|Aidan Quinn and Mackenzie Porter take in the Moose Mountain scenery|
CALGARY–You know if there is a Beatles angle I’ll find it.
Which is what I ended up doing about an hour outside of Calgary Thursday covering location shooting for Horses of McBride, a CTV movie currently in production for next Christmas.
The holiday horsey tale stars Aidan Quinn, Kari Matchett and Mackenzie Porter as a dad, mom and daughter who love horses, hear two are in danger and spring to the rescue. It is based on a real-life rescue in 2008 that took place in McBride, B.C. An avalanche trapped two horses behind a wall of snow. The family Quinn and the others portray in the movie help dig them out.
The CBC series Heartland beat this movie to the story a year ago in a special holiday episode featuring Nicholas Campbell as an ornery old cuss. But, hey, it’s a feel good story, no harm in doing it again.
Director Anne Wheeler kept things moving at a brisk pace on a picturesque farm not far from Turner Valley, Alta. A mobile home complete with Christmas decorations including a Santa and reindeer on the roof was part of a shot involving several kick-ass snowmobiles.
Quinn kept jumping on and off one as several takes were ordered. Thursday was relatively mild, but a shoot a few days earlier up in the Moose mountains was bitterly cold, he said. He loves coming to Calgary and has worked near the city three times, on this movie, Legends of the Fall and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
The actor, who turned 53 Thursday, was born in Chicago but says he’s a country boy at heart. He and his wife and two children live in New York State, north of the Big Apple.
It was there that he shot the 2000 TV-movie Two of Us, a fictionalized account of an actual meeting that took place between John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the mid-’70s. McCartney dropped in on Lennon at the Dakota and an attempt was made to patch up their long-standing quarrel.
Quinn was cast as McCartney and had just three weeks to nail that Liverpudlian accent. It helped a bit that Quinn’s kin hail from Northern Ireland. He wished he had had more time to shed some weight to try and match McCartney’s lean frame. “I wasn’t trying to do a documentary impersonation of him,” says Quinn. “It was really a suggestion, I had no chance to get as skinny as he was.”
I asked the actor if he ever heard from McCartney about the performance, which led to a rather incredible story. Right after he shot Two of Us (which, incidentally was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the same director who watched the world’s greatest rock band self destruct on Let it Be), Quinn and a buddy took off for an island holiday, somewhere in the Caribbean. They were looking for a complete getaway, so the friend asked if there were any celebrities lurking about the resort.
The consierge, who led them down a path to the beach, said most of the rock starts had already cleared out, but there was “a very famous singer/songwriter in the hut right next to you guys.”
“I literally took the guy, this total stranger, and shoved him 10 feet and said, ‘Get the fuck out of here,'” says Quinn. “I thought my friend had set it up.”
The actor had written McCartney a letter right before shooting started on Two of Us, “telling him that I think all the things done about the Beatles, he’s never gotten a fair shake always gets maligned. I said I hope you give this one a chance.”
Quinn had kept a copy of the letter in his laptop, printed it out and slipped it under McCartney’s door. “The next morning comes this guy whistling through our back bushes, right into where our little pool was,” says Quinn. McCartney was waving the letter and saying, “Hello–what’s the meaning of this then?”
McCartney, Quinn reports, “couldn’t have been more charming, fun, started hanging out, met my wife.”
Eventually McCartney did see Two of Us and let Quinn know that he enjoyed it very kindly.
That film dealt with the time in 1976 executive producer Lorne Michaels on Saturday Night Live offered The Beatles three thousand dollars if they would come down to the show and reunite. There were rumours in the mid-’70s that a charity gig could happen.
I’ve always been especially curious about that night. Lennon and McCartney were in New York, at the Dakota, watching SNL, and heard the offer. How close did they actually come to taking a cab a dozen blocks to Rockefeller Centre and heading to the SNL studio?
I put the question a couple of press tours ago to Yoko, who seemed fuzzy on the details. She did still seem interested in the three grand.
“The truth is, they did think about it,” says Quinn, who brought it up with McCartney. “For half a second, he said, they really did consider it.” They almost really did pick up a couple of guitars and cab it.
What scuttled it in the end was the fact that “it really was a tense meeting between them,” says Quinn. “They were trying to repair their damaged relationship.”