MP Olivia Chow says she hopes a new TV movie about her late husband, former federal New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, will inspire other Canadians to live their lives to the fullest.
The biopic Jack, set to air this Sunday on CBC-TV, was previewed to dignitaries and friends of the late politician Monday night.
It recounts Layton’s relationship with Chow, his early days in Toronto municipal politics and his emergence onto the national stage — leading to the NDP's impressive federal election campaign in 2011 and his death from cancer just weeks later.
"Our story was quite typically Canadian," Chow, an NDP MP, told CBC News.
"If the film can show Jack as an ordinary person who wanted to make a difference in this world and lived his life to the fullest — if it inspires other people to do the same, it will be worth it."
'I will not be stopped on the street because of this role...I had no idea how well the makeup would turn out' —Actor Rick Roberts
The movie was previewed on Monday in Toronto for dignitaries, friends and family. The audience included Layton’s children, Mike Layton and Sarah Layton, and campaign team members Brad Lavigne, Karl Bélanger, Brian Topp and Anne McGrath.
Actor Rick Roberts portrays Layton, while CBC Radio personality Sook-Yin Lee plays Chow. Advance screenings are also planned for Tuesday in Ottawa and Thursday in Winnipeg, where the film was shot.
Taking on the role was "nerve-wracking" in part because of Layton’s great popularity, Roberts said.
The actor looks almost nothing like Layton and had to spend three hours each day having makeup applied and removed.
"I will not be stopped on the street because of this role," Roberts said with a laugh. "I had no idea how well the makeup would turn out."
The project was indeed "a tall order," Lee agreed. However, she said she was drawn to the film by the inherent drama and romance of Layton and Chow’s lives.
"We all saw the events play out in the final campaign and, knowing how tight they were, how much love was that and how much desire and aim and faith… it’s a very deep love story," she said.
Jack also stars Wendy Crewson, who played McGrath, Zachary Bennett as Lavigne, Joel Keller as Bélanger and Judah Katz as Topp.