Michael Ironside has had a long and storied career as a character actor in film, television, cable and new media productions. His more than 250 roles include classics like Scanners, V, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and recent turns in Terminator Salvation, Justified, and X-Men First Class.
But Michael treats his work as just that: work. Once the “show” part is done, he is simply about the business of moving on to the next job.
“We leave show business on the job,” he said. “There’s no kind of affectation about it.”
So for him to do press on one of his projects is rare, and noteworthy.
“I don’t go out and support a lot of the projects. It’s few and far between that you do good work and it goes through the mill and remains untainted.
“If I can’t support something, I don’t want to say anything about it. I’ve watched wonderful projects get ground up in personal kind of laundry lists. This one made it through.”
“This one” is an independent film called Turbo Kid, which took the 2015 Sundance Film Festival by storm, becoming one of the few standouts receiving viral attention and an ambitious national release. On August 28, the film opens in theaters across the United States.
Written by the RKSS Collective team of Anouk Whissell, François Simard, and Yoann Karl Whissell, Turbo Kid stars Michael Ironside, Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, and Aaron Jeffery in a retro-futuristic nostalgic tribute to 80’s action-adventure films. Set in the post-apocalyptic year of 1997, we follow the Kid (Munro Chambers) on an adventure to save Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), the girl of his dreams. As he is befriended by a brave and ballsy Cowboy (Aaron Jeffery), and thwarted by the villain Zeus (Michael Ironside), the Kid learns about love, sacrifice, doing what is right, and what it takes to truly be a hero.
The film is very much a send up of the Road Warrior/Mad Max films, with a sprinkling of Total Recall and Scanners mixed in—exploding brains and all. Beneath the satire, cartoon violence, and silliness in some of the scenes, you find the heart of a real story about love, recompense, managing grief and loss, and a boy’s tale of growing into a man.
Michael agrees, “It’s a Road Warrior reenactment, as if children had done it. It doesn’t pander to violence. I think it does something completely different. I just find it charming.
“I’d rather not say anything if I can’t say anything positive,” Michael said. “I’ve spent more time selling this film than actually making it. The movie embodies a unique sense of public storytelling. It’s not a polished timepiece, it’s an incredible hand-made clock.”
Michael was introduced to the RKSS Collective team by a producer and was “very enamored with them right off the back. They were genuine, no bullshit, enthusiastic storytellers.
“I get anywhere from 4-6 scripts a week, and most of them are crap. Many of them are derivative of other movies I’ve done. This one was wonderful, I actually read it twice! I had my wife read it, and asked if she agreed, and she did.”
Turbo Kid was filmed in Quebec over a 20-day period, in below zero weather.
“We shot this in 19-20 days, with no money in a gravel pit,” Michael remembers. “I always laugh, because we had no money we had shanties for trailers. It was freezing weather in the morning, and I remember coming into my tiny trailer, and the water in my little toilet was frozen. It just felt like a familial situation. Just make this work, and it was a joy to make it work.
“Everything in that film has an intention. It’s not supposed to be some moral, ethical document about violence in the world. It’s about fantasy, an adolescent film.”
Michael lauded his co-stars, Canadian Munro Chambers, France’s Laurence Leboeuf, and New Zealander Aaron Jeffery.
“Munro has genuine heart. Laurence is a big star in the French world, and she is absolutely endearing. I have a lot of great memories of Aaron Jeffery—I really enjoyed him. He was fabulous, and was pretty much in character all the time.
“I’d love to work with these people again.”
As an industry veteran, it was refreshing for Michael to work with the RKSS Collective team and warned them that, “you’re never going to have this freedom again. You have no predisposed ideas. It’s really genuine. It’s honest, it’s not pretentious, it’s authentic kind of joy of storytelling. But with every million dollars on a film comes another executive.
“I really do hope these three directors—they’re a brother and a sister and a friend, and the friend married the sister—I just pray God that they have enough legs to stay alive and not get polluted by money, power and prestige.”
In the meantime, he encourages audiences to go see Turbo Kid. “There’s a purity of storytelling in this, and a genuine gratefulness to the filmmaking. I think that genuineness bleeds through in the filmmaking. If the audience doesn’t get it, I think you have to look at yourselves.”
“How often are you going to get a chance to do it? You have to support something like that.”