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AOL Chat

Many thanks to AOL Canada for their kind permission to reproduce the official transcript of Paul's one-hour online chat on Thursday 6th July 2000. It's true what they say about him being a fast typist - his keyboard must have been smoking by the end!

BPerez: Hi Eveyone, Welcome to tonight's chat with actor Paul Gross, We should be starting shortly

BPerez: Our host for this evening will be Cliff K Tomas. HI Cliff, welcome.

Cliff K Tomas: howdy

BPerez: I hear paul is in the building?

Cliff K Tomas: I can't believe it! But I know it's true. I've met him a few times prior to this he's always a lot of fun. Realy talented actor, and musicien too. Tonight we'll see how good he is at typing.

Cliff K Tomas: Now directly from his home somehere in Ontario, the most handsome hamlet the marvelous mountie... welcome paul

BPerez: Hi Paul, Welcome to AOL Canada chat

Paul Gross 001: Hi, good to be here

Cliff K Tomas: Paul we have lots of fans, from all over the world

Cliff K Tomas: When did you have your first success outside Canada

Paul Gross 001: I think in terms of real success it was with due South, although I had done a few other projects that had seen general release.

Cliff K Tomas: You began at a very young age when did you realize this would be your lifelong job

Paul Gross 001: Yes, I was barely out of diapers when I first started to write. Acting came later. After I was toilet trained. Actually, I started in high school, as I suppose most actors do.

Cliff K Tomas: Do you remember your first Shakespearean play?

Paul Gross 001: The first production I saw was King Lear and it was here in Stratford. My mother took me to it, I think I was eleven. And the evening is embedded in my memory.

Cliff K Tomas: Did you imagine you would be acting there?

Paul Gross 001: Initially, yes. But after a while the idea drifted from my mind. So It was something of a shock when Richard Monette (the Artistic Dir.) called with the offer for Hamlet.

Cliff K Tomas: lots of great questions, so let's get to them.

BPerez: ok, here is tonights first question

Question: Drove 10 hours each way to see your Hamlet and loved it! Is there any one speech or section of the play that you had more difficulty preparing for?

Paul Gross 001: There isn't any real effective way of separating the play out. It is actually all of a piece so no, I didn't treat any one section differently from another. However there were a couple of scenes that I wasn't all that comfortable to start with -- the speech over Claudius' praying body -- I thought we should cut it, but now I think it's terrific. If I've learned anything in this process, it's that Shakespear knows a whole lot more than I or anyone in the theatre does. And I imagine that's why we keep returning to him.

Cliff K Tomas: Cut Shakespear, he won't mind!

Paul Gross 001: I suppose, and there aren't any royalty problems to deal with

Question: Hi! I understand you were limping in one of your recent performances. Are you feeling better now?

Paul Gross 001: Yes. I was running and ripped some muscle or other but it seems OK.

Question: Do you often receive unsolicited scripts or ideas for new projects? Do you usually review them, or discard them?

Paul Gross 001: Yes, I do receive scripts but I've so many ideas and projects that are stacked up waiting to be dealt with that I'm not really hunting for material. My company Whizbang Films, will receive scripts and we will read them but as I said, we're not actively looking for material.

Question: For Mr. Gross: What is your favorite scene in Hamlet and why is that scene your favorite?

Paul Gross 001: My favourite scene changes with each performance. Initially, it was the scene with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern after the 'play within the play'. Lately, I've been most enjoying the 'How All Occassions do Inform Against Me' soliloquy. There's something devastatingly beautiful in that speech.

Question: I was impressed by the Hamlet cast's fluency with Shakespeare's text. You make it sound natural without losing the beauty of the verse. Do you find this comes naturally, or is it something you have to work hard to achieve?

Paul Gross 001: It actually comes very easily. Partly, I think this is the nature of this part: Hamlet is one of the most contemporary roles ever committed to paper. Also, I think there is a lot of historical acting baggage that attends the theatre and especially Hamlet. You may simply be used to hearing bad acting that masquerades as good 'verse speaking', I'm not sure. What I do know, is that Shakespeare wrote white hot off the brain and what he wrote is still the most concise expression of the human core -- if that isn't approachable and understandable than we're not doing our jobs.

Question: Was the emphasis on the black humour in Hamlet a conscious decision arising from your research of the play, or was it something that developed during rehearsals?

Paul Gross 001: Largely, it developed in rehearsals and much of it I have to be honest was surprising and revelatory. Take the 'closet scene' with Hamlet's mother. I had thought that scene was dreary and moany and angsty. In the course of playing it in rehearsals I started to discover all these gags that Shakespeare had slipped into it, not to mention the outrageous advice he offers to his mother about sex. The scene is much more layered, much more complicated than I had originally thought. So, yes to both your questions: it was something we discovered in rehearsals and it is something that is in the text.

Question: Why do Edmonton and Winnipeg have such great theatre communities?

Paul Gross 001: Because it's so [expletive deleted] cold people need to gather in a small room and huddle.

