In the movie BlackBerry, which chronicles the rise and fall of the BlackBerry phone, Jay Baruchel plays Mike Lazaridis, creator of this Canadian technological masterpiece. La Presse caught up with the comedian who grew up in Montreal.
First question: Did Jay Baruchel own a BlackBerry? “I was still using one two years ago,” he replies without hesitation. I bought several models. I loved these phones. For me, it was much more intuitive and natural to type on a keyboard than on a fucking screen. »
Note that the interview was conducted in English in order to obtain the most spontaneous answers from Jay Baruchel, although he speaks French with ease. He threw some “fucks” and derivatives a few times. We kept them. He also said “brown sauce” in the middle of a sentence in English. We will come back to it.
The 41-year-old actor says another reason he was loyal to BlackBerry is because it was a Canadian product.
This pride is present throughout Matt Johnson’s film (Operation Avalanche, The Dirties). When we share our observation with Jay Baruchel, and add that we found this patriotism inherent in the story and not at all supported, he seems flattered.
“We wanted to be authentic to ourselves,” he emphasizes.
“Let me tell you, the Americans don’t give a fuck and neither do the Brits,” he adds. Rather than being authentic, we’re going to make movies that are clearly set in Canada, where we see the CN Tower, but the license plates are going to be New Jersey! We shoot ourselves in the foot, ”explains with passion and exasperation the one who is also a screenwriter and director.
“That perception is one of the things that binds Matt Johnson and me together,” he continues. We love our country, we were raised by parents who love their country and we believe that our story deserves to be told in cinema. »
Matt Johnson, who also plays Doug Fregin, longtime friend and business partner of Mike Lazaridis, wrote the screenplay with Matthew Miller (Surviving Crooked Lake) based on the book Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff.
As is often the case in this type of work, certain parts of reality are amplified, while others are pushed aside. However, the real BlackBerry saga is so unlikely that the many twists and turns in the two-hour feature film are hardly exaggerated.
“It’s kind of a Greek tragedy about the clash between bona fide Canadian entrepreneurship and brutal capitalism, which inevitably causes some fucking tension,” summarizes Jay Baruchel.
Another interesting aspect of the BlackBerry story, he says, is the device itself. “Sometimes in innovation there are advancements that take a leap forward in time, like when Gutenberg invented the printing press. I think BlackBerry falls into that category, says the man who landed his first starring role in the My Hometown series in 1996. Most people don’t realize that the way we communicate today is the work of a few nerds in Kitchener-Waterloo, in 1996.”
1996, a significant year for the creators of the BlackBerry and Jay Baruchel, plays an important role in the film. The story takes place over ten years and all this time is skilfully represented.
“One of the coolest things in the movie, which is like gravy; brown sauce, for me, is that it is a love letter to a specific period in Canada, from 1995 to 2005, says the actor. There’s the music, the shops, the posters, the clothes… I was born in 1982 and graduated from high school in 1999. You never see that era in movies! And if we see it, it’s an “amusement park” version. Not ours, that’s just the real time. »
Glenn Howerton stars as businessman Jim Balsillie. Without it, the groundbreaking phone created by Mike Lazaridis and his colleagues at Research In Motion might never have hit shelves. He was also embroiled in a stock option scandal that forced him to resign as chairman in 2007, in addition to paying millions in fines.
In BlackBerry, he is portrayed as a cold, short-tempered, and extremely ambitious man. “When I saw the movie, I was confused for about five minutes, then I was like, ‘OK, we’re being cooked. It’s a satire,'” he told The Canadian Press.
“Satire” may be overkill, but it’s true that Jim Balsillie is kind of the “bad guy” in the story. Especially in opposition to Mike Lazaridis, who, without being a victim – he made a lot of money – is the kind of person you like to see succeed.
“Matt Johnson and Matt Miller wrote the character so audiences would find him likeable, but I couldn’t just play him that way,” Baruchel said. I have met people in my life who have noble intentions and I understand what it is to excel in a particular field. »
“It’s not just a job or a hobby, it’s his way of making the world a better place,” he adds. It’s normal to side with this type of person. […] The other guy [Jim Balsillie] didn’t come up with anything out of the ordinary, but he’s right when he says Mike is immature and doesn’t know how to run his business. But when you see Mike, you dream of a world in which a genius like him should be able to succeed without the help of a shark. »