Eric Keenleyside admits he was a bit star struck the first time he arrived on a Vancouver set with Steve Carell.
“The first time I was introduced to him, I was a bit choked up,” says the Tsawwassen actor. “I’ve met a lot of famous people and worked with a lot of famous people, but that still happens to me because there is that image that you get from them and their career, but he’s just a regular guy.”
Keenleyside stars alongside Carell in Welcome to Marwen, the highly-anticipated Universal Pictures film that opened in theatres Dec. 21.
The film tells the true story of Mark Hogancamp (Carell), the victim of a violent assault that leaves him with little to no memory of his previous adult life. In a desperate attempt to regain his memories, Hogancamp constructs a miniature Second World War village, called Marwen, in his yard.
“It was a great experience for me,” says Keenleyside. “They had me speak some of the lines in Flemish because part of the story takes part in this fantasy world that Steve’s character creates. The idea that it is based on a true story is fascinating as well. It follows the same story, but it, of course, goes a lot deeper.”
Born in St. Stephen, N.B., Keenleyside grew up in London, Ont. He now lives in Tsawwassen with his wife Peg and their two children.
The well-known TV and film actor has 176 productions to his credit, including The X-Files, Stargate SG-1 and Smallville.
“Steve’s character gets beat up outside a bar and Larry, my character, is the guy that owns that bar, so I’m the bar owner and his friend in this small town,” says Keenleyside. “After his recovery, he comes and works for me at the bar. Then I have another part in his world that he creates. That world is peopled with people in his real life. He uses Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes and things like that. I end up being one of those characters.
“There was an action figure that was done up to look like me. It was great. I went to Los Angeles and they took thousands of digital photographs of me. I’ve never done motion capture before, so it is a really technically ground-breaking thing.”
Keenleyside says he feels privileged to have been a part of the film.
“I’m used to working with actors who are really at the top of their game. Steve was absolutely great and all the women were fantastic to work with too, but what really blew me away was Robert Zemeckis.
“Robert was just astounding. For starters, he is such a smart guy, but extraordinarily approachable. He really ran a set that was full of life, humour and dedication to the story that we we’re all trying to tell. That’s really quite remarkable. Often times directors can be a bit narrow focused and isolated from people, but he’s not.”