A few things were obvious to Jacob Tierney when he set out to write “The Trotsky”. He knew he wanted to make a high school movie and that he wanted to base the story in Montreal’s west end. He was also sure it had to involve socialist Leon Trotsky in one way or another.
However, when Tierney finished the first draft, something unfortunate became clear to him. “It sucked, yeah it was a bad drama,” he said of the original screenplay. “It was not anything that anyone would have wanted to see. And it was just bad.”
It then became obvious that “The Trotsky,” out in Canadian theatres, was meant to be a comedy instead of a drama. But the Trotsky element was left intact.
“He was the guy I knew the most about,” says Tierney of Trotsky. “He was somebody that captured my imagination, so it was easy to imagine him capturing somebody else’s imagination.”
“The Trotsky” tells the story of Leon Bronstein, an affluent Montreal teen played by Jay Baruchel, who believes he’s the reincarnation of Trotsky. While Tierney, 30, and his main character were both into Trotsky as teenagers, their similarities end there.
“When you write a movie, there’s a part of me in absolutely every one of those characters. They all kind of say things at different points that I would say. They all do things that I would do. But no, I was not like Leon in high school. I would of like to have been more like Leon in high school,” the Montreal native admits.
It was crucial for him to find an actor that could pull off Leon. Baruchel just fit the mold. “He’s a brilliant comic actor,” said Tierney of Baruchel. “He’s a physical comedian, which is very rare and very special, I think. But also beyond that, he’s a really really good actor and he’s vulnerable. He’s actually incapable of being false. Like there’s a truth that comes out of him that I really wanted for this guy, because I never wanted him to become a cartoon character.”
“The Trotsky” — which Tierney also directed — is his second feature film, but the Canadian filmmaker isn’t new to the screen. As a child actor, Tienrey, the son of writer and producer Kevin Tierney, appeared in popular TV shows including “Are You Afraid of the Dark.”
While the transition from child star to filmmaker wasn’t necessarily easy, he says it was a natural progression. ”The thing about movies, whether it’s a short or a feature or whatever, is that it’s a whole new project…you’re always starting from zero in one way,” said Tierney. “And when you’re a writer you’re literally starting from zero cause you’re looking at a blank page. So it’s not about being easy, but it was quite natural for me.”
As Tierney says, some scripts just “pour out,” but others take weeks or even months to perfect. “Writing is more alchemy than anything else,” he admits.
Tierney’s upcoming movie, “Notre Dame de Grace,” is in its editing stage. Starring Baruchel, Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire, the film noir takes place during the winter leading up to the Quebec referendum in 1995. It focuses on three neighbours living in an apartment complex — one of whom is a serial killer.
Aside from that, he’ll be acting in his father’s directorial debut and is already working on adapting the book “A Good Terrorist” to the big screen.
But at the moment, he just hopes people enjoy “The Trotsky.”
“Honestly, this movie is a dessert,” says Tierney. “It’s a soufflé, you know, and people tend to leave the theatres smiling and that’s more than I could have ever hoped for”.
Who says that really good movies can’t be Canadian? Not Jay Baruchel, who not only is Canadian, but has been cast in a number of Hollywood movies (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder, Just Buried to name a few). With a great Canadian cast lead by Baruchel, The Trotsky is both dramatic and comedic. We were on the red carpet premiere to find out more.
The latest from Canadian filmmaker Jacob Tierney tells the story of Leon Bronstein, an affluent Montreal teen played by Jay Baruchel (“How to Your Dragon,” “”She’s Out of My League), who believes he’s the reincarnation of socialist Leon Trotsky.
Most to-do lists consist of taking the dog to the groomer or mowing the lawn – not Leon’s. His list features the most important happenings of Trotsky’s life (including marrying a woman named Alexandra and getting assassinated).
After organizing a hunger strike at his own father’s company (played by Saul Rubineck), Leon is sent to public school. He sees it as an opportunity to engage the students in some good old fashioned activism and of course, he ends up on the principal’s bad side.
Movie goers can ultimately go into the movie without knowing much about Trotsky and still enjoy the comedy. Tierney, who also wrote the flick, does a good job of summing up Trotsky’s ideals without making the film seem like a two-hour history lesson.
After seeing Baruchel play Leon, it becomes impossible to picture any other actor playing the lead character. Aside from having the hair and the glassed down packed, Baruchel convinces in the part. Leon is extremely awkward and stubborn, but he makes the character likable.
Baruchel’s scenes with Emily Hampshire, who plays his much older love interest Alexandra (another Trotsky parallel), are often funny and engaging. Equally funny are Leon’s scenes with his step mom, played by Anne-Marie Cadieux.
“The Trotsky” could have shaved off 15 to 20 minutes. However, that can easily be forgiven because the movie’s concept is so creative that it’ll still keep you hooked.