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Paul's second IRC visit on 29th October 2005

"The course of true love never did run smooth ..."

Frustration!Well, it didn't start out quite as planned, but we got there in the end! Unfortunately there were some network problems and the beginning of the Q & A was delayed by 45 minutes ― many thanks to all who waited with such patience and good humour in the audience room, and especially to Paul for not only staying much longer than the allotted one hour but also taking the occasional disconnection in his stride once the IRC had started. Well done to everyone who helped out in many different ways, too. Overall it was a triumph over adversity and we all had a really great time! Among the countries represented we spotted Japan, Netherlands, US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia and Iran. Any others?

[11:15] * gross has joined #PaulGross

<chanop> Welcome Paul ― at last!

<gross> Hello everyone. Sorry, sorry, sorry that this has taken so long but here we go...

Mary: Hi, Paul. I'd like to let you know that just as I was bemoaning the absence of Shakespeare to send today's tragic heroes to their fates, along came H2O. In the midst of my growing bewilderment, your story shone a ray of hope that, indeed, "foul deeds will rise, though all the Earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes." So, thanks for reminding me to trust in Shakespeare. Oh, and a friend said "tell him his Hamlet rocks!"

<gross> Shakespeare is the template for all writers, I think. Although, I would add that Shakespeare is also the bane of every writer's life ― we all know we can never be as good.

Angela B: I live in Britain and recently imported H2O, which I absolutely loved. The ending was a bit of a cliff-hanger, but I have heard that a sequel is being considered. Is this going to pick up where the first one left off, or will it be further in the future, with Tom McLaughlin having to deal with the consequences of his actions? Thanks for such an excellent mini-series, it is television at its best.

<gross> Yeah, we are planning to do a sequel and John Krizanc and I have just finished writing the second draft. It picks up where the first one left off but will be a few years down the road. When the show starts, Canada is voting in a national referendum. The vote is a cliffhanger but in the end the country votes to dissolve Confederation and split into six states, joining the USA. Then ... Tom McLaughlin (my character, ex-Prime Minister) joins in a conspiracy with the heads of the Big Three Intelligence services of Europe (England, Germany and France) to essentially conduct a bloodless coup of the United States. With their help, Tom runs as an Independent Candidate up the center in the U.S. The campaign is full of skulduggery, most of it planted by the intelligence guys. Along the way, a British reporter (we're talking with Helen Mirren) lands on the story and tries to expose it. In the end, I win the Presidency but the conspiracy is revealed to the National Security Council of the U.S. and they in turn have to act.

Wendy: I was staggered by the amount of research on government and policy you and John did for H2O. For instance, *I* know what the International Joint Commission is, but only because of some technical work I once had to do for a client concerned with Great Lakes issues. Is it possible for you to describe the research process you used, and is anything different about the way you're proceeding to research and write the sequel? It must have been so much fun to do but also mind-boggling at times. Can't wait for the next instalment! (I'm an American.)

<gross> The research process is and continues to be really long and involved but we have a busload of specialists to turn to ― from guys in CSIS (Canada's spy agency) to experts from the environmental field, to parliamentary scholars, to U of T [University of Toronto] profs at the Monk Center and the Chair of American Studies etc. etc. That part of it is an extraordinary amount of fun ― collecting ideas and oddities and starting to understand the process a little more deeply. The problem we end up with is that we invariably have way too much interesting stuff ― much more than we can use. So the process really is one of figuring out what to leave out. That's a delicious problem for a writer, however. An abundance of material means you can weed it down to the most exciting stuff. Or at least you hope it's exciting.

Ellen/Daisy: Is Beau Starr's character in Men With Brooms named after one of my favorite Stratford actors, James Blendick (who gave a great performance as Big Daddy this season!)? And when the time came to name the lead character in H2O, was the name 'McLaughlin' chosen in tribute to the late McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto?

