It is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential Canadian films ever made, and has remained one of the top 10 films of all time in industry polls since 1984; Canada Post even issued a commemorative stamp in its honour. Director Don Shebib returns 40 years later with original cast members Jayne Eastwood and Doug McGrath, and teams them up with Robertson, their "new" Canadian/American actress. Moviefone spoke with Robertson on the Toronto set of 'Down the Road Again.'
The director tells me you knew of 'Goin' Down the Road.'
I did, yeah. My agent called me and said he had a movie and said, "You're either going to be really excited or you're going to have no idea what I'm talking about and think I'm crazy. Did you ever see 'Goin' Down the Road'?" I said "Yes!" "Well, they're doing a sequel..." [Gasps] ] I asked, "Is the script any good?" He said it was really good and I said, "I'm in!" I don't think that type of thing has ever happened before, a sequel after 40 years with the original cast and same director.
How did you see it? It was made in 1970 and it's hard to find.
I saw it when I was a teenager. One of my first professional gigs was this series called 'Maniac Mansion' with all these 'SCTV' people. And 'SCTV' did a very well-known parody of 'Goin' Down the Road.' Oh my God, it was amazing! And they all loved it! Don loves it, and Jayne Eastwood was in the film and the parody! Americans know the parody but not the movie. Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty said 'It's great!" and that's where I learned about it. It was a weird introduction. Jayne, weirdly enough, played my mother in my very first job and she is my mother here too.
You play the estranged daughter of the late Paul Bradley's character. She's on a mission to find out who her father is. Tell us more.
I play Betty Jo Mills. The film starts with her discovering her father is dead. She met him once when she was 10, when he took her to the zoo. She has a very specific memory of that day and she met him once and that was it. The news of his death comes to her at this terrible time because she had been searching for him. She said she needed to at least put a face to him and have some relationship with him, not even a good one, in order to move forward and figure herself out. She never gets that chance, so when she gets the opportunity to get to know him through his best friend (Doug McGrath) -- someone who knew him his entire life -- she knew it was her last chance to have any understanding of who this man was. So they jump in the car and they drive across Canada to spread his ashes. It's a great premise.
How did you understand Betty Jo in a way that was just yours?
The first thing I do is prepare a bio. It's something I do called Fifty Questions. I go through them and answer them and by the time I'm through them, I feel like I can walk onto the set and say 'Wow! This is her!" Questions ranging from 'What was your first sexual experience?" to "What is your favourite food?" to"What makes you angry?" to "What's your greatest fear?" That's the thing. The fun thing about playing characters is that it's not you. They don't see the world the way you do, they only see it the way they do, and I really lock into what that is.
I had a very specific idea about how I wanted Betty Jo to look. I cut all my hair off for this role. I just wanted her to be the girl who doesn't take care of herself. This is the nicest she looks in the movie [indicates herself, in an oversized, cheap sweater, tattoos, heavy makeup, bangles] because she's at a dance with a boy. So she puts some makeup on. And chops her nails off.
You've had some amazing roles over the years. It must be great to do these diverse characters. What is it that directors see in you?
I have no idea! I have to say the thing I am most proud of is that I have a really eclectic career. I've done really mainstream stuff and I've done really dark stuff. Fringe stuff. That's what keeps me excited about doing this. I've been doing this for a long time. A project has to have that thing that makes me wants to leave my family, my home and my life and go do that! Making a movie is a huge endeavour, there has to be something. This one is obvious. I just want to do really interesting projects. I guess I'm just not afraid to stretch.
'Down the Road Again' is set for a fall 2011 release.