I recently got the chance to talk to George Tchortov about his role in ‘Goon’. Here, George talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and which three guests he would invite to dinner…
(Photo: Tim Leyes).
Hey George. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘Goon’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
Down on his luck and labeled an outcast by his family, ‘Goon’ is the story of a hopeless small-town bouncer who finds his calling, and a home for his two fists, on a flailing semi-pro hockey team. Fulfilling his role as the enforcer, and literally knocking out the competition, our hero battles his team back up the ranks and into glory.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The character I play is Evgeni Yakovlena. Along with my brother Oleg, we form the defensive duo on our hero’s team. The “Russians”, as we were referred to on set, really come as a pair. We’re both lazy defense men who spend about as much time talking about people’s mothers as we do defending our zone. My character’s real expertise however, when he’s not groping groupies at the local bar, is constantly barraging our goalie with insults and love stories about his mother, whom I love so much in a locker room kind of way. I will also let it be known that Evgeni is obsessed with hair, but we won’t go into the details on that. The word on the street is you can’t have a semi-pro hockey team without a couple of crazy Russians on it and the brothers Yakovlena are just that.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I heard about the project through my agent and went about it the good old-fashioned way: I auditioned. Being a hockey player myself, I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the character and a good understanding of what real locker room talk sounds like. During the call back, which was done over Skype believe it or not, the film’s director Michael Dowse asked me to improv during a scene where I was insulting the goalie’s mother. He laughed pretty hard. Who would’ve thought that mother jokes could be so handy?
How would you say this film is different and unique?
Other hockey films have delivered on laughs and delivered on drama, but none of them seem to get the hockey right! Not only does ‘Goon’ have a lot of heart, but it also delivers the laughs and a lot of hard-hitting action! The hockey was performed by pro-level players and beautifully captured. The intensity of the fights, and let me tell you there are lots of fights, is through the roof! ‘Goon’ is also unique in that it follows the role of the enforcer, a vital part of any hockey team, and a role that has commonly been overlooked by many, until recently. Currently, in the hockey world (and the timing is strictly by chance), there is great controversy surrounding “enforcers” and the impact they have on the game, and the dangers associated with their fierce dedication. I think this movie is going to be a beautiful tribute to the unsung hero’s of the ice. To me ‘Goon’ feels like ‘Rocky‘, ‘Slapshot’, an espresso, a scoop of protein powder, and something anabolic all in one. I think this movie will set a new standard for the genre.
The film stars Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber, Kim Coates and Eugene Levy – with Michael Dowse onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
The cast and crew were out of this world. When I arrived on location in Winnipeg I had no idea of how many people were actually in this movie, so you can imagine I was ecstatic! Five minutes into my first day’s shooting the entire cast and crew seemed to gel right before my eyes. Seann William Scott leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I feel something happening here. This feels like it’s a real team and it’s really coming alive”. At that point, the little voice inside told me that I was about to go through a really special experience. But I would have to say that what has stayed with me the most, was the lack of ego. For example, the first time I met Jay Baruchel he dropped to one knee and thanked me for being a part of his film as if I were the king. I was humbled and reassured him that he was the one to thank after all. Two days later he hand delivered my breakfast to my trailer! I was speechless! I became surely affirmed that being genuine, generous, and humble were very important to the success of any artist, and any artistic venture. Needless to say, the entire experience was nothing but peaches.
Let’s talk a bit about you George. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
For me it started out with action movies as a kid. No doubt about it. I had always wanted to be an action star, but somewhere along the way I got interested in the story and the acting more and more. By the end of high school I was doing everything from plays to morning announcements, and I had even been cast in a couple of B-movies as a featured stunt fighter (did I mention watching action movies led to me training in martial arts somewhere along the line?). After that was a lot of trial and error. I was trying to figure out where my piece was in the puzzle of things, and I ended up finding it abroad while studying acting in NYC. By the time it took for me to return to my home in Toronto, what I had to do as an artist had become very clear to me, and I’ve been happy ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Probably the same thing I would tell anyone in any industry: that you have to work hard, take it seriously, and choose a path, and not necessarily in that order. If someone wants to be a surgeon they have to learn the ins and outs (pardon the pun); they don’t just pick up a scalpel and start carving. If someone is thinking about acting they need to treat it with respect from the get-go, and take whatever steps they need to in order to hone their craft. After all, this is your future livelihood that we’re talking about. And just like becoming a doctor or a cabinet-maker requires a great deal of dedication, so too should artist’s dedication be to their craft. You give; and it gives back. At least, that’s what’s been working for me.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV projects – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far? Any good stories?
Working with Piper Perabo on her new series ‘Covert Affairs’ was a lot of fun. To this date it’s probably the closest I’ve had to work with an actress. There were a lot of dynamics between our characters and we rehearsed and performed a pretty intense fight sequence as well. In one scene I had to charm her, and later on I was bashing her head in, and Piper made it fun all the way through. She’s easily one of the top five nicest people in the world. Really.
Behind door number two has got to be the great, and I mean great, Val Kilmer. When I heard that I’d be working with him, it was probably the first time I got giddy about working with anyone, and I had worked with some heavyweights before. There was a great deal of chatter amongst the crew in anticipation of Val’s arrival and, somewhere in the midst of all the gossip, I thought, “I can’t wait to meet this guy!”. He was a force of nature in my books. I’ve never seen anyone with such a level of awareness. In between takes, and sometimes during, no matter what came out of his mouth, I had a hard time keeping a straight face. I was fascinated by how sharp he was. I had a few brief conversations with him, but mostly I played the fly on the wall routine, and Val was really inspiring to watch. He behaved, to me, as any genius should: everywhere and nowhere all at once.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Three guests for dinner? I would have to go with Marlon Brando, Oliver Reed, and Johnny Depp. Sitting around in a private room for dinner with those guys I think would become a monumental mess, and most likely a glorious disaster! I would feel sorry for the clean up crew and the barkeep!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things could you not live without?
Bongo drum, frying pan, and a pair of spoons should cover it. When the bongo breaks I’ll play the pan. When the pan is toast I’ll play the spoons. Let’s face it: if you’re stuck on an island you need something to do (unless Matthew Fox can make any suggestions?).
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Ahhhh! The Age of Aquarius. I’m really excited for 2012! I’ve been really busy of late so I’ll have a few things coming out soon, a potential role on a series, and possibly another sports comedy in the mix to be shot in Italy this summer. I’m even getting the writing bug of late and have a couple of ideas on the go. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
Thanks for the interview!