<gross> I'm not sure where Beau's character name came from. This may sound a little disappointing but sometimes we just pick names off the newspaper or off a shelf of books. For secondary characters the name selection can often be fairly random. The name of McLaughlin escapes me at the moment. I can't remember how we landed on that. I suppose we were looking for something that rolled easily off the tongue and seemed somewhat neutral. As a side note, someone told me that the Land of Oz came to him [L. Frank Baum] when he stared over at his filing cabinet ― one of the labels read 'O' to 'Z' and that's how Oz got into the Wizard of Oz.

Fel in Australia: What is the latest with the arts funding situation in Canada? Has there been any improvement since you started your campaign? We are in a similar situation here, and with the new US Free Trade Agreement things are expected to get worse, so I'm sure your Australian peers are behind you all the way.

<gross> Well, well, well.. I would love to say that things are improving. I fear, however, that they're getting rather worse. On the feature film front, the funding is insufficient but roughly stable. The problem remains that the system is calcified and we're locked at very low budgets. Attempting anything outside the pattern (Passchendaele for instance) requires herculean and inventive methods. On the T.V. front, things are objectively worse. Our national broadcaster, the CBC, just sustained an 8 week lock out which ended in a draw and nothing was accomplished. It's in terrible shape and I see nothing that encourages me that it will improve. On the federal government front, the Heritage Ministry (oversees cultural matters) is very weak and has done little to tackle the more intransigent structural problems that beset the film/t.v. sector. The only bright spot in all of this mess is the work itself. We continue to make interesting and occasionally exciting material. I haven't lost hope that it will turn around eventually but it is a constant struggle. The problems we face will likely be visited on Austr. The US machine is a juggernaut and very difficult to resist.

Woudje: Hello Paul. We’ve seen our share of American movies and TV shows. I think it’s time for a change of flavour, so when can we expect H2O and Slings and Arrows on Dutch TV?

<gross> I don't know. I think they sold Slings and Arrows to Finland but I'm not sure about Holland. And I don't know about H2O. Sounds silly, doesn't it? You'd think I would know, and I probably should, but once something is done I'm always embroiled in the next one and I don't really follow what happens to them all that closely.

Amanda: I really enjoyed your advocacy of Lester B. Pearson as The Greatest Canadian last fall. Were you actually at the podium in the real General Assembly room at the United Nations building in New York? It certainly looks like you were, but film trickery has made almost anything fakeable. Sidney Pollack filmed The Interpreter there and bragged that his was the first film crew given permission to film inside the real United Nations building.

<gross> Yeah, it was the real podium. (Pollack was the first 'drama' to film there, I think. They've had other crews for things like the Greatest Canadian and other docs.) It was absolutely fascinating being in that building. It's impressive and hilarious at the same time. Stuck in a time warp. They can't renovate the place unless they have unanimity among the members. And since they can never achieve unanimity, they can never renovate. So it's stuck in a time warp. And falling apart. The podium, which looks so impressive on t.v., is actually tacked together with staples and safety pins. No kidding. I would recommend to anyone that when you're next in NYC that you make a point of doing a tour of the building. Fantastic place.

Shirochan: I'd like to say Congratulations about Gemini award. I really love Slings and Arrows. What movie did you see recently? And have you seen Paul Haggis's Million Dollar Baby and Crash?

<gross> Ummm ... I saw Paul's film and thought it was absolutely magnificent. It's also the best of Paul ― funny, moving, smart and resonant. I was really knocked out. And it's also great to see him taking off. Someone told me he's writing the next James Bond. Can't wait.

Maria: Is Slings & Arrows going to be released on DVD? Is there any information yet on when this might be? Will the release be in the form of individual seasons (6 eps) or will they hold off until all 3 seasons (18 eps) have been broadcast?

<gross> I wish I could tell you what they're doing with it but I actually don't know. I think they should get moving on releasing it ― there is a lot of interest in the show and it would do rather well, I think.

Elizabeth: Paul, having seen series two of "Slings & Arrows" I am convinced you and Martha would make the perfect Macbeth and wife. Is there any possibility of you doing this? (preferably in the UK as I'm sure you know you have a huge fan base here!)

