Vancouver is often graced by the presence of Hollywood stars and moguls, but I’ve never cared. So you saw Wesley Snipes at the Blarneystone? Weird. Cameron Diaz shopping at the Gap? Obviously. I sat behind Trevor Linden at the movies on Granville Street. Big deal.
But when your less-well-known, favorite Canadian movie actor of all time and first teenage television crush shows up in your hometown, at the local theatre, surrounded by horses, even the most jaded go a little gaga.
Because at the same moment my mom and I approached the downtown theatre where we had whimsically decided to end a perfect day by watching Alice In Wonderland, my teenage crush and favorite actor, ever, was arriving in a black stretch limo for the premiere of his new Western, Gunless.
Yes, I admit it. I love Paul Gross. I fell in love with his red-coated ways on Due South, worshiped his comedic, brilliant touch in Slings & Arrows, and remained loyal to him during his over-drenched but heroic attempt at invoking Passchendaele.
I’ve even seen Getting Married in Buffalo Jump, a film that effortlessly captured the very worst of Canadian cinema in the 80s, even as it cemented his personal hunkiness. (Do not see this movie – you will regret it. Unless, like me, you are a dedicated Paul Gross fan, and are able to forgive him for it. Barely. Men With Brooms also falls into this category, although there are less soft-focus nude scenes and more beer jokes).
To be frank, anything Gross has done pre-1994 is only for the strong of stomach, a few cinesters who idolize bad movie-making, and the thirteen-year old girl inside all of us. And even I find his music a little cringe-inducing, albeit humourous. (If you watch that music video, you may lose all respect for my artistic taste, but that’s what this blog is for: soul-bearing).
But back to the present, and the glorious moment when I chatted about scriptwriting with my hero.
We joined the small crowd outside the theatre, as two real and very well-trained horses, hay and actors in period costume piqued the interest of passersby. Several manicured handlers muttered into cell phones and made small talk with local journalists as the minor stars of the film walked the red carpet.
Clutching the fake wanted poster that a cowboy had given me, I was so busy looking for Paul, that I almost failed to notice the breathtakingly beautiful Sienna Guillory flitting through the rabble. As I nudged my mom and pointed out the leading lady, she turned and smiled directly at me, and said “Hello!” We chatted briefly about Osoyoos, where Gunless was filmed, and I wished her a fantastic night as she graced my poster with an autograph before being snatched by agents and escorted into the movie-star only area.
No sooner had I said a friendly goodbye to Guillory than I caught sight of Gross being whisked through the crowd faster than his ill-fated ABC show, Eastwick was taken off the air.
Jostled by two young punks wearing security guard uniforms, I stood my ground, hoping that Gross would look my way, our eyes would meet, and we’d be instant friends. Alas – tussling with the goons, (“Just go inside, ma’am, and watch the movie.” “Actually, I’m going to see Alice in Wonderland, and I can stand here if I want.”), meant I only caught a glimpse of Gross before he was hustled inside to the movie-star only elevator.
Two hours later, dizzy from the 3-D rompings of rabbits and red queens, we wandered out of the theatre. The goons saw me going towards the escalator and swaggered by way too slowly, eyeballing me as if I was a stalker-fan or a terrorist.
And to be honest, I was starting to feel a bit pathetic and somewhat desperate, but seeing four black SUVs idling at the curb in a specially designated movie-premiere parking zone renewed my fervour, and I ran into Starbucks to ask for a Sharpie just in case I nabbed Gross on his way out.
Sure enough, he appeared minutes later with his fellow lead actors on the street corner. They clustered together, smoking cigarettes and looking relieved that the premiere was over. I saw my chance, and swooped in, politely asking a handler for a “chance to speak with Mr. Gross.”
And there I was, chatting with the man himself about the narrative brilliance of Slings & Arrows, the loss of their head writer to Broadway, and his iconic work on Due South. I wisely neglected to mention Buffalo Jump and almost felt bad asking for an autograph, as it seemed to ruin the moment that we were both just people, talking about some famous guy.
Yes, I did get an autograph, and yes, my knees went a little weak, and yes, I giggled with my mom about meeting him. He shook my hand! I don’t really want to wash it, now.
But I will. And I’ll hang the poster, go and see the movie, and sigh with melodramatic fervour every time I hear the opening strains of “Ride Forever.”
Because it’s not everyday that you get to meet a guy like Gross. No matter how semi-famous or Canadian he may be.