MONTREAL — The quirky controversy brewing around the latest Guy Maddin pic sounds like something straight out of one of the offbeat Canadian helmer’s own pictures.
When “Twilight of the Ice Nymphs” has its world preem at the Montreal World Film Festival next week, the lead actor’s name won’t be in the credits.
Nigel Whitmey, a Canadian thesp now based in London, asked Winnipeg-based Marble Island Pictures to remove his name from the credits and all publicity material because the producer had another actor — legit thesp Ross McMillan — dub Whitmey’s voice in the pic. Marble Island complied with his request, and the pic now features a wild jump-cut during the opening credits where Whitmey’s name has been excised.
Cast members content to keep their names on the pic include Shelley Duvall, French-Canadian star Pascale Bussieres and seasoned Canuck actor R.H. Thomson.
In the surreal tale, Whitmey plays a political prisoner returning to his homeland of Mandragora after several years behind bars.
“Ice Nymphs” producer Ritchard Findlay admitted he struck a written deal with the actor to keep his name anonymous, and even refused to confirm that the pic’s lead is indeed Whitmey. Findlay said the thesp’s voice simply didn’t work in the film.
“In this fabulous melange of international sounds, one voice was standing out as just not fitting,” Findlay told Daily Variety. “We miscast this poor fellow and we gave him a part that he was not ready for. (His voice) just wasn’t big enough for the part. It didn’t work on many levels.”
Whitmey made his feelings known to the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper: “I felt that if I could not get my voice in the film, it would not be my name on it.”
A source at the pic’s distrib, Alliance Releasing, suggested the controversy would likely help the Maddin pic by generating media attention both in Canada and abroad. Findlay, who described the decision as the toughest he’s ever had to make in his professional life, isn’t so sure. He worried that controversy will make auds wary of the lead actor’s perf.
After its preem at the Montreal Festival, “Twilight” will play the Perspective Canada section at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and will be released across Canada by Alliance Releasing on Sept. 19. Alliance has yet to strike a U.S. distribution deal for the pic, and the company will only begin trying to sell the feature internationally at the Montreal and Toronto fests.