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Friday, September 15, 2000

Marine Life agrees with Outerbridge

By BOB THOMPSON
Toronto Sun

TORONTO -- Director Anne Wheeler figured it was payback time for actor Peter Outerbridge.

He'd gone to the edge for Wheeler in her previous effort, Better Than Chocolate, playing
a man-to-woman transgendered lesbian. For Marine Life, which premiered at the film
festival last night, the director asked Outerbridge to become a great deal more macho
and play a beer-swilling Vancouver dock worker, real low-class in big boots. But it
didn't matter. Outerbridge admits he would do just about anything for the
filmmaker, who seems to be able to put a spell on folks.

"I would jump in front of a bus if Anne told me to," is how Outerbridge explains his
acting devotion to Wheeler.

But there are no Better Than Chocolate sacrifices for Outerbridge to make in Marine Life.
Based on the Linda Svendson's book, Marine Life, filmed in Vanouver last fall,
deals with a "not-so-typical family through the eyes of a 12-year-old."

As Wheeler suggests, "I like to use humour to deal with serious subjects." In this case,
it's the disintegration of the family unit.

Ironically, Cybill Shepherd, who portrays the mom, played a TV mother with some of the
same sorts of problems. In Marine Life, Shepherd is a tacky lounge singer obsessed
with '50s pop tunes, and compelled to watch over her three children, two who need to
grow up and one older than her years.

There is her 12-year-old daughter Adele (Alexandra Purvis) who observes her chaotic
family, which also revolves around her sad older sister (Gabrielle Miller) and her
useless irresponsible married brother (Michael Hogan). And then there is the
tugboat operator step-dad (Outerbridge) who tries to do the right thing but doesn't
always succeed as far as Adele is concerned.

"I had to take a testosterone shot for my part this time," reports Outerbridge in a mocking masculine voice.
"Then I went and drank a lot of beer and hung out with the tugboat guys."

Outerbridge did a lot more than that in his textured and multi-layered performance. "I
thought that he was the guy who wants to lead and protect the family, but he has
moments where he can be a complete psycho."

"I love his ambiguity," says Wheeler of Outerbridge's Marine Life role. "He's such an
intelligent actor."

As usual, the savvy director does her casting homework well. She also paid attention, and
exploited opportunities when presented. For instance, Wheeler heard that Shepherd
liked Better Than Chocolate and was interested in the Marine Life project. Wheeler
ended up at Shepherd's Beverly Hills mansion, accompanying Shepherd as she sang, you
guessed it, 1950s jazz and blues classics, just like her character.

Naturally, Shepherd fell in love with Wheeler and the movie, and signed shortly after to
do the film at a reduced rate, necessary given the film's frugal budget. More lucky
charms surrounded the production when Marine Life started shooting last fall in
Vancouver during the West Coast rainy season. "And we didn't get any rain," says the
director happily.

Wheeler's hoping more sunshine follows Marine Life when it opens theatrically, probably
next spring. Meanwhile, Wheeler is on to other projects, while Outerbridge just
wrapped the CBC's detective show Chasing Cane here. Of course, there's always the
chance that Wheeler might call Outerbridge, make him another offer he won't refuse.

And Cybill Shepherd understands -- now that she's been Wheeler-ed and dealer-ed --
exactly how Peter Outerbridge feels.

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