Friday, October 9, 2015

Film Review: MICHAEL IRONSIDE: MENTAL SABOTEUR (2014, Karen Stetler)

This short documentary is a simple, twenty-minute interview with Michael Ironside (beloved Junta Juleil Hall-of-Famer and star of SCANNERS).  It was included on Criterion's release of SCANNERS, and it was a good enough interview that I thought it deserved its own mini-writeup.

Shot in March of 2014, Ironside is incredibly forthcoming and speaks to a mix of topics, both weighty and jovial.

He dips into some interesting childhood anecdotes, including one about his grandfather "Jock" who turned him on to science fiction.  "I came from a very poor family. Our house was twelve and a half feet wide... very proud.  You had to be able to escape in books."

He describes becoming involved in the industry as an actor and a crew-person––anything to pay the bills.  "My father used to say that I ran away and joined the circus.  And he was right.  I would do anything to stay around the big top.  I would be in front of the camera, behind the camera, deliver food, I worked for production services for a while..."

He even did some behind-the-camera work on SCANNERS, literally pulling the trigger on the shotgun that exploded SCANNERS' most infamous special effect.

Also in regard to SCANNERS, he tells a sobering story about actor Larry Dane's back pain, describes the contact lens effects (some were borrowed from LITTLE BIG MAN), and coins the term "mental saboteur" in reference to his character, Darryl Revok. He has a lot of praise for Cronenberg as an actor-friendly director, and as a "navigator" of film who never loses his story-compass.

He also speaks about taking his first steps toward the larger, scarier world of Hollywood ("I went broke trying to stay in Canada...  I'd watched people go down to the States and come back with their tails between their legs").

The most amusing anecdote is the story of a dinner with co-star Jennifer O'Neill and her husband, and she asks him about what he's buying the crew for Christmas.  The massively underpaid Ironside says, "What am I buying the crew for Christmas?!––I'm trying to steal my own wardrobe!"  When he learns what salary Jennifer O'Neill is making, he flips his lid.  "It was a major growing moment for me," he says. "You can make a living doing this?"

In any event, this brief but densely-packed interview is well worth checking out, for fans of Ironside and Cronenberg alike.

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J.D. Lafrance said...

If you want some more Ironside goodness, I heartily recommend checking out this podcast interview: where he gets into this metaphysical/philosophical conversation with the interview that is a fascinating listen. A must for any fan of the man and his work. What an interesting guy!

Sean Gill said...


That sounds amazing––thanks for sending it along!