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Gordon Pinsent

Director, Screenwriter, Actor
(b. July 12, 1930 Grand Falls, Newfoundland)

Actor, playwright, screenwriter, author and director, Gordon Pinsent is one of the finest, most beloved and well-known actors of his generation and an icon of the Canadian entertainment industry. Multi-talented, enterprising and outright entrepreneurial – he has seemed at times to be a one-man production company – his trademark restlessness and lack of satisfaction has driven him to develop many of his own projects and produce them wherever and whenever he could. A born-and-bred Newfoundlander whose work often reflects his Maritime values and upbringing, for fifty years he has written for, acted and directed in virtually every entertainment medium available.


An awkward child who suffered from rickets and was nicknamed “Porky,” he escaped into his imagination and dreamed of performing as early as he can remember – he even told his Anglican mother that he wanted to convert to Catholicism because the Catholic schools put on plays. He left home at fifteen to live with his sister at the Gander Air Base and at seventeen – a year before Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation – he emigrated to Toronto, where he worked a series of odd jobs before enlisting in the airborne parachute unit of the Royal Canadian Regiment. After being stationed for a year in Fort Churchill in northern Manitoba, he was discharged in 1951 and went to Winnipeg, where he worked a series of odd jobs that included patrolling parking meters and teaching ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray Studios.

In 1954, he began acting with the Winnipeg Repertory Theatre. From there, he went on to work with Rainbow Stage, the Winnipeg Little Theatre and Theatre 77 throughout the fifties. He also worked in radio – including a stint on the first live radio drama out of Winnipeg – before moving to Toronto in 1959. While painting portraits to pay the bills, he worked in theatre and radio and in 1962 starred in the Crest Theatre production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, where he met his current wife, the actress Charmion King. That same year, he worked in the cast at the Stratford Festival and made his TV debut on the U.S. series “Hallmark Hall of Fame.” He also landed a regular role on the Canadian series “Scarlett Hill” and played the Mountie Sergeant Scott on the hugely popular children’s series “The Forest Rangers,” which is still broadcast around the world.

His big break came with the lead role in the CBC televisions series “Quentin Durgens, M.P.,” which ran from 1966 to 1968 and made him a national star. Encouraged by his success, he ventured to Los Angeles where he scored a supporting role in Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and played the president of the United States in Colossus: The Forbin Project (1969). He also became close friends with Marlon Brando (several sketches that Pinsent had given Brando as gifts were included in Brando’s estate auction in June 2005). However, his time in Los Angeles was largely characterized by frustration and discouragement. Essentially a versatile character actor, his efforts to land a leading role in a TV series or significant parts in film were consistently dashed. His work in television amounted to guest roles in numerