ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF CAPRI FILMS/RAFY
Here's something you may not know: Jessica Paré can be funny.
Nine years after her debut as an enigmatic supermodel in Denis Arcand's Stardom, which opened the Toronto Film Festival in 2000, Paré's back in a very different context in Rob Stefaniuk's rock 'n' roll comedy, Suck.
"It's going to be a great party," she says over the phone from Montreal, where she's decompressing with family and friends after a month in the frozen North shooting Wyeth Clarkson's Red Coat Justice. "Coming from the Yukon, it's going to be a great change of pace."
Suck casts Paré as Jennifer, the bassist in a struggling band who starts attracting a different audience after she's bitten by a vampire. It's a winning comic turn by someone usually cast as the leading man's beautiful girlfriend.
After Stardom anointed her as Canada's next top model - in the context of its fictional world anyway - Paré became our film industry's "it girl" for real. Léa Pool cast her as Piper Perabo's lover in Lost And Delirious; she goofed on her image with a cameo as a frivolous pop star in Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood, and she shot a couple of TV movies with Jerry Ciccoritti.
But a bigger breakthrough didn't happen. Paré turned up as Josh Hartnett's fiancée in Wicker Park, and landed a role on the short-lived TV series Jack & Bobby, but nothing better came her way. When she got the opportunity to make Suck - and be funny - she was all over it.
"Yeah, I've been trying to get into that more," she says. "But I felt my job as an actor was to stay out of the way of my look, you know? The look is quite extraordinary. I felt like I almost didn't have to do anything, I just kinda sat back and let the crazy look do the acting for me."
She's being self-deprecating. Comedy is hard, as her director and co-star Stefaniuk explains - and it takes more than fangs and day-glo contact lenses to sell it.
"As soon as she showed up for rehearsals," he says, "she had it down. I was just, like, ‘Ooh, thank god.' I was prepared to, like, fuckin' line-read people if I had to to get what I wanted to make it work. When she showed up and we started rehearsing, she was already funny. She showed up and delivered right on day one."
Of course, she'd been preparing.
"There was a bit of a band camp," she says. "Not in any weird American Pie way. I live in L.A. - I've lived there for about five years now - and John Kastner, who co-wrote the music with Rob, is also based in L.A.
"So he taught me how to play some of the songs. And then, when I got to Toronto, we had a week in a band rehearsal space - which was so cool both as an actor and as a person who's always been interested in music and that rock' n' roll lifestyle. It was interesting to go and practise the music and actually be playing the songs. I was getting such a nerdy jolt. And then, just being the only girl in a dude band, feeling like I was the only woman in the whole rehearsal building, really helped me identify with what that must be like. Music is very much a boys' world, you know?"
Suck isn't Paré's only movie at this year's festival. She also turns up in Jacob Tierney's comedy The Trotsky in a walk-on role as Emily Hampshire's best friend.
"I only have, like, three scenes in it," she says. "Jacob's a friend of mine, so when he heard I was in town he was like, ‘Yeah, come on over - do this movie!' And I'd worked with Emily years ago (on the mean-girls thriller Posers), so it was fun to do that with those guys."
Given that she lives in Los Angeles but does most of her work in Canada, I have to ask whether the Hollywood address has helped or hindered her career. She's not really sure.
"Somebody in the Canadian film industry was saying to me that people have the idea that because you live in L.A. you're more popular or you're worth more or whatever," she says. "I'm not sure I believe that. I find that I get jobs when I come home for a couple of months. I probably would actually be back in Canada, but my husband [writer and producer Joe Smith] is American, and he's working there. So I guess I'm there for a little while longer."
And is she hoping Suck will bring her more comedic roles?
"I'll be honest with you," she says. "I wanna work. It's funny, because my own writing right now is all drama. I'd like to go in that direction in my writing as well. I'm putting together a movie with my husband that's a series of short films, and most of them are comedies.
"So let's see what happens. Maybe the one I'm writing will end up being a comedy, too."
Jessica Paré on the experience of shooting Suck:
Paré on her next film, Red Coat Justice:
Paré on living in Los Angeles: