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Callum Keith Rennie

Callum Keith Rennieb. September 14, 1960, Sunderland, United Kingdom

“His was a self-destructive, tremendous talent. Callum’s battles were never with his craft. They were always with Callum.” – Alex Bruhanski, acting teacher

“[Acting] isn’t about success or competition. It’s about exploration and overcoming internal fears.” – Callum Keith Rennie

Callum Keith Rennie possessed such a captivating screen presence and strong air of familiarity when he first appeared on the Canadian film scene in 1994 that it was hard not to believe he hadn't always been around. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Steve McQueen – with his disaffected intensity and hungover good looks – Rennie quickly rocketed to star status in the mid-nineties, primarily propelled by his near-iconic performance as guitarist Billy Tallent in Bruce McDonald’s cult hit Hard Core Logo (1996). Subsequent work in Don McKellar’s Last Night (1998) – for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Genie – David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), Keith Behrman’s Jutra Award-winning Flower & Garnet, Scott Smith’s Falling Angels (2003) and Daniel MacIvor’s Wilby Wonderful (2004) have cemented his reputation as one of Canadian cinema’s most high-profile and in-demand actors.

Born in England to Scottish parents and raised in Edmonton from the age of four, Rennie enjoyed a reckless youth and didn’t begin acting until he was twenty-five. A punk in the truest sense of the word, he began drinking heavily as a teenager (when he was seventeen he ended up in the hospital after chugging a twenty-six-ounce bottle of vodka), played in a punk band in high school (with future Kid in the Hall Bruce McCulloch) and once cashed in a $5,000 student loan – intended for his college tuition – to buy a truck and go fishing for two months. He first considered acting at eighteen but instead wanted to pursue rock climbing. After working as a tree planter, paper baler, bartender, librarian and laying railroad tracks, he did voice work for some friends who ran a radio show at the University of Alberta. He was hooked. “After doing the one show, on that one day” he has said, “I took all my climbing gear and books about it and threw them out, and I said, this is what I do now. I’m going to be an actor.”

He did some stage work for Edmonton’s Fringe Festival and Shaw Festival and then headed to Toronto. When things didn’t work out there, he came to Vancouver and studied at the Bruhanski Theatre Studio. However, his alcoholism was a serious problem and his inability to show up for rehearsals earned him a poor reputation among theatre directors. Then, in 1993, his left eye and retina were permanently damaged after a shard of glass entered his eye during a bar fight that Rennie, by his own admission, needlessly instigated. He hasn’t had a drink since.

His recovery from alcohol abuse coincided with the steady improvement of his career; he began to land guest appearances on such Vancouver-shot TV shows as “Highlander,” “Lonesome Dove,” “The Commish,” “Nikita” and “The X-Files,” as well as the Jean-Claude Van Damme action vehicle Timecop (1994). He was offered the role of Alex Krycek on “The X-Files” but was reluctant to commit to a regular series role and instead recommended Nicholas Lea, who got the part.

His big break came at the Toronto International Film Festival® in 1994 when a short film he starred in – Mike Hoolboom’s Frank’s Cock – and a feature film in which he had a strong supporting role – Mina Shum’s Double Happiness – won awards for Best Canadian Short and Best Canadian Feature, respectively. He drew acclaim the following year for his somewhat prophetic performance as a recovering junkie in John L’Ecuyer’s experimental feature Curtis’s Charm (1995), and in 1996 starred in Hard Core Logo, which, along with putting him on the cinematic map in Canada, was named Best Canadian Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

In addition to playing bit parts in Hollywood product like Unforgettable (1996) and Excess Baggage (1997), Rennie landed a regular role in the short-lived TV series “My Life as a Dog,” for which he won a Gemini Award in 1996, and drew rave reviews for his leading role in the CBC-TV movie For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down (1996). In 1997 he signed a rare one-year contract and starred opposite Paul Gross in the final season of the popular TV series “Due South,” which earned him a Gemini nomination.

By the time he won the Genie for his charmingly obsessive Lothario in Last Night, he had become a silent, subtle but powerful presence in Canadian cinema. After appearing in McKellar’s cult TV series “Twitch City” (1998) and Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, he turned in memorable performances as a silently psychopathic john in Lynne Stopkewich’s Suspicious River (2002) and as a crooked thug in Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000). He did a number of TV movies and lent a diabolically charismatic edge as a crooked cop in McDonald’s Picture Claire (2001).

He continues to score small roles in Hollywood movies like Paycheck (2003), The Butterfly Effect (2004) and Blade: Trinity (2004) but prefers to keep a low profile and devotes himself primarily to working with young, establishing Canadian directors and independent projects. He recently gave perhaps his most sensitive performance in MacIvor’s Wilby Wonderful. Convinced he’s “not handsome enough for leading roles and not ugly enough to play criminals,” Rennie seamlessly segues between efficacious self-assurance, disarming awkwardness and slow-boiling rage in stand-out supporting roles.

An art lover (his right arm bears a Champion sparkplug tattoo in homage to American artist Stuart Davis) he is an avid painter and has sold a number of his collages. He currently divides his time between Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

By Andrew McIntosh

Film and video work includes

Highlander series, 1993 (actor; TV, one episode)

Purple Toast, 1993 (actor)

The Commish series, 1994 (actor; TV, one episode)

Double Happiness, 1994 (actor)
Frank’s Cock, 1993 (actor)

Paris or Somewhere, 1994 (actor; TV)

The Raffle, 1994 (actor)

Still, 1994 (actor)

Timecop, 1994 (actor)

Valentine’s Day, 1994 (actor)

The X-Files series, 1994 (actor; TV, one episode)

Curtis’s Charm, 1995 (actor)

Falling from the Sky: Flight 174, a.k.a. Freefall: Flight 174, 1995 (actor; TV)

Forever Knight series, 1995 (actor; TV, one episode)

Highlander series, 1995 (actor; TV, two episodes)

Lonesome Dove series, 1995 (actor; TV, one episode)

Little Criminals, 1995 (actor; TV)

The Marshal, 1995 (actor; TV)

The Omen, 1995 (actor; TV)

The Outer Limits series, 1995 (actor; TV, one episode)

The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky, a.k.a. Hole in the Sky, 1995 (actor; TV)

When the Dark Man Calls, 1995 (actor; TV)

The X-Files series, 1995 (actor; TV, one episode)

For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down, 1996 (actor; TV)

Letters from Home, 1996 (actor)

Hard Core Logo, 1996 (actor)

My Life as a Dog series, 1996 – 1997 (actor; TV)

Unforgettable, 1996 (actor)

Due South series, 1997 – 1998 (actor; TV)

La Femme Nikita series, 1997 (actor; TV, two episodes)

Excess Baggage, 1997 (actor)

Masterminds, 1997 (actor)

Men with Guns, 1997 (actor)

Side Effects series, 1997 (actor; TV, one episode)

Tricks, 1997 (actor)

Viper series, 1997 (actor; TV, one episode)

Last Night, 1998 (actor)

Twitch City series, 1998 (actor; TV, two episodes)

Da Vinci’s Inquest series, 1999 – 2000 (actor; TV, seven episodes)

eXistenZ, 1999 (actor)

Foolish Heart series, 1999 (actor; TV)

The Life Before This, 1999 (actor)

Strange World series, 1999 (actor; TV, one episode)

The Highwayman, 2000 (actor)

The Last Stop/Dernier arręt, 2000 (actor)

Memento, 2000 (actor)

Murder Scene, a.k.a. Murder Seen, 2000 (actor; TV)

Nature Boy, 2000 (actor; TV)

Suspicious River, 2000 (actor)

Twitch City series, 2000 (actor; TV, five episodes)

Dice series, 2001 (actor; TV)

Now and Forever, 2001 (actor)

Picture Claire, 2001 (actor)

Trapped, 2001 (actor; TV)

Bliss series, 2002 (actor; TV)

Dark Angel series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)

The Dead Zone series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)

The Eleventh Hour series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)

Flower & Garnet, 2002 (actor)

Mutant X series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)

Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, 2002 (actor)

Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story, a.k.a. Torso, 2002 (actor; TV)

Battlestar Galactica series, 2003 (actor; TV)

Falling Angels, 2003 (actor)

Paycheck, 2003 (actor)

Tru Calling, 2003 (actor; TV)

Blade: Trilogy, 2004 (actor)

The Butterfly Effect, 2004 (actor)

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, 2004 (actor; TV)

H2O: The Last Prime Minister, 2004 (actor; TV)

Kingdom Hospital series, 2004 (actor; TV, two episodes)

Touching Evil series, 2004 (actor; TV)

Wilby Wonderful, 2004 (actor)

Battlestar Galactica series, 2005 (actor; TV)

Whiskey Echo series, 2005 (actor; TV)

Note: Updated to June 30, 2005

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