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Terry Fox -- The Movie

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Terry Fox more ennobled but still an enigma

in new CTV movie of the week

John Mckay

Canadian Press

September 7, 2005

TORONTO (CP) - For the record, actor Shawn Ashmore has two legs. And the 26-year-old Richmond, B.C., native is quite willing to lift his pant cuff to prove it.

But through digital special effects - the same kind that erased actor Gary Sinise's legs in Forrest Gump more than a decade ago - Ashmore was able to play Terry Fox in this Sunday's CTV Original Movie, Terry.

"Thank goodness for me this technology exists, because it's the only way that his story would get told like this," says Ashmore, who explains in an interview that he did his running scenes wearing three elastic bands on his right leg. The bands had white spots that could be read in post production by a computer that allowed the F/X people to simply erase his real leg and replace it seamlessly with a prosthesis.

For other scenes, he had a stunt double, real-life amputee Grant Darby, who did the long shots and those taken from behind and who trained with Ashmore for weeks so the actor could perfect a one-legged walk.

"I think ultimately those little details come through, even if it's just in my head," says Ashmore, who adds that he was intimidated when first offered the part - for about two seconds, before realizing what an honour it would be.

The special effects are just one way in which this movie differs from 1983's The Terry Fox Story which starred unknown amputee Eric Fryer, who won a best-actor Genie in '84 for his performance but who never made another film. At the time it was the very first made-for-pay-TV movie from HBO.

Robert Duvall co-starred as Fox's savvy publicity agent Bill Vigars in a cast that also included Chris Makepeace with cameos by R.H. Thomson, Saul Rubinek and Patrick Watson.

The film won the best picture Genie that year but was criticized at the time by the Fox family for portraying Terry as ill-tempered, shown in one scene abusing his companions in his van by demanding they clean up his personal messes.

The new TV movie does have the blessing of the Fox family and portrays Terry in a more heroic light, although it doesn't pull its punches.

"I honestly don't feel that this story has been sugar-coated," Ashmore insists. "Obviously you're telling the story of a hero. . .but it stays true to the essence of the run."

He says Terry's best friend and run companion Doug Alward sat down with pen and notebook to critique the film, but very quickly put down the tools and laughed and cried his way through the screening. The actor also gained the blessing of Terry's brother Darrell Fox, learning from him that Terry may have been a very focused and skilled athlete but also had a sense of humour.

"I mean they had food fights. If you watch the documentary footage you see Terry smile and laugh and joke and have fun with everybody. Of course he was a real person."

Still, Ashmore says it's difficult to comprehend, even today, what made Terry run.

"Obviously he was raised very well and was a very compassionate person to begin with," he says. "But whatever it was, how do you explain it? It's incredible."

The film opens in Newfoundland in April 1980 as the young runner symbolically dips his foot into the Atlantic at the start of his epic journey. Many sequences show him meeting supporters and other cancer survivors along the way.

But the screenplay does not spare Quebec, for example, depicting how Fox and his small entourage were not only ignored by the media across the province, but harassed by police, even threatened with arrest if he did not abandon the main highways for side roads. At one point he is nearly run over by an indifferent transport truck, all the while suffering dizzy spells, a racking cough (portent of things to come) and a bleeding leg. One newspaper even accused him of surreptitiously skipping two thirds of the Quebec run, a slam that was later retracted.

While Ashmore stayed away from that '83 film, he immersed himself in documentary footage as well as Terry's own personal journal of the run, which he says was pretty dry at first but soon included details of what inspired and affected him along the way.

"You could almost tell as he got sicker. The subtle signs of the journal entry shrinking.

"And then the last entry is, like, two sentences."

The plot proceeds inexorably to its heart-breaking climax at Thunder Bay when Fox had to bail out on his cross-country trek because the cancer that took his leg had spread to his lungs. He died in June of 1981 just before his 23rd birthday.

"It's an interesting piece of Canadian history," Ashmore says. "Terry's one of our great heroes and it's important to keep his legacy alive and continue to support cancer research."

© The Canadian Press 2005

Taken from this page of the nationalpost.com site.

