Inside Move: Border crossing

U.S. actors at center of Canadian storm

Hollywood is worried about runaway production; now Canadians are starting to worry about runaway actors.

There are many on the Canuck film scene who fear a new government feature film policy will lead to too many local pics featuring Hollywood stars.

Canuck film funder Telefilm Canada has a new policy dedicated to increasing box office for Canadian films. The goal is to raise Canuck share of the B.O. pie to 5% from its present 1.4%. Flashpoint in the debate is the use of American actors in local pics.

New Telefilm exec director Richard Stursberg has said the agency should be more flexible when it comes to using Hollywood actors alongside Canadians in leading roles, especially if it makes commercial sense. In the past, Telefilm rarely funded films with Americans in leading roles.

The criticism of Telefilm has been loudest in French Canada, where the media tends to be more interested in cultural-policy issues.

“We should not base our film policy on hiring American actors,” says Serge Losique, Montreal World Film Festival prexy. “I’m not against American actors, but it shouldn’t be done with Canadian taxpayers’ money.”

Many in the Quebec film biz also fear Stursberg may not be fully committed to financing les films d’auteur, the traditional strength of Quebec’s production scene.

But other producers say they need Hollywood names in order to convince Canadians to shell out $12 to see homegrown films.

“People are more likely to see a Canadian film if it has some marquee names,” says Montreal producer Arnie Gelbart.

“The Brits use American actors, the French do it, the Germans do it. Why shouldn’t we do it?”

The debate comes just as a Canadian film, curling comedy “Men With Brooms,” struck gold with a C$1 million ($613,000) opening weekend. It stars local thesp Paul Gross and doesn’t feature any non-Canucks in lead roles.

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