For more than 40 years, portraying royalty and nobility has been John Neville’s stock in trade. On stage, he has played Richard II, Hamlet and Henry V. In 1989, he had the title role in Terry Gilliam’s fantasy film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. But the 72-year-old classically trained actor played a different kind of monarch in late June, when he stepped onto the set of the popular Canadian children’s TV show The Adventures of
Dudley the Dragon. As the Pumpkin King, Neville was resplendent in a red velvet robe and gold and purple striped tights—though heavy lay the pumpkin crown upon his head. The gusto with which he attacked the role—which will be featured in two episodes of Dudley’s fifth and final season this fall—seemed no mere act. “It’s wonderful fun,” says Neville during a brief break. “I can’t wait to watch my 10-month-old granddaughter when she sees the show.”
Another of his TV roles has attracted the admiration of his other descendants (he and his wife of 48 years, Caroline, have six children and six grandkids). Right after shooting Dudley, Neville was set to fly to Los Angeles to start work on the feature film that will serve
as the 1998 series finale of FOX’s cult hit The X-Files. In it, Neville is reprising his recurring character, The Well-Manicured Man, one of a mysterious cabal of elderly gents who try to thwart the investigations of FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) when they aren’t trying to take over the world. “After all I’ve done in my career,” Neville says with a wry smile, “I’ve finally made it with my grandsons.”
That said, the break is over and it is time to get back into character. With a fresh dusting of powder, and an aristocratic tilt to his head, Neville is once again the Pumpkin King. On cue, he bellows to a quivering Dudley (Kirk Dunn): “Do you know who I am?” Generations of fans surely do.
At last, enter the co-host
Ira Basen could have saved himself a lot of work—and Avril Benoit a lot of last-minute panic— if only he had listened to his sister in April. Basen, executive producer of the current affairs program that will replace Peter Gzowski’s Morningside on CBC Radio this fall, had been searching for its co-hosts. His sister Leila, a screenwriter in Montreal, recommended Benoit, the popular, fluently bilingual anglophone host of a mid-morning phone-in show host on the city’s CJAD radio station. But Basen was concerned that someone from private radio would have trouble understanding CBC’s public mandate. He overcame those doubts when he finally heard her show during the
federal election campaign—and when he learned that she had worked at various CBC radio and television stations for almost 10 years. In late June, Benoit signed a two-year deal to co-host the national morning show alongside Michael Enright, co-host for the past 10 years of CBC Radio’s As It Happens. That has left Benoit, a 31-year-old divorced mother of two small children, scrambling to move her family to Toronto to begin trial runs of the as-yet-unnamed show in mid-August. Still, she says she is looking forward to the challenge, and is not intimidated by the thought of sitting in Gzowski’s chair: “I’ll just do the best I can and keep enjoying the craft.”
A writer in need of acure
If Eric McCormack’s fiction were autobiographical, he would be a scary man. His darkly humorous novels can be disturbing, even grotesque. A Penguin Canada editor once allegedly claimed that McCormack needed to be “cured, not edited.” She might well have had the same reaction to his newest novel, First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, whose protagonist, Andrew Halfnight, encounters so much mayhem, from murder to tidal waves, that when he finally settles down in a small Ontario town, that seems fantastical. But McCormack, 58, is hardly a sociopath.
A charming Scotsman who moved to Winnipeg in 1965 to work on his PhD at the University of Manitoba, he now teaches 17th-century literature at the University of Waterloo, in Kitchener, Ont., where, according to Maclean's latest university rankings, he is one of the school’s most popular professors. Rather than resorting to psychobabble to explain the origins of his tales, he offers an endearingly old-fashioned explanation: he is a storyteller. “It seems pointless,” the author says, “to apply rational insight to something that isn’t a rational process in the first place.”
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