Cliff K Tomas: LOL,Paul has a wicked sense of humor. Tell us aboutyour next film project? speaking of cold & winnipeg..

Paul Gross 001: It's a film that concerns the lives of four men and their various partners who are brought together at the funeral of their coach. Their coach used to teach them... CURLING. They reunite as a team to win a special tournament. The film is called 'Men With Brooms' and the tag line on the poster should be '...a sweeping epic'

Paul Gross 001: My company Whizbang Films is producing it in co-production with Serendipity Point Films which most recently released Sunshine with R. Fiennes.

Cliff K Tomas: Will we get to see you work with Callum Keith Rennie again?

Paul Gross 001: Callum has a spot on the team, his curling rocks are polished up and he is, according to well placed sources (him) already practicing.

Question: Do you have any favorite playwrights or screenplay writers with whom you have or would like to work in the future?

Paul Gross 001: Oh, lord the list is long, probably too long to list here. Obviously, Robert Towne, Mamet, Pinter, and I wouldn't mind sitting down with Anton Chekhov, if I could just wake him up.

Question: You will be doing 80 performances of Hamlet this season. Since it is a long play and very demanding of you, are you looking forward to the final performance?

Paul Gross 001: No, I dread the final performance. Thus far, this has been the greatest privilege of my career and it is with regret that I cross off a performance day on my calender. So, no I don't look forward to the end but...

Question: Have you considered re-staging any of your plays and/or having them published?

Paul Gross 001: My father runs a small publishing company called Badlands Books (they have a website) and he has been badgering me to get my plays into shape and let him publish them, which I think I will do when I have a little time. Also, I would like to go back and write a play again, particularly after this experience in the stage.

Question: What with Don McKellar planning to direct Saramago's Blindness, would you ever consider bringing one of your favourite books to the screen and if you did, what would that book be?

Cliff K Tomas: Any plans for you children to act

Paul Gross 001: Blindess is one of the great novels of the last twenty years, in my opinion, one in fact I was interested in pursuing. I think Don will do a fantastic job with it. I have a couple of novels that I think of from time to time, but nothing that I'm actively pursuing.

Question: Paul~ I was wondering if you have been working on any new projects and if so, will your work be presented in the United States?

Paul Gross 001: Well, I'm pretty sure the curling movie will find its way into your cinemas -- it's too delicious an idea not too, don't you think?

Question: What has been the most pleasant surprise in performing Hamlet this summer? The most disappointing??

Paul Gross 001: The greatest surprise was playing for student matinees -- audiences largely composed of high school kids, most of whom have never seen Hamlet, let alone Shakespeare. It's a bit like imprinting ducks, and because they don't bring with them preconceptions of what the play is 'supposed to be about', they're wide open to it. They have been very exciting. Actually, so far, there hasn't been anything dissappointing in the experience -- except that I wish I was playing the show at least once a day.

Cliff K Tomas: Did you see Keanu Reeves do Hamlet in Winnipeg?

Paul Gross 001: No. And I didn't go partly because I fell into the trap that most people in the theatre did, namely that Keanu had no real credentials for it, how could he possibly pull it off etc. etc. Now, I really wish I had because I'm sure it would have been fascinating. A lost opportunity.

Question: Who do you admire for their acting talent? Who was an influence on your choice of carrer?

Paul Gross 001: The actors I admire....again a list rather like the writers -- tough to condense. I would say Duvall, Spencer Tracy, Richardson, Pacino, De Niro, Streep, Redgrave I could go on and on. As far as influences on a career are concerned, that a very elusive thing. You're influenced by so many things -- who you've just worked with, what the experience was like, did you meet someone who words correction works at the National Arts Center, suddenly someone says why don't you go to Los Angeles....it's a mercurial job, especially if you're like me and have no long range strategic objectives. I've just kind of floated from one project I found interesting to the next. And so far, it's been rewarding.

Cliff K Tomas: With Great success Paul I know you're a fan of race car driving, so forgive me but I have to plug next week's chat with CASCAR driver Kelly Williams She's a great driver.

Paul Gross 001: Good man. Fast car. Who's going to win?

Cliff K Tomas: Paul Tracy's up on Monday night ... I'll ask for you.

Paul Gross 001: Crazy man. Fast car.

Cliff K Tomas: Are you a speed maniac

Paul Gross 001: Me? I like to drive fast but I've discovered there is something called the police force and they apparantly don't approve of it. Seriously, if I get reincarnated I hope it's in the cockpit of a F-1 car.

Cliff K Tomas: Ever talk your way out of a ticket?

Question: How much make up are in using for the play?

Paul Gross 001: Well.....sometimes. Occassionaly they recognize me from the show and suggest that a police constable ought not to be going so fast.

Question: How's the new CD with David Keeley coming along?

Paul Gross 001: Good. I'll go back to the make up question. I don't really use any - just a little bit of white powder at the beginning so I don't look too healthy. That I sweat off pretty quickly. On the CD, David and I have laid most of the bed tracks so we'll start all the over dubs in the next couple of weeks. Should be done somewhere by the end of the month of early in Aug.

