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Mad Ship

Gil Bellows tells us about the Canadian immigrant story, ahead of its world premiere
Mad Ship: Gil Bellows plays a bank owner in this 1920s drama, premiering at the WFF. Photo by Allen Fraser

Mad Ship, a film about a 1920s Scandinavian immigrant who builds a massive boat in the middle of the Western Canadian prairies following the death of his wife, is set for its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival Nov. 30. (It will be screened again on Dec. 1.) Illustrated by gorgeous landscape shots mimicking depression-era Manitoba, the tragic story is based on real-life drama.

In the film, Gil Bellows (who has acted in everything from Ally McBeal to Shawshank Redemption) plays a bank owner who comes to collect payment from the struggling family. Although he appears to be the bad guy, Bellows said the character is more complicated than that. "These are human beings," he said over the phone, two days before he was set to arrive in Whistler for the premiere. "Some of the things they do aren't so good and some are very good. In this particular story, my character lets his desires get in the way of his responsibility and job and, ultimately, it sets in motion a whole bunch of sad, terrible things."

The former Vancouverite took a moment to answer a few questions about the heartbreaking tale.

Pique: How would you describe the film?

gil Bellows: I think it's a tragic love story.

Pique: Why should WFF viewers see it?

Bellows: It's the world premiere. That's always a good reason. But it's a beautiful film. It's hard for the independent films to get a wide audience without support from film festivals like Whistler. This is a beautiful film and I think people will be very moved when they see it.

Pique: What was the best moment on set?

Bellows: The big part of it was I was working with two incredible actors – Line Verndal from Norway and Nikolaj Lie Kaas from Denmark. One of the reasons I love doing what I do is I get to work with incredible artists from all over the world.

Pique: How about the biggest challenge?

Bellows: There are always challenges. The creative process is challenging. You're getting a whole bunch of people who decided they're going to do this thing together and they do it. This film was a blast to do. I'm very proud to be a part of it. I can't always say that about the experiences I've had.

Pique: What do you hope people take away from the film?

Bellows: I think an appreciation and responsibility for the sacrifices that people made to come to this country. Maybe look at the people you love in your life and think, 'Would I go to some of these lengths to be there for the people that I love the way that these characters do for the people that they love?'