BACKTALK

Don’t be fooled by their looks, they’re great con artists

SHANDA DEZIEL,KARIN MARLEY,MICHAEL SNIDER March 28 2005
BACKTALK

Don’t be fooled by their looks, they’re great con artists

SHANDA DEZIEL,KARIN MARLEY,MICHAEL SNIDER March 28 2005

Don’t be fooled by their looks, they’re great con artists

BACKTALK

John intini’s Sentences 62 I Bestsellers List 62 I Lianne George on Pop Culture 63

Last year, actors Jonas Chernick and Liane Balaban (New Waterford Girl) lived together in a dingy L.A. hotel with-unbeknownst to them-a dead cat rotting under the flooring below their kitchen sink. Despite the wretched smell permeating their lives, they got along great. “We are extremely compatible,” says Balaban, 24. “We live at the same level of clean and tidy and have a freakishly similar upbringing. If we left a mess somewhere in the house, our mothers left the mess on our pillow— Jonas in Winnipeg, and me in Toronto.”

The two rising Canadian stars met while filming 7 Times Lucky (released this week) during a typically frigid Winnipeg winter. They play small-time criminals who become proteges of a veteran con man, played by Hollywood actor Kevin Poliak. “Kevin gets a lot of offers of independent crime films since Usual Suspects,” says Chernick, 31. “And he says flat out to everyone that all the scripts are garbage. This one came across his desk and it was so terrific he didn’t care where it was shooting... clearly.”

SHANDA DEZIEL

‘Jonas usually plays a cleancut and quiet doormat-type character. So playing a street hustler was a departure. His onscreen energy was fantastic.’ -Gary Yates, director of 7 Times Lucky

BUZZ LIST

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MUSICAL

Toronto will morph into Middle Earth next year when the stage adaptation of the trilogy makes its world premiere. Wonder what J.R.R. Tolkien would think of Gollum as a song-and-dance man?

BOSTON RED SOX

Five Red Sox players (including long-haired centre fielder Johnny Damon) received makeovers for an upcoming episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough recognizing them as world series champs.

7 TIMES LUCKY Pair of Canadians brave the cold to make this crime flick.

JOSS STONE

Seventeenyear-old British pop star replaces Sarah Jessica Parker as the new Gap girl. It makes sense, since khakis and Manolo Blahniks never seemed a good match.

MELINDA AND MELINDA

Will Ferrell is getting very serious about his comedy, taking the lead in Woody Allen’s new film. Hey Will, we liked you a lot better in Old School.

DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D.

TV executives revoked Neil Patrick Harris’s medical licence years ago, but the geeky young doctor wants to see you now-on DVD.

Not just another sad song

Music

Greg Keelor (the lesser-known of the Blue Rodeo frontmen) has never shied away from writing sad songs. But the Torontonian is at his most personal on his new solo project, Seven Songs for Jim-dedicated to his late father. Keelor, 50, told Maclean’s about the three melancholy tunes he wishes he’d written.

“It’s an old traditional tune said to be written in the 1700s by a lady-in-waiting who was caught sleeping with the king. The queen had her sentenced to death, and supposedly she sang this song on the gallows before being killed. It’s a beautiful song of remembrance.”

“It’s

the Tom Waits song about always being separated from your greatest loves. It makes me think of how fleeting life is and all my departed friends.” “One

of Bob Dylan’s frustrated, unrequited love songs. I remember quite distinctly being at my cottage the first time I heard it—drunk on white wine.”

Most leave the bar with a buzz

Books

Sheila Heti stole a book in order to write her first novel. “It looked beautiful and mysterious,” she says of a biography of U.S. historian William Hickling Prescott that she found at a Toronto bar. “The paper was brittle and falling apart, and it was typeset, so every letter was slightly askew. I just sort of took it.” In fact, Heti was so inspired

by the author19th-century Bostonian George Ticknor—that she made him the narrator and main character of her own story, Ticknor.

While she adopted Ticknor’s erudite language, stylistically the novel shares the experimental spirit of Heti’s lauded collection of fables, The Middle Stories. Both works are demanding but rewarding reads. But Heti, 28, who recently moved temporarily from Toronto to Montreal, insists she doesn’t complicate her fiction on purpose: “What I’m trying to say is literally what I’m saying. I’m trying to create an experience that’s close to life.”

