by Thom Ernst Friday April 11, 2008

Here's the thing about working on TVO's Saturday Night at the Movies: The Interviews: Not everyone we interview needs to be in the movies, we have authors, therapists, academics, card sharks, theologians, architects, generals, and even astronauts. That's because our show is more interested in what the movies are about, than being about the movies. It's much the same kind of distinction I make when people talk about my passion for film. Sure, I love the movies but my passion is for life and the full gambit of the human experience - just so happens that the movies tend to incorporate all of that. It can be that specific.

So, while it's great, to go tête-à-tête with the folks who actually worked on Ron Howard's movie, APOLLO 13 a whole other element is added when sitting across someone like Canadian astronaut, Marc Garneau. We invited Garneau to watch APOLLO 13 and then to come in for an interview to share his comments on it. Not surprisingly, APOLLO 13 is not unknown to Garneau. He has his own copy.

Todd HalliwellGNotice the book on Hallowell's desk. Another Dan Brown project for Howard and the gang?

Prior to the APOLLO 13 interview with Marc, the closest I ever got to the space program was a stop at the Kennedy Space centre when I was nineteen (it was really just part of a road trip I took to Florida with a couple of girls I met at Summer camp) and another time when I took a creative writing class with Roberta Bondar's sister. Neither of those auspicious occasions came close to a full on meeting of minds with a bona-fide space pilot.

I’m happy to say that, for an astronaut, Garneau's a pretty down-to-earth guy. It could have been a rather humbling experience to sit across from someone who commands space flights, calls the shots from a control deck and has seen the planet (our planet) from the rear window of a space ship, but Garneau has about as much pretensions as the friendly door man they’ve got at the Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street. He’s the kind of guy I’d expect to find grilling steaks over a Sunday barbeque while wearing the ‘What’s for Launch?’ apron he got from his coworkers at his last birthday bash.

Dan Hanley
Editor Dan Hanley, one of the Ron Howard club originals.

Funny thing is, it’s the same impression I get meeting Howard’s gang. That is, any one who has worked with Howard on two or more films all seem to come from the same country club. These are clean cut, easy-going, confident, upstanding family men who probably all did very well in college, held first line on their varsity team and made their girlfriend’s parents extremely proud. (I have yet to meet any of the women who work for Howard, but I imagine they’d be cut much from the same jib.)

And as much as Garneau ‘wows’ me with his laid-back, everyman, disposition while reminiscing about orbiting around the earth in zero gravity, men like producer Todd Hallowell, editor Dan Hanley and cinematographer, Dean Cundey share that ‘let-me-get-you-a-beer’ type of casualness.

Department of Harsh Realities

It’s all about teamwork and commitment to a project. The id must certainly learn to cooperate whether you’re planning a trip to the moon, or making a movie about one. For the few moments I had an audience with these men, I felt a bit like I was a member of their club but then, there is this sign outside of Hallowell’s Universal Studio office. It reads “Department of Harsh Realities”. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the office atmosphere suggesting that anything is too harsh, so I don’t quite get the joke. But then again, it’s, an inside joke. The sign is a reminder that though I may be made to feel welcome, I have plenty of dues to pay before I am ready to join the club.