Question: Can you tell us something about your WW1 screenplay?

Paul Gross 001: Ahhh.... Passchendaele (pronounce passion-dale). It's set in the First War in Flanders (Belgium) and in Canada (Calgary). It's largely a love story that culminates in the third battle for Ypres, which was known as Passchendaele and has more or less become synonymous with the futility of modern war. It's still a little ways off though -- it costs a lot a lot a lot of money. Anyone with forty million?

Cliff K Tomas: Your dad fought in the Canadian army...did he influence your choice of subject matter

Paul Gross 001: Kind of. Although my father (who, by the way has just successfully undergone an operation) is sort of a military pacifist. My grandfather (on my mother's side) probably influenced me the most, in regards to the first world war. He was in it for most of its duration and suffered tremendously. In a way, I suppose the film is some kind of apology to him. Or all of them.

Question: It has been said that your early plays dealt with father - son relationships, much like due South. Did you have much imput in developing the relationship and dialogue between Ben and his father on the show? is it possible to get copies of your plays?

Paul Gross 001: On the subject of the plays, I don't have any copies, but if my father has his way they will be available. The development of Gordon Pinsent's character goes back to a bar in Skagway, Alaska, when we were filming the pilot. It seemed to all gathered around the scotch bottle (and that includes Gordon, me and Paul Haggis) that it was ludicrous to lose Gordon so quickly. The idea that he return as a ghost was first proposed there. To which Paul H. said: Not in a million years. Then he introduced Gordon in voice over and after that it was only a matter of logical time that he show up again in the flesh. Although I must say, many of the best ideas were Gordon's.

Question: How do you keep your performance fresh over the entire run of the play? (I know you're not finished yet).

Paul Gross 001: Luckily with Hamlet that's not a problem because there's no way you can go out on the stage and even attempt what you did the night before. The part and the play really do sweep you along and you are led into odd corridors that you hadn't thought of or couldn't predict. With other parts, it's less simple. One of the easy rules of thumb to avoid it though, for actors, is to prepare for a totally different scene. By this I mean, if you know in the scene that you're going to see a ghost, prepare off-stage for the certaintly that you're not going to see a ghost. When the ghost appears, your reaction ought to be genuine. Does that make any sense?

Question: Has your experience with "Hamlet" so far changed the way that you approach your own writing? Do you approach the mechanical or creative sides of things any differently?

Paul Gross 001: I'm not so sure it's changed me, but it has reminded me of bravery, courage, logic, illogic, plot, plot, plot and heart. And I think, for every writer, these are lessons we need to be reminded of over and over again -- hopefully from the masters.

Question: Have you missed doing the series at all?

Paul Gross 001: Yes. When I drive by a film unit in Toronto, I always get a pang.

Question: when your not working, where is your favorite place?

Paul Gross 001: Well, I have a farm house east on Toronto on a hill that overlooks the lake. it's great. But I suppose if I had a spiritual place (I don't mean that I'm a cult guy) but a place where I feel most at ease and at home, it would be my parents ranch in the Badlands of Alberta.

Cliff K Tomas: Almost time to wrap Paul. Do you have time for 1 more

Question: How did you memorize such a huge role? Was it simply rote, or did you have a specific method?

Paul Gross 001: I had a year to get ready for this part, much of which I just spent reading the play over and over. Eventually it sinks into you. Also, bear in mind, Hamlet contains more lines that are in our collective consciousness than any other play so it feels oddly familiar when you start rehearsing. There were a couple of speeches I had to actually sit down and learn (because they were oddly inverted) but no, it wasn't hard to learn. But then, I have a fantastic memory. It's not bragging -- I just retain a lot.

Cliff K Tomas: A user in the UK wants to know when you'll be in Britain again? Any chance of doing Hamlet in the West End?

Paul Gross 001: I'm not sure when I'll be back. Maybe next year for the F-1 race. I would love to do Hamlet there so go ahead and set it up.

Question: I love the outdoor scenes in the Pilot. Were they shot in the Yukon?? If so where? I am taking a vacation up there this summer and I wonder if I will be any near any of the the locations used in the Pilot.

Paul Gross 001: Well, if you go to Skagway, Alaska (that's where we stayed when we were shooting) then travel into Canada and ask someome directions to the White Pass....that's where it all is. Also...GO. It's some of the most beautiful country on this planet.

Cliff K Tomas: Thanks for all the great questions.

Paul Gross 001: Thank you, everyone.

Cliff K Tomas: I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.

BPerez: Paul, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us tonight here on AOL Canada

Paul Gross 001: It was a great pleasure -- a little weird 'cause I'm not virtual. But fun. Thank you.

Cliff K Tomas: lol... Good night. Sweet dreams.

BPerez: Thanks Paul, Thanks Cliff... Join us again monday night for more AOL Canada chat thanks for joining us everyone... you sent some really interesting questions. Check KW: people connection for more live chats! goodnight all!

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