In her latest, that meant re-inventing Ticknor. He’s a difficult narrator and envious of Prescott’s status. But what gave Heti the sense that Ticknor was lonely? “I made it up,” she says. “I wanted his voice, but I wanted to see if it could hold feelings other than the ones he expressed in the biography.” In his transformation, the socially awkward Ticknor became a vehicle for Heti’s own bewilderment at the fame that The Middle Stories brought. “People are a great pleasure, but they can also be tremendously overwhelming,” she says. “Ticknor is about the reticence one often has about going out.”

KARIN MARLEY

A GROUP IN Chester, England, set the world record last week for the largest mosaic of toast-assembling 6,000 slices of toasted bread over 65 sq. m.

They don’t make ’em like they used to

Tech

Heralded as a leader in the next generation of hand-helds, the Sony PlayStation Portable (right) isn’t just for gamers-it also stores pictures and plays music and movies. To commemorate the highly anticipated release of the PSP this week, here’s a look at a few wildly popular units of the past.

MICHAEL SNIDER

ETCH A SKETCH (I960)

Who could have guessed a dull grey screen and a couple of white control knobs would become a global sensation? This was certainly an age before cool graphics were in fashion.

SPEAK & SPELL (1978)

This robo-speaking gizmo kept kids edutained for hours, using creepy-sounding voice synthesis to command legions of spelling bee wannabes.

GAME BOY (1989)

A preschool of sorts for modernday BlackBerry thumb warriors. Bundled with Tetris, this Nintendo original sold 32 million in its first three years on the market.

TAMAGOTCHI (1996)

Forty million people worldwide thought this was the perfect pet-probably because it fit in your pocket, didn’t need to be walked and, most importantly, never peed on your rug.

Jacques Villeneuve finishes John Intini’s sentences

Jacques Villeneuve is a computer geek. In fact, during one online role-playing bender, the Formula One racer played 20 straight hours of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a diversion from the track for the 33-year-old, who is also a consultant on the upcoming film about his late racecar-driving father, Gilles. The native of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., now based in Villars-Sur-Ollon, Switzerland, recently finished Maclean’s Associate Editor John Intini’s sentences.

MY CARD GAME OF CHOICE. is Belote. It’s a complicated French game. But I’m not a gambler. I prefer building small pyramids or castles with cards.

I’M DEATHLY ALLERGIC... to spicy foods. Just one bite and I start sweating and can barely breathe.

THE BEST GIFT I’VE EVER RECEIVED ... was a motocross bike from my mother when I was 10.

THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP

15.. . go to the loo.

MY FAVOURITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER

15.. . any knight in shining armour who slays dragons and saves the princess. MY MOM .. had to drive me to the track when I first started racing because I was too young to drive.

I’D LIKE TO BE BURIED WITH... nothing. What would I do with my prized possessions after I’m gone? Once I’m dead, I couldn’t care less.

FOR MORE “JOHN INTINI’S SENTENCES” VISIT WWW.MACLEANS.CA/PEOPLE

THE DISTRACTION OF THE NCAA men’s basketball tournament will cost U.S. businesses up to US$1.5 billion in lost productivity by some estimates.

1. In 1994, was the Rookie of the Year on the Indy circuit. 2. Won the Indianapolis 500 and was named the CART World Champion in 1995. 3. Played a race car driver in the Sylvester Stallone flick, Driven (2001). 4. Owns Newtown, a trendy Montreal restaurant.

Terrorism in the name of America

Books

On the afternoon of Dec. 7,1776, a fire broke out at the Royal Navy’s dockyard in Portsmouth, part of an ambitious attempt to destroy-on behalf of the American Revolution-both the naval works and the city. The fire was set by James Aitken, the subject of The Incendiary, Jessica Warner’s fine study of a man she calls “the first modern terrorist.” Aitken, a Scots-born colonial backed by the U.S. Congress’s envoy to Paris, was ruthless and inept in equal measure. He was prepared to see the Portsmouth populace roasted in the diversionary fires he planned to set in residential areas, but he started his main fire too early-hundreds of workers still on the job were able to contain the blaze. Attempts over the next six weeks to burn down Bristol also fizzled. But he did spark panic in Britain and, in another modern touch, officials began restricting civil liberties, suspending due process for captured American privateers.

THE INCENDIARY Jessica Warner; McClelland & Stewart; $32.99