BlackBerry movie: Canadian film documents rise and fall of Research in Motion

Canadian actor, producer and director Jay Baruchel poses for a photo at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont. He plays co-founder Mike Lazaridis in the soon-to-be released movie 'Blackberry'. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The story of Canada’s tarnished pocket gem the BlackBerry is headed for the movies.

Producers say filming has wrapped on a feature-length production that recounts the rise and fall of the device – once affectionately known as the CrackBerry among its most obsessed users.

BlackBerry centres around the masterminds at Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology company responsible for creating what was once the world’s most popular smartphone brand, years before Apple’s iPhone came to market.

A representative for Canadian distributor Elevation Pictures says the film will co-star Glenn Howerton, cast member of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as co-CEO Jim Balsillie, while Ottawa-born Jay Baruchel, known for the comedy Knocked Up, will play his business partner and company co-founder Mike Lazaridis.

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BlackBerry is adapted from the non-fiction book Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry, written by Globe and Mail reporters Sean Silcoff and Jacquie McNish.

The film was shot largely in the Hamilton area by director Matt Johnson, whose previous work includes The Dirties, Operation Avalanche and TV docu-comedy Nirvanna the Band the Show.

Other cast members include Cary Elwes of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Saul Rubinek from True Romance and Michael Ironside from Total Recall.

RIM was founded in 1984 by Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, two business partners who had previously worked together on a failed LED sign business. After a decade of dabbling in various other technology projects, they turned their attention to the two-way communications systems that would become the foundation for the BlackBerry device.

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Balsillie, a Harvard graduate, remortgaged his house at 33 years old to invest $250,000 into the idea. By the mid-1990s the company had debuted its first hand-held pager, on the road to making the device that solidified its reputation.

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For years, BlackBerry was the dominant smartphone, seen in the hands of everyone from celebrities to average citizens. The brand enjoyed that status until the iPhone debuted in 2007. A year later, RIM released a combination keypad and touchscreen device in what turned out to be the start of its downfall in the consumer market.

Behind the scenes, there were multiple network outages and unrest among the company’s board of directors over where the BlackBerry brand should go next.

At its peak, RIM was the most valuable company in Canada, with a market value that passed even the country’s biggest banks.

BlackBerry is financed by XYZ Films which intends to shop the film to global distributors at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

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