'Breakaway' cast pranks Rob Lowe, talks hockey
The cast of 'Breakaway' from left to right, Ali Hassan, Rup Magon, star Vinay Virmani, Prem Singh and Al Mukadam met with CTVNews.ca at a Roots store on Toronto's Bloor Street. (Josh Visser / CTVNews.ca)
Published Thursday, September 8, 2011 5:47PM EDT
Stand-up comedian Ali Hassan tells me a story about pranking Rob Lowe on the set of "Breakaway," a movie where he plays the goon on a Canadian-Sikh hockey team called the Speedy Singhs.
While filming a scene, Hassan was standing behind Lowe as he gave a big speech in the team's dressing room. He figured it would be funny if he stripped down to his jock strap behind Lowe's back.
"I figured it would be a big laugh on set for everyone, including Rob Lowe, but not at all. He turns around and pats me on the back, looks at my bare bum and walks off and says (in character) ‘good job.'
"I can't make that man laugh. Basically he's most professional human being I've ever met. I learned something from that. Maybe someday I'll be a professional."
Canadian comedy legend and fellow "Breakaway" cast-member Russell Peters may have another theory. The other day, while speaking to The Canadian Press about hosting the Geminis, he explained how he wasn't worried about offending any actors with his jokes.
"Actors have no sense of humour to begin with," he told The Canadian Press. "Generally, the better the actor the less personality they have."
Now while I am just going to assume Peters, who has appeared in a half-dozen films in the past year, was kidding about the sense of humour, he has a point.
What he is really saying is "the more successful the actor is, the less open they are."
And this is why my favourite part of TIFF is not the brief interactions with the major celebrities (which are generally polite, short and on script), but interviews with the up-and-coming actors and directors with their first big movie.
Take the young cast of "Breakaway" for example, doing interviews for their movie's premiere at the festival. The movie is a Bollywood-Canadian production, about a "Slapshot"-esque group of Sikh-Canadians in Toronto competing for a local hockey championship. There's a love story, father-and-son moments, Tim Hortons, a Bollywood number on ice and Rob Lowe driving a Zamboni.
For most of the cast, it's their first major acting experience, and some of them are animated and excited, eager to talk about the film. One of them seems openly bored with my questions, checking his phone occasionally, but you know, at least he's being honest.
And believe me, honesty is always a better conversation.
Among the cast is Rup Magon, a Montreal-born musician and practicing Sikh. He's sitting with me and expresses himself thoughtfully, as we talk about second-generation immigrant children and eventually, head shots and racism in professional hockey.
Magon says the theme of "Breakaway" -- about the struggle between a second-generation Canadian and his hockey-hating traditional father -- is a common one in many Canadian households.
"Our parents moved from a third-world country to come to Canada and they struggled in odd jobs just so their children would not have to struggle, so they could have a cheque every two weeks and be ‘secure,'" says Magon, whose band JoSH has had two major hit albums in India.
"It doesn't sit very well with them," Magon says of his parents' generation's approval for "struggling" professions like music and acting. "They say, ‘No, no, no, this is not the reason I left everything I had in India to come here to see you struggle.'"
The film's star and writer, Vinay Virmani, has been more fortunate. His father, Ajay Vermani, encouraged his son to make the film.
The story for "Breakaway" came to Virmani when he couldn't find a good role after he graduated from acting school in New York two years ago.
"I came back to Toronto and I wasn't feeling it and I had a chat with my dad, which was the best advice I could have possibly been given, which was ‘create your own opportunity,'" he says earnestly. "He said, ‘If you feel like you aren't finding the right script, write something for yourself.'
"My first role ever is kind of my dream role."
"Breakaway" opens on Sept. 30.