Brendan FehrLeading

Rising Canadian star not afraid to dive into risky role

Thanks to Mr. M. for sending me this link!

Rising Canadian star not afraid to dive into risky roles
‘If you don’t have the option to totally suck at the part, then it’s not a role worth taking,’ Brendan Fehr says

Katherine Monk

Vancouver Sun

Friday, December 06, 2002

Brendan Fehr in Edge of Madness.


You could call him cocky, but that would be ignoring his ability to show weakness. You could call him politely coy, but that would be ignoring the fact that his boots are comfortably — unapologetically — lodged on top of the swanky hotel desk.

Best to say that Brendan Fehr is the kind of fella who loves to push the envelope, whether it’s as young actor cutting a swath through Hollywood — or just sitting down for a chat about his latest movie.

In this case, Fehr, the former hometown boy who split his time between Mission and Winnipeg, is talking about Edge of Madness, which arrives in theatres today. It’s the latest movie from local director Anne Wheeler, and it’s based on Alice Munro’s short story, A Wilderness Station.

Fehr plays Simon, an abusive backwoods man who takes an orphan wife to help him homestead in the Red River Valley during the mid-19th century.

There isn’t much to like about Simon. Not only does he sexually abuse his wife Annie (played by Caroline Dhavernas), but he humiliates his little brother as often as possible.

For Fehr, the role brought a specific set of challenges, but nothing he wasn’t willing to roll up his sleeves — or pull down his trousers — to accomplish.

Wheeler called Fehr one of the most brave and intuitive actors she’s ever worked with, but Fehr says he’s still learning.

“I’m think I’m just starting to feel brave as an actor. At first you don’t feel brave at all because you don’t have the chance to be brave: No one trusts you. I’ve learned that if you don’t really go for it, people will notice. They’ll see you’re playing it safe,” he says.

“Look, it’s like if you don’t have the option to totally suck at the part, then it’s not a role worth taking. The best roles have risks … and those are the parts I’m interested in.”

Discovered five years ago while walking the streets of Vancouver, Fehr was skeptical that a complete stranger would ask — out of the blue — if he wanted to do television. A short time later, he landed a role on the TV series Roswell and moved to Los Angeles.

“I was cut out for [acting] I suppose. I’m smart. Well, smart in the sense that I know how far to go and how far not to go. I understand character on the page. I think I know what will make it work. I just get it, I guess. I got it from the very beginning. Part of it is not overanalysing. If you overanalyse, you become robotic.”

In other words, the 25-year-old Fehr is not the kind of actor who agonizes over things like motivation and elocution in terms of character. He just does it, which makes him something of a refreshing change from the average drama school technician who may labour over every nuance.

Fehr just jumps right in — ditching his inhibitions like so much clothing at a nudie camp.

“I remember at one point, we had this scene where I was mad at [Annie] because she was flirting with my brother, so I lean her over the table and essentially rape her — well, I told Caroline that I was really going to go for it — not rape her, but really be rough. I said, I’m going to bang the s–t out of you …” he says.

“The next day, she pulled down the waistline of her pants and showed me these huge bruises that I’d given her on her hips. I know it sounds terrible, but I think it works best on camera when you’re not really acting, but just doing. I don’t like to pretend. If I’m supposed to be drinking a cup of hot coffee, I want a cup of hot coffee … I don’t want to mime it because it looks stupid.”

To Fehr, it’s all just a great big game.

He says he likes to play it for two reasons: “One: I think I’m good at it. Two: I like looking at the final product.”

And what about the fame part of the game?

Well, on that score, Fehr says it’s all part of the job. Besides, he’s not harassed on the streets of Los Angeles just yet. And when he gets a nice glance at home, he says he’s usually flattered because at least they’re watching his work.

“L.A. is much different … It’s a very superficial place. People are always checking out who’s walking in the door. You can be at a party, and the whole room will change when someone walks in — they may not want to have the whole room change when they walk in. But that’s what happens to some people, it’s beyond their control … and I don’t want it to happen to me.”

For the moment, Fehr is happy to make a living doing what he loves to do. And if the big wave of fame picks him up for the ride, he’s ready for it.

“I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing. Besides, no one ever becomes a superstar overnight. It’s years of hard work that all come together when someone actually notices what you’re doing.”

For the most part, Fehr says he just wants to remain a normal guy — the guy who used to dream of being a math teacher, not an actor.

“Yep. I wanted to be a math teacher. I was really good at math, but not any more. I’ve just become stupider and stupider. Well, I’ve become smarter at some aspects, and less intelligent at others. I know for sure that my vocabulary has suffered.”

Then again, that just could be the parts he’s been playing. From the illiterate Simon in Edge of Madness, to a recent role as a stuntman in the new movie Biker Boyz starring Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate, and the Canadian project from Jesse Warn, Paper, Scissors, Stone, Fehr hasn’t been able to indulge his intellect through his work.

“There are other things in the works,” he says. “Real challenges … but that’s all I can say for now.”

Somehow, you get the feeling it won’t be long before Fehr can say a whole lot more — in bigger, polysyllabic words — in the years, if not months, to come.