At the Genie Awards earlier this year, Tony Nardi, winner of the best-actor trophy, realized he is very much considered an Italian actor. “I said being nominated was like being part of a family,” recalls Nardi, “and a reporter asked me, ‘By family, do you mean “mafia”?’ ” During another interview, Nardi was asked if his all-black outfit, accentuated by a red bow tie, was a tribute to Robert De Niro in Casino—it wasn’t.
That’s not to say that Nardi isn’t proud of his heritage. He was born in Italy and moved to Montreal when he was 6. Early in his career he wrote and staged a play in his native dialect, Calabrian. But Nardi, who speaks English, French and Italian, was never a victim of typecasting. He currendy plays a Spaniard in the Toronto stage production of Georges Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear. And his Genie Award this year was for his turn as a Bosnian Muslim in My Father’s Angel—in which Nardi’s character, Ahmed, moves his shellshocked family from war-torn Sarajevo to Vancouver.
Nardi won his first Genie in 1992 for his role as an Italian immigrant in La Sarrasine. He gave that statuette to his parents. When he disclosed that detail at this year’s ceremony, he fielded yet another inane question. “I was asked if as an Italian it was a big deal to give the award to my family,” says Nardi. “I replied, ‘No, as a human being'n. was a big deal.’ I don’t think just Italians have parents.”
Juno's longest long shot
Blaise Pascal may be a virtual unknown—but she keeps good company. This year, Pascal is nominated for a Juno in the best songwriter category alongside the Barenaked Ladies, Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado and Snow. While her competitors may have the advantage of being household names, Pascal has the upper hand when it comes to winning songwriting awards. In 1996, she beat out 4,000 entries to win Canada’s sixth annual National Songwriting Competition sponsored by Standard Broadcasting. The next year, the Torontonian placed second in the inaugural John Lennon Songwriting Competition—from a pool of 34,000 entrants. “At that time, I had only written a handful of songs,” says Pascal. “I got affirmation right out of the gate.”
Last year, the 29-year-old, pink-haired popster released her debut CD, Hairspray. Despite industry buzz—her songs have been used in the Canadian film New Waterford Girl and as the theme to a Family Channel TV series, Disney’s In a Heartbeat—there is a lack of money and support for independent releases like Pascal’s. She has struggled to get her CD ■£ into record stores and mount a tour. That’s f why the Juno recognition is so satisfying. But & does Pascal have any chance of winning | against such pop heavyweights? “No chance, 1 baby,” she says. “They’ve sold millions.” ß
Factory floor fame
It’s a bit of a surprise that England’s newest opera sensation, Russell Watson, doesn’t have an inferiority complex. “My vocal coach,” says Watson, “always tells me,
‘All you are is a life-support system for your voice.’ ” So the 28-year-old Manchester native has come to accept the fact that he is two separate entities: one part man and one part voice.
After dropping out of school at 16, Watson took a job as a lathe operator at a factory in his home town. In 1998,
he was performing pop-music covers in clubs when a concert promoter suggested he test his booming voice with classical material. The results have been meteoric. Watson’s debut CD, The Voice, exploded to the top of England’s classical and pop charts. The album was released in Canada last week.
In July, Watson will play a concert in Londons Hyde Park with Luciano Pavarotti and in December he will play at the Vatican for the Pope. “I’m not living the life of a classical performer,” he says, “but, rather, the life of a pop star.” A pop star, that is, with a voice.
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