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Jack Layton: The Movie
November 17, 2011
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The news that CBC is planning a biopic of Jack Layton has produced some mixed reactions.

The late NDP leader's wife Olivia Chow has expressed support for the project, citing her respect for the track record of producer Laszlo Barna: "I've seen some of his films, which have a depth," she said, "because he treats his subjects with great respect."

Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne, on the other hand, noted on Twitter that while a film about the recent opposition leader was in the works, a similar project about Sir John A. Macdonald (of which Coyne is a fan) never got past the Father of Confederation's early political career.

Either way, a Layton biopic would be a welcome addition to the much-too-small canon of films and TV shows about Canadian politicians. The NDP leader would join an elite list of political luminaries to receive dramatic treatment:

1. Mackenzie King, Canada's wartime spiritualist prime minister, was the subject of a three-part miniseries in 1988, entitled The King Chronicle -- including the awesomely named third segment, The King Chronicle, Part 3: Mackenzie King and the Zombie Army.

2. Layton's political forebear Tommy Douglas was the subject of Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, a TV mini-series from 2006.

3. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau was an obvious subject for a Canadian biopic, so much so that there has been more than one: Trudeau: The Man, The Myth, The Movie was a TV series from 2002 starring Colm Feore as the man himself, but it was followed by Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making, which took in the future prime minister's early years and starred Tobie Pelletier.

4. Trudeau's rival René Levesque wasn't a national leader -- depending on your definition of the term "nation", of course -- but was an iconic figure in Canadian politics all the same, and inspired dramatic treatments of his own, including the appropriately titled René Levesque, starring Denis Bouchard.

5. Of course, you might get the most bang for your Canadian political buck with Mulroney: The Opera, a musical treatment of the career of Canada's 18th prime minister, which also features singing parts for Jean Chretien, Ed Broadbent and Trudeau, among others.


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