12 years ago, I had triumphantly finished a 2 year Advanced Standing Degree in Radio & Television Arts at Ryerson University. I say “triumphantly” because I couldn’t tell you how I did it. I had just gone through a horrifically sudden breakup and found myself for the last 6 months of that programme suddenly living by myself in a spider-infested, dungeon-like basement apartment in the Queen & Broadview area. A couple years before that was the last time I had been on TV, but not as an actor, simply as an aspiring VJ, and as a host of a TV show called “6 Canadians On A Bus”. It was a great year, but the buzz had died down, I was about to graduate and had no idea what was next, I just knew that I wanted to be in the industry.
My old (horrible) agent, who enthusiastically sent me to the worst gigs that an actor can imagine (Video Dance Party tech & host for local high schools), called me and told me that I had an audition for a non-union film, and it wasn’t that big of a deal, and “you can go if you want” (very unenthusiastically). It was to read for one of the supporting roles in a film called American Soldiers. I got the lines the day before. I finished my last exam the next morning. And I walked into the audition room full of all these young guys.
They were all nervous and doing those actor “warm-ups” that trained actors sometimes engage in. I wasn’t “trained”. And I don’t believe in that. I believe in knowing the character, and knowing your lines, knowing yourself, and playing within all of that. Nonetheless, as this was my first audition in two years, and it wasn’t for a hosting gig, I was intimidated.
I walked in once my name was called. There was a casting agent in the room and an old man sitting at a table with a smile on his face. He didn’t say much. I slated, and did my best take on the lines. The casting director quickly said, “Ok, thanks.” as if she couldn’t get me out of the room fast enough. The old man said, “That was great. Do it one more time, this time, tweek this and that…” I took another pass at it. When I was done, …silence. Then he said, “Do you have to be anywhere right now?” I said, “No.” He said, “Sit down.” He reached out his hand and said, “I’m Sidney. That was incredible.”
He then told the casting agent to get the other sides. He held on to them, and proceeded to ask me questions about my personal life, what I did, if I had a girlfriend, how long I’ve been acting. This was the weirdest audition I had ever had, but at that point, I hadn’t had many. Once he had satisfied his curiosity, he gave me the other sides. He said, “I just want you to try these ones.” I read them a few times, and once I was ready, I started. He was speechless and asked me to do it again. I did. Then he said. “You’re him. You’re Tyler Jackson.” He smiled at me, and said, “Curtis, that’s the lead.”
Sidney J. Furie was the first person who believed in me when I started this crazy journey, even more than my agent at the time. He cast me as the lead in American Soldiers, and The Four Horsemen, and a supporting role in Conduct Unbecoming. I am forever indebted to this man, for this and for a gem of a human named Natalie Roy, and another memorable soul in Soo-Luen Tom, my comrades Nick Abraham & Vince Salonia, the unforgettable Elias Toufexis as well as the countless others who joined us on his sets like Corey Sevier, the late Maury Chaykin and the unforgettable character actor, Michael Ironside.
This year, TIFF brought Sidney home from his Los Angeles haven to discuss his 2nd feature film, A Cool Sound from Hell that he shot at Union Station 58 years ago. Here’s the thing about Sid: Everything you see in this video is exactly what he looked like and how he talked and walked and acted 12 years ago and the last time I saw him 5 years ago. The guy does not age. He will probably tell you that his fountain of youth is film making.
Thanks Sid. Here’s to you.