Canadian Press Newswire
Chaykin delivers whale of a performance
TORONTO (CP) - A bloated grief-stricken rock star may turn
out to be the defining role of Maury Chaykin's film career.
And that's OK with the veteran Canadian actor.
``It's certainly probably the most resonant role in my own life
that I've played in a film . . ,'' said Chaykin, who spends most of
his new movie Whale Music clad only in a bathrobe.
``Not that I was a famous rock star - but I think (I've felt) more
feelings of isolation, feelings of isolating myself, loneliness,
redemption, experimenting with drugs, alienation.''
``I've spent quite a bit of time in a bathrobe.''
Chaykin, 45, recently got a best actor Genie nomination - Canada's
version of the Oscar - for his tour de force as rock 'n' roll
recluse Desmond Howl in Whale Music.
The film, opening in major Canadian markets on Friday following its
opening night slot at the Toronto and Vancouver film festivals,
actually picked up nine Genie nods including one for best picture.
Based on Paul Quarrington's Governor General Award-winning novel,
Whale Music is the story of a Brian Wilson-like hermit composing a
symphony for whales in the basement studio of his rundown seaside
mansion. The bearded burnt-out rocker is literally haunted by the
suicide of his younger brother and bandmate Danny (Paul Gross of
TV's Due South) nine years previously.
``The world became a lonely place when you left,'' Desmond tells
Danny during one of his ghostly visits.
Desmond is also visited by a demanding ex-wife (Jennifer Dale) and
his agent (Kenneth Welsh) but it is only the arrival of Claire, a
19-year-old runaway (Toronto actress Cyndy Preston) with troubles of
her own, that lifts his spirits.
The first time they meet, the 300-pound Desmond thinks the
blond-haired waif-like creature is from another planet until she
offers to go the store.
``That's a way to get rid of hallucinations, send them out for
groceries,'' he says.
But the oddball couple manage to connect.
``He's being led really through a journey from dark to light, from
disorder to order and from submergence to surfacing,'' says
Toronto-based director Richard J. Lewis, who shot Whale Music on the
Adds Preston: ``They find solace in each other and save each other
from the big, bad world. And you can see how these two unlikely
people come together in their own personal traumas, just find light
in each other.''
The breathtaking photography of humpback whales and the west coast
plus the impressive musical score by Toronto band The Rheostatics
further enhance the unusual love story.
But it is the performance of Chaykin, whose credits include Dances
with Wolves, My Cousin Vinny and Canadian director Atom Egoyan's The
Adjuster, that ultimately makes the film.
He manages to captur the essence of his character's tormented soul,
particularly when tossing off one-liners.
``Have you invited the Lord Jesus into your heart?'' asks one of
Howl's born-again friends during a dinner party.
``No, the place is a mess,'' he responds.
It is a perfect balance of poignancy and humor.
``This was particularly scary in some sections because it really
does walk a fine line between comedy and tragedy,'' says Lewis.
``And there's a dark element to this film that I didn't want to
Chaykin, who had been losing weight at the time of shooting Whale
Music, was ordered by Lewis to maintain his girth for the role of
Desmond, who strongly identifies with whales because ``they're huge
and ungainly and they're very, very sad.''
``Richard was getting very upset,'' said Chaykin. ``He was getting
very worried so he told me to stop (losing weight) for a while
because then it would have been like Clark Gable and Hope Lange. It
wouldn't have made much of a story.
``So for the film I kept eating.''
FC: Copyright 1996.