, past and cur­rent Leaf cap­tains, are in favour of the project, which is due in the­atres next Christ­mas.

“Ob­vi­ously, it’s the real world we live in and I have no is­sues with it at all,” said Sittler. “To me, those things have come a long way and they should.”

Sundin seemed taken aback at the no­tion of the movie, but said it was “ex­cit­ing” for the Leafs to be in­volved in any kind of movie.

“There’s never been a gay hockey player come out that I know of,” Sundin told the Star’s Kevin McGran. “I’m sure it’s go­ing to be talked about.”

That’s what pro­ducer Paul Brown is hop­ing for, though he’s quick to point out the movie’s goal is to en­ter­tain, not be laden with mes­sages.

“It’s all done with sit­u­a­tional com­edy, like how do you raise this kid when you’re em­bar­rassed to take him to school, and he’s pranc­ing around say­ing, ‘Go Pan­thers,’ when the team’s about to go to a bas­ket­ball game,” said Brown.

“It’s a very round­about way of tack­ling is­sues. If films be­come is­sue driven, the broader au­di­ences for the most part be­come turned off of them. When you watched Bend It Like Beck­ham, did it be­come an is­sue movie about in­ter­ra­cial friend­ships? To me, it didn’t be­cause it worked on so many lev­els. It be­came a movie about two girls on a soc­cer team. To us, that’s sort of what we’re try­ing to achieve.”

Eric McNally, the ex-Maple Leaf played by Ca­vanaugh, doesn’t want any­one to know about his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, but that be­gins to change when he be­comes a guardian of young Scot, who is wrestling with his own sex­u­al­ity is­sues. It forces him to con­front what it was like for him grow­ing up, know­ing he was gay and play­ing a sport where it wasn’t talked about and he had to sup­press his feel­ings.

“Sports is al­most like the last bas­tion for that hur­dle to be cleared in many ways,” said Ca­vanaugh. “It’s kind of an un­writ­ten rule in sports cir­cles that it’s just not talked about, it’s just not as ac­cepted as it is in nor­mal so­ci­ety. It’s a strange thing. Hockey is no dif­fer­ent.

“One of the most in­ter­est­ing ques­tions to me is how is the me­dia go­ing to han­dle it if not just a hockey name but a pre­em­i­nent hockey name comes out and says, ‘I was gay.’ A cou­ple of NFL line­men have come out post-ca­reer and said, ‘Yeah, I was gay,’ but they didn’t make that dis­clo­sure dur­ing their ca­reer be­cause in their words it would have been ‘sui­cide.’ ”

RUSS MARTIN PHOTO

Ac­tor Tom Ca­vanaugh plays an ex-Leaf who doesn’t want any­one to know about his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity in the com­edy Break­fast with Scot.

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