Longtime Canadian actor Michael Ironside is shooting a new full-length Hollywood film in the Edmonton region, a project that grew out of a chance meeting 12 years ago during a traffic jam in Los Angeles.
For the last couple of weeks, the set has been at a 100-year-old farm just east of the city of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., along Township Road 544. The old red brick farmhouse has been taken over by the mostly-Canadian production crew out of Calgary.
A veteran of more than 45 movies and countless television productions, Ironside says even though he's lived in Los Angeles since 1982, he's still a Canadian boy at heart. He's originally from Toronto.
"You make it sound like I've been away," Ironside said during a break in filming on set. "I try and make it up here in the summertime."
But this time, Ironside is braving an Alberta winter to shoot a new thriller movie called Knuckleball.
"We've been able to construct a script here that has all the elements of a murder-mystery thriller in it, slight horror aspects," he said. "It's humanity at its worst in some places.
"I'm real proud of this film."
The movie is the brainchild of award-winning Calgary filmmaker Michael Peterson. But the roots of it go back to a chance encounter between Ironside and Peterson 12 years ago.
Peterson was an intern in Los Angeles when Ironside noticed him on the road one day while driving in Laurel Canyon.
"I was in this convertible with my daughter in the back in the baby seat, and I said, 'Look sweetheart, Alberta plates. That's where I'm from — Canada,'" Ironside recalled.
Peterson just happened to be driving in his pickup truck in Ironside's neighbourhood when the actor pulled up beside him and struck up a conversation during some gridlock.
"He pulled up beside me and he said: 'Hey man are you from Alberta?' Because he saw my plate," Peterson said. "And I was like, 'Yeah!'"
Ironside told Peterson he made films in Alberta, but Peterson knew who he was.
"I told him I admired his acting, I was always a fan, and then we sort of kept the conversation going over a series of consecutive red lights, maybe four or five," he said.
"By the end of it we sort of got to the point where I told him I was going to call him one day when I had the right role for him."
That call took a while to materialize, but Peterson did come up with a movie script that he thought Ironside would be perfect for. He sent it to him for a read.
"That script was sent to me about six months ago," Ironside said. "My agent said: 'There's a note attached too, and evidently you and the director met in Laurel Canyon a decade or so ago. He was in a pickup truck.'"
Ironside remembered the exchange immediately.
The two met in Los Angeles a few months ago to talk about the film, and now they are working together on the movie in Fort Saskatchewan.
"It was kind of prophetic, it was a nice feeling," Ironside said.
'It's just very exciting'
While the movie will continue to be shot in and around the farmhouse, the crew will eventually go into the city Fort Saskatchewan to shoot some scenes at city hall and on a main street downtown.
Gale Katchur, Mayor of Fort Saskatchewan, says there have been several movies shot in the city over the last few years, with actors like Liam Hemsworth and Farah Fawcett coming through town.
"For me, it's just very exciting as the mayor when we have people from Hollywood in Fort Saskatchewan, " said Katchur, who is hoping to eventually meet Ironside when he's shooting in the city.
"Sometimes when people get to play extras, that makes it even more special, so hopefully when this production is done, you know, we will be watching for it."
The crew is planning to shoot in Fort Saskatchewan starting in early February.