CKR Biography

The following text is borrowed with permission from The Original Callum KEith Rennie Biography

The Albertan native has a wiry frame that has suited him perfectly in his portrayal as bad guys and Hollywood-bound guitarists. His angular face is offset by blue eyes and a smile that can be either charming or dangerous, depending upon the mood of the character he portrays. His short blond hair seems a bit unruly at times, almost punkish in attitude, which is not too far a stretch as he has admitted to listening to Canadian punk groups such as the Viletones and D.O.A. while he grew up. Once he even sported a Mohawk haircut.

Callum was born in the city of Sunderland, England. When he was four years old, the Rennie family (including his younger and older brothers) moved to middle-class Edmonton, Alberta, where he eventually graduated from Strathcona High School, but not before he met and befriended Bruce (Kids in the Hall) McCullough, who introduced him to punk music in the late 70's.

Higher education didn't seem to be in the cards for Callum. After two weeks at school, his student loan arrived and he watched his bank account soar from $13 to $5,000. He felt he had two choices: obtain an education or buy a truck and go fishing for a couple of months. He chose the latter.

Although Callum had always been interested in theater, he felt it was "egomaniacal to decide all of a sudden you wanted to be an actor." 1 At one time he wanted to be a mountaineer, and supported his climbing habit by laying railroad tracks, cooking, and digging ditches.

An opportunity to pursue acting arrived when some friends who had a radio show at University of Alberta campus radio station CJSR offered him a chance to do voice work. That job eventually led to a year of producing and writing, as well as a play at the A.B.O.P. Theatre in Edmonton. He soon appeared in the critically praised play American Buffalo.

He decided to try his luck in the big city of Toronto, but without a clue as to handle a career, it went nowhere fast. Instead, he fell in with a bad crowd. He ended up in Vancouver on a drug deal that went sour. He abandoned that aspect of his life, and found scattered low-paying jobs and, at one point, subsistence on welfare checks.

He enrolled in the Bruhanski Theatre Studio in Vancouver, taking acting classes. On the basis of Callum's first profesional performance in the play Lost Souls and Missing Persons, Callum was invited to work at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake. That lasted one season before he returned to the West Coast. But even back in Vancouver, he was restless. "I started working on a play, then I lost my mind, got on a bus and went to Seattle and flew to England in the middle of rehearsal."

Life wasn't easy. Along with bringing his raw talent to the Vancouver acting pool, his predilection for alcohol came with him. Callum went through a decade-long phrase in which drinking was a large and destructive part of his life. It is not a topic he discusses easily with the press. In a period that he titled the "Christ year,"3 his life turned around. In 1993, he was involved in barroom fight in a Vancouver which resulted in a piece of glass damaging the retina in his left eye. Fortunately his eye healed, but those glasses you see in his performance in Double Happiness are his own. That incident made him realize he had to change - and he did. He hasn't had a drink since.

Callum's career improved. He landed guest spots on such popular series as The X-Files, The Commish, and Highlander. He acted in a number of Canadian-made movies, winning applause from critics for his intense portrayals. Some critics have referred to him as the 'Canadian James Dean' or 'Brad Pitt,' a concept which he doesn't particularly understand or care for. The only similarity he shares with Dean, offered Callum, is that both smoke.

There have been theatrical films such as Curtis's Charm and Bruce McDonald's Hard Core Logo. In Curtis's Charm, Callum played a reformed drug addict, an irony he recognizes as he had beat his own addiction to liquor. Hard Core Logo is a shining point in his career: a raw, no-frills 'mockumentary' about a rock band on a road tour to ruin. Besides earning critical acclaim as the charismatic Billy Tallent, Callum formed a tight friendship with singer/actor Hugh Dillon, who has even given him a thank you credit on his latest "Headstones" CD (and has earned the nickname "The Body Hammer"). Hard Core Logo was the one film that had Callum not gotten the role, he would have "totally disheartened."4 For Callum, the most frightening aspect of doing that movie was playing convincing guitar; despite his affection for music, he had never been in a band.

Callum garnered a Genie Award nomination for his portrayal of the nerdy, bespectacled boyfriend in Mina Shum's Double Happiness, and he won a Gemini Award (1997) for his work in the children's TV series, My Life as a Dog (he has been quoted as saying he would preferred to have won the Gemini for his dramatic work as a gun-toting crack addict in an episode of Side Effects).

Although he considers himself shy, Callum is anything but that when it comes to stating his opinions on the entertainment industry. He has said that he is sometimes considered 'difficult' by TV people, but this is due to his candid attitude toward his profession. He is selective in his roles, and doesn't like being given lines that people wouldn't say in real life. Thus far his choice of roles has been excellent, earning him acclaim in movies such as Hard Core Logo and CBC's intense For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down. He puts his all into his roles, and even went out on the road with the Headstones before filming Hard Core Logo so that he could experience first-hand what a rock band goes through while on tour.

He also will use his own life experiences, whether good or bad, to better his performance. When he ended up in jail for an afternoon after being nabbed for $2,000 in unpaid parking tickets, he felt the time was well-spent as he spent that time talking with other inmates. No doubt it is information he can utilize in future roles.

Callum approaches acting as a personal experience, for better or worse. "The work moves on a subconscious level into your life," he said. "It's not a process you notice, but I'm often informed by the world around me that I start behaving differently - whether the character is demanding, needy, evil, or maniacal. It's not by choice, it's a subtle envelopment."

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