MONTREAL — Richard Goudreau might just be Canada’s most successful film producer right now. But chances are most people in the biz have never heard of him. Other Canuck producers, like Robert Lantos and Roger Frappier, have higher international profiles — but no one can touch Goudreau when it comes to topping the Canadian box office.
That’s because the Montreal producer dreamed up the idea for “Les Boys,” a trilogy of defiantly low-brow pics that are far and away the top grossers in the history of Quebec cinema and among the highest-grossing Canadian films of all time.
The French-lingo “Boys” films, which have rarely screened outside of Quebec, come from a different universe than the usual Canuck arthouse fare — they’re unabashedly local comedies that rely heavily on blue-collar Quebecois humor.
For instance, “Les Boys III” has the suburban hockey-playing guys matched against an all-women hockey team. On the ice, the graying, macho guys trip all over themselves with their chivalrous behavior, even after the les femmes kick les butts. Stock characters also elicit laughs, like the amorous real-estate agent (Patrick Huard) and the pot-smoking guitarist (Roc Lafortune).
“People like ‘Les Boys’ because it’s a slice of life,” says Goudreau. “People respond to the film because they recognize themselves or their friends. The characters in the film are like real people, and everyone can’t be happy all the time. But we’ve kept our sense of humor.”
Goudreau and helmer Louis Saia also tap into the province’s obsession with hockey; indeed, the series can only be fully appreciated by folks who know the difference between Rocket Richard and Patrick Roy. The films also feature some of French Canada’s top film and TV stars, including Remy Girard, Marc Messier and Huard.
“Les Boys III,” the latest in the series, hit the C$5 million ($3.1 million) mark Jan. 24, after seven weeks in Quebec theaters. The first installment grossed $3.8 million four years ago and “Les Boys II” scored $3.7 million at the box office in 1999. They hold the top three spots in the chart of all-time top ticket-sellers in Quebec. Goudreau, 51, has been a fixture on the Quebec film scene for more than two decades. He followed in his father’s footsteps and started as a booker in the Montreal office of Paramount in the mid-1970s. After stints at Warner Bros. and Montreal indie Mutual Films, he started the distribution company Cinema Plus.After Cinema Plus folded in 1984, Goudreau went into production, forming Melenny Prods. The Montreal company churned out a number of low-budget family films, including “Kids of the Round Table” with Malcolm McDowell, but only struck box office gold with “Les Boys.”
Now Goudreau is set to produce a number of more ambitious projects. This summer, he shoots “La Ballade des Dangereux,” a “Get Shorty”-like comedy starring Quebec stand-up comic Stephane Rousseau, and, in September, produces “La Corriveau,” a $12 million pic directed by Yves Simoneau (“Mother’s Boys”) and based on a 1989 script by Quebec auteur Gilles Carle.
He is also heading to Los Angeles in the coming weeks to talk to two interested partners about re-making “Les Boys” in English. It will be similar in spirit to the Quebec pics, although Goudreau wants to change the boys’ sport to the more American-friendly flag football. Ironically, one of the potential L.A. co-producers is trying to convince the Canadian producer to keep it a hockey story.