<gross> I've thought about doing Macbeth and have been asked a couple of times ― either to do it here in Toronto or back at Stratford. Problem is, I don't like the guy. I don't think he's a worthy tragic hero. And because of that the play almost always disappoints me. I am talking about doing Richard III, a much more fun and attractive character. I'd love to do something in the UK ― get someone over there to invite me and I'll come.

Angela, Dave, Matthew and Thomas: Hello Paul! Firstly, we want to say how much we've all enjoyed both series of Slings & Arrows ― Geoffrey's a great character. And our question is: if you were directing a production of Macbeth, would your interpretation be anything like Geoffrey's? Best wishes!

<gross> I’m not sure what I'd do with Macbeth. I think he's a bit dim but he is a brilliant warrior. I'd probably try to devise it so that he was someone like Norman Schwarzkopf ― a soldier's soldier who gets caught in ambitions that are beyond his capacity to control. And in the end he's reduced to what he always was ― a warrior.

Amanda: Not restricting yourself to the CBC's ten candidates, who would you personally say is The Greatest Canadian? Thanks so much for doing this chat for us!

<gross> I do actually think that Pearson is the greatest modern Canadian. Most of what we are, how we think about ourselves, and how we behave toward one another comes originated with him. The fact that he wasn't flashy, or exciting makes his achievement all the more remarkable, I think.

PeggyfromPorcupine: How are your parents, especially your dad who was unwell? [This was a reference to something Peggy said she had heard in amazinGross: The Life and Times of Paul Gross]

<gross> You seem to know more about my parents then I do. If he was sick, he neglected to tell me this the last time I talked with him ― in fact, he said he was fine. We're going out to the Badlands ranch for Christmas. Looking forward to it. And my mom finished her book and it's sitting with a publisher in Victoria. All in all they seem fine.

Sophie: Is there any good news about the funding for Passchendaele?

<gross> Yes. It continues apace. We have the full backing of the Canadian Forces ― in particular, the Chief of the Defence Staff has thrown his weight behind it and we'll be making an announcement about the film in Calgary on the 8th at which Premier Klein will be in attendance. We don't have all the money yet but we are getting very close and are now actively planning to start shooting in the early spring.

Joy/Cinders: Hi Paul. Are there still any plans to film parts of Passchendaele here in the UK, and if so, will you be looking for extras? ;) Very best wishes and many thanks for joining us today.

<gross> We had started to set the film up as a UK/Canada co-production but that route proved to be rather too difficult. As it stands now, we plan to shoot the entire movie inside Alberta. So, no. At the moment we aren't contemplating coming over to the UK. But we'll still need extras and lots of them. Come on over!

Linda: Paul: I love your music (and David's, too). In fact, it's given me such joy that it's inspired me to buy a guitar and start playing and singing again for the first time in well over a decade. Thank you so much for that. Do you still write music? Do you and David Keeley have any plans to make another CD at some point?

<gross> David and I have been talking about it ― we've even got a few new songs. But I've been so ludicrously busy lately that we haven't had the time to sort through the material and see if we have enough for a record. We will do another one ― just not sure when.

Dominic: Would you consider playing "After The War" in your new film? I can imagine that song having a huge impact on an audience of a war film for its poignant simplicity. I can hear it playing along with the closing credits and everyone crying!

<gross> Not sure that we'll use any contemporary music in the movie at the moment. I've been leaning toward using compositions from the period. I think I'm going to use Alina, Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part for the last 5-10 minutes of the movie. I'm pretty sure that will guarantee there won't be a dry eye in the house.

LeeH: I know it’s been asked before ― but are there any plans for a Due South reunion movie or special?

<gross> We still talk about it from time to time but I've got a couple of things to do before we could get serious about that. I'd like to do it at some point. Maybe in a couple of years.

Spring: Was the children's chorus in your song "Lights of Illysium" an homage to the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" or to Monty Python's "All Things Dark and Ugly?"

<gross> Both. Actually, that was Jack Lenz's idea ― I'm not sure where he stole it from. Kid's choral voices always work, it seems. Why?

Julie/Beebee/Jean: In H2O and Murder Most Likely your roles were such interesting villains and such a contrast to some of the more heroic roles you've played. Is it harder to be the bad guy or make the hero interesting? Which of the roles you've played would you consider the most difficult and/or enjoyable? Is it the character himself, the script, direction, plot or what? Complete thumbs up for Slings & Arrows. You play Geoffrey's off the wall personality so well!

<gross> Easily the most difficult and most enjoyable (and oddly the easiest in some ways) was Hamlet. But he's a unique character in the entire canon of dramatic literature. In general, I think villains are more fun and somewhat easier. Heroes are difficult because you have to convince yourself that you are capable of heroism. I think we all find it easier to imagine we're capable of being nasty. Overall, though, I don't really think of characters in those terms. When you're acting you really think about the character from his point of view ― and no one thinks they're evil. Not even the most horrifying (Hitler, Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy). They all think they're doing the right thing. So if you approach a character from that angle you don't concern yourself with whether the character is evil or heroic. So it becomes a question of whether you like the script and respond to the story. Acting is actually reductive.

Carole: In Slings and Arrows, to help Jack get through Hamlet, Geoffrey tells him to count off the soliloquies and regard the rest as filler. What device did you use to get through the play in 2000?

<gross> Alcohol. No, seriously you do find a couple of islands in the play where you can rest just a little bit and you head for them. Getting there is a wild ride in a crazy river but along comes that one rock. You hang on to it for a second, gather your wits then let go and go back into the river. I never found the soliloquies to be the islands.

Gaby/Felicity: Did you have a role model when you were a kid, or do you have one even now? Do you, like Martha, have an interest in trying to imprint and develop an enthusiasm in the younger generation for drama and theatre, through partaking in school workshops for example?

<gross> I'm sadly not remotely as generous as Martha ― although when I was playing Hamlet she had told me that the most important audiences would be the student matinees, which I was actually dreading. It turned out she was completely right and I enjoyed playing to the kids more than anything else.

Kate/BRT/Jane: What's a typical Paul Gross day like ― do you actually go to an office to work when you're not active on a film or do you hang out at home in your jammies working on scripts and such? What would you be doing on a perfect day? And how is the sketching going?

<gross> Typical day? Hmm. Get up. Get the kids off to school. Go for a run. At my desk (in house) by 9:00. then it's working on scripts, or as I'm doing now a lot of producing work which is mostly on the phone. Meetings. More meetings. Phones. More phone. It's dreary at the moment. I really only love two things ― writing when I'm writing. And acting when I'm acting. But I have to do all the other things to get to do the things I love. The sketching is stumbling along although I can tell you that my people are almost starting to look like people. My hands are a different story. Everyone I draw seems to have lobsters at the end of their arms.

ErniePratt: I love your and David's songs. But could you add the lyrics in the next CD (if it comes)? The meaning of some songs is still a mystery to me.

<gross> The meaning to the songs remains a mystery to us as well. Yes, we will most definitely add the lyrics ― if we can remember them.

Noel: I've always been curious about how actors view their own work. Do you ever go back and rewatch some of your stuff and if you do, are you ever able to separate yourself from the role you're playing and just enjoy the piece as a regular member of the audience?

<gross> It's the most peculiar thing to see yourself from a show you did years ago. It's almost like you're watching a different person ― and in many ways you are different. Older, changed. So although it is you, it's not you. I think most actors find that it makes them cringe to see themselves in old shows. I think it was Redford who said that he never watched himself for two reasons. One was that he was reminded of what a terrible actor he was and the second reason is that he was made aware of his own mortality.

Sandi: Which is/are the most meaningful to you of your many well-deserved awards, and where do you keep them ― on display or stored for safe-keeping?

<gross> Geez ... I'm not sure. I always like the writing awards, although I was very honoured to get the Monte Carlo award this year. They're all clumped up on a shelf in my office ― in the corner, hidden and gathering dust. They're kind of odd to have because you're not really sure what to do with them.

Mary Beth: As an avid reader and active writer, do you read while you're working on a project, or do you avoid reading during the writing process? And if you do read while working on something, do you tend to read the opposite of what you're writing, i.e., no fiction while writing, say, H2O, or just anything that catches your interest? Thanks.

<gross> I'm always reading something and you've got it right ― when I'm working on say H2O I'll read something that has nothing to do with global politics and the future of oil. My reading patterns are haphazard at best ― it really is random although I like fiction. Am reading Faulks' new one ["Human Traces"]. Just finished Doctorow's "The March" ― brilliant.

Janet: Are you ever going to do Stratford again?

<gross> I might ― not in the immediate future though. I think I might go back in two or three years.

Sue from Aus: In a moment of boredom or just surfing the net have you ever "Googled" yourself and or read the comments left in guest books on websites devoted to you?

<gross> No, I haven't. I've never gotten into surfing. If I'm on the net it's usually for a purpose. Penny directed me to PaulGross.org and I thought it was brilliantly laid out. Wow.

Catherine: Is there any chance you might be filming or releasing any new movies in the USA?

<gross> Well, I know that Slings and Arrows is on the Sundance Channel and I think H2O went to Hallmark. I have every confidence that Passchendaele will be released in the U.S. when we get it finished.

Anneliese: Who is your favourite actor?

<gross> That's an almost impossible question. I think the most exciting actor working right now is Johnny Depp. He's always had an amazing clarity about his work, fearless and dangerous. He's by far the best of that lot in my opinion. I think Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave are the towering figures of their generation. I love Robert Duvall still. And of course, Homer Simpson.

Peggy: You were asked two years ago if you would consider going to the US, but at that time, you felt there was still hope here in Canada. Do you still feel that, or do you hear LA calling?

<gross> Well, I'm in a somewhat lucky situation in that I'm more or less able to do what I want to do here. It's a struggle a lot of the time but it's still possible for me. I would probably relocate if that were to change. Although, I'm not sure about LA. Hate the place. So, maybe London. If they'll have me.

Victoria: Hello, Paul ― I hope your family and those you care about are well. Speaking of family, is Hannah still contemplating pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles? Has Jack, also, become interested in acting? By the way, I am looking forward to seeing Martha and you, I hope, backstage on the S&A set. Judi (another PG-L member) and I won an auction benefiting The Dora Mavor Moore Awards.

<gross> Everyone is well indeed. Hannah still talks as though she's interested in acting ― although she's really interested in being a movie star and seems to think acting isn't really important to that end and she may be right. Jack isn't declaring himself one way or the other. And it will be great to see you when you come on the set. I hope it's a fun day for you.

<chanop> Paul, you've been with us now for way longer than the allotted hour ― thank you! Are you still OK to answer a few more?

<gross> Sure we can do a couple more.

LillianF: Jack and Hannah were in Wilby Wonderful!

<gross> they were and they loved it ― although they were a little critical of the cut and thought they should have had close ups. Actors.

Saff: what do you think of the reality TV shows that are around at the moment?

<gross> Loathe them. I suppose they serve (served) a purpose to some but Lord. The real problem was that they were like crack cocaine to network executives ― cheap to make and pulled in big numbers. But they did a lot of damage in the long run. I must say it's nice to see a balance returning and that scripted drama is back.

Out loud in the parkJan: One last question, from me if that's OK ... are you a closet Harry Potter reader?

<gross> I love Harry Potter and read him out loud in the park. Jack's a big fan of Lemony Snicket and we went to see him the other day in Trootno.

<gross> Listen, I want to thank you all so much. Very enjoyable and let's do it again soon.

<chanop> Thanks for the kind words about the PG-L site

<gross> Yes, the site is tremendous!

<chanop> Thanks so much for waiting around while we sorted out the problems

<gross> Thanks everyone.

[12:56] * gross has left #PaulGross

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