Cynthia Preston

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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.''

It shows.


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

B.C. coast.


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.