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Thanks Afet, should be interesting to see how this one differs from that first television movie. Doubt they will ever be able to capture how his journey affected us watching at home, he was such a bright, earnest young man and he really had a lot of heart :)

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I'd really like to say something profound and clever at this point, but all I can offer is that I am touched and very humbled by this story.

Thank you Afet.


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Ashmore honoured to play Terry Fox

VANCOUVER -- Doing justice to Terry Fox onscreen meant six weeks of work for Richmond, B.C.-born actor Shawn Ashmore before filming even began this summer on the CTV movie Terry.

The movie filmed for a month in Newfoundland and Ontario, but Ashmore had already been hard at work by then, working with trainers to perfect the cancer marathoner's distinctive gait. The movie airs Sept. 11 to mark the 25th anniversary of Fox's journey from Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ont., where the cancer that had earlier taken his leg reappeared in his lungs.

"One of the things I was really concerned about was having enough time to train and get the physical aspects of the character down," says Ashmore. "For Canadians especially, it's such an important image to all of us, it's something that's very recognized. I just wanted to make sure that I had time to do that properly, because if that wasn't right, then people would not necessarily be able to connect."

Ashmore, currently reprising his role as Iceman in the Vancouver-filmed X-Men 3, worked with a theatre movement coach from Stratford and with amputee athlete Grant Darby to capture Fox's physicality. During filming, Ashmore wore motion sensors on his right leg, which enabled computer graphic artists to add the prosthetic leg in post-production. As well, Darby doubled for Ashmore in wide-shot scenes filmed from behind.

The TV movie focuses on the time from when the 21-year-old Fox started his fundraising run in Newfoundland, to when he became a national hero while running through Ontario, and ends with the recurrence of the cancer in Thunder Bay. Fox later died in hospital in Vancouver.

"We didn't tell the story of a cancer patient. This movie is about the run and the great thing that he did," says Ashmore. "It's a really personal story, too, just four main characters, Terry, his friend Doug Alward, his brother Darrell and a guy named Bill Vigars."

A daunting but inspiring highlight of the movie is the recreation of the speech Fox gave to a huge crowd at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square. Ashmore says Fox's sister Judy was among those in the crowd of extras when they filmed the scene, and many people showed up that day who had seen the real Fox speak. Ashmore studied footage of Fox's speech to prepare for that sequence.

"There were a couple of hundred people there (for filming) in period garb," he says. "It was pretty emotional. It was difficult, but there was an amazing energy. It was kind of eerie in a way. It's also amazing how many people who were there had been there originally. A lot of people who were little kids, their parents had brought them. Even some people on the crew."

Ashmore himself was born in 1979, a year before Fox's run, and learned about the fallen hero as most kids do, by participating in the annual run for cancer.

"I didn't discover Terry until I was 10 years old, he was a legend by that time," says Ashmore, who talked at length with Darrell Fox to get a feel for that time.

"They had food fights all the time, they were three young guys in a van, for the first time.going across the country. They were excited more than anything, especially in the beginning. As much as it was serious and hard work and all that, there's no way they could have done what they did without having fun."

Vancouver actor Ryan McDonald plays Terry's friend Doug and Noah Reid plays Darrell.

"We were out in the country running for a lot of the shoot," says Ashmore, who learned from Terry Fox's own journals how the trio battled the elements, did laundry, cooked meals, and tried to get news coverage -- all while Terry was running 26 miles a day.

"He was unknown at first, even through Quebec. The first couple of weeks at least, a month even, two guys living in a van, staying in motels, eating beans and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. That's what's so great, these guys were doing it when nobody was supporting them, and Terry was working just as hard when he started as the day he stopped.

"The biggest thing, especially in the beginning, was the monotony of the run. The journals were very dry: 'Woke up today. Ate two cans of beans and a peanut butter sandwich, did 50 pushups and got on the road.' But then, every once in a while, there'd be a journal entry where it would talk about a town they went into, a person they met or a little kid who gave them five bucks. And it would suddenly get personal.

"Until you read in his words, you don't understand how hard it was and how much of a beating his body was taking, and how moved he was by people who helped him."

Twenty-five years later, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised more than $360 million worldwide for cancer research. Production company Shaftesbury Films is donating any net profits from worldwide sales of the movie to the foundation.

Taken from this page of canada.com.

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