TORONTO – Richard Dreyfuss has one piece of advice for rising star Tatiana Maslany: stay out of Hollywood.
The Oscar-winning actor says he was immediately enamoured with the Regina-bred actress when the two worked together on the upcoming Canadian road flick Cas & Dylan.
He predicted a steady rise for the acclaimed Orphan Black star, who trades barbs with Dreyfuss in the odd-couple dramedy, opening in select theatres this week.
But as Maslany makes inroads in show business, the seasoned Dreyfuss suggests she stay away from Los Angeles, which he refers to as “toxic.”
“Tatiana’s future is so vivid and she’s so talented that you have a star on your hands now (and) you’re going to have a bigger star,” Dreyfuss says in a recent phone interview from his office in San Diego.
“The only word I could think of really when I first started (talking about her) was incandescent.”
Most of Dreyfuss’s scenes in Cas & Dylan involve playing opposite the 28-year-old Maslany.
He stars as Dr. Cas Pepper, a Winnipeg physician dying of cancer who heads west on a cross-country road trip to his waterside retreat.
Along the way, Maslany’s spunky Dylan talks her way into hitching a ride, forcing the anti-social Cas to drop his loner tendencies, at least for the duration of the trip.
Dreyfuss says he loved the sweet-natured story, and the way it approaches the controversial issue of euthanasia.
“There’s a kind of invisible fragility and invisible depth to the script and to the film,” says Dreyfuss, whose decades-long career is studded with crowd-pleasers including Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Down and Out in Beverly Hills and What About Bob?
“I really appreciated that and I agreed with what the film was saying, you know, in his case: Of course no one had the right to interfere with his decision because he was going to die anyway. But in the stories about (euthanasia), does anyone have a right to design their own exit? Of course they do. And anyone who interferes with that is a jerk.”
The dramedy — which scored the audience award for best narrative feature at the Whistler Film Festival — weaves these weighty matters with lighthearted exchanges between Cas and Dylan, much of it taking place within the confines of a compact Volkswagen Beetle.
First-time feature director Jason Priestley says road movies offer their own particular challenges and he strove to make sure audiences felt like they, too, were on a journey through the Prairies, the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver Island.
“I had to give them that entire visceral experience so they felt like they travelled all that way with these characters in that orange Beetle,” says Priestley, noting the film was actually largely shot in northern Ontario and Alberta.
“The Prairies … they’re magical and people who’ve never seen the Prairies or experienced that I wanted to give them that experience. And the Canadian Rockies are one of the most majestic places on earth and people who’ve never seen the Rockies in the autumn — which is when we were there, luckily enough — I wanted to give people that experience. But those things take time and take money that we didn’t have so I had to figure out how do to that.”
Although the longtime actor has called the shots on various TV movies and series — among them his rude-and-crude comedy Call Me Fitz, his acting breakout Beverly Hills, 90210, the recent reboot 90210 and the Global series Working the Engels — he says feature filmmaking is a different animal entirely.
“You tell stories differently for the big screen,” Priestley says in a call from Los Angeles.
“And there are stories you can tell in movies that I think should be told in feature films that wouldn’t work so well on a small screen. And I think this movie is one of those stories.”
Priestley says themes surrounding the “limitations of medicine” and euthanasia are incredibly relevant today. And he gushes over securing just the right actors to handle the debate.
“Getting Dreyfuss was a huge coup for us,” says Priestley, joking that he “flat-out wore him down” in a fevered pitch to join the film.
“He was an absolute delight on the movie and an absolute joy and of course the other half of the two-hander was Tatiana Maslany — and she was phenomenal. As everyone knows.”
Dreyfuss says Maslany’s star quality was abundantly clear on set. But as greater fame beckons, he suggests she steer clear of spending too much time in Hollywood.
“She should stay out of L.A.,” says Dreyfuss, who notes he has little interest himself in working in the epicentre of celebrity.
“She can do as much from Canada or New York as people do in any other venue. But L.A. is a very toxic town.”
Dreyfuss notes he’s largely retreated from Hollywood in recent years — to attend Oxford University from 2004 to 2008 and start a non-profit group to bring civics classes back to U.S. grade school and high school.
Nevertheless, the veteran performer remains active. His upcoming indie projects include the political drama Zipper, opposite Patrick Wilson and Lena Headey.
“Once you disappear from L.A. you’re gone,” he says, adding he’s fine with that.
Cas & Dylan opens April 4 in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Winnipeg before heading to other cities including Montreal.
© The Canadian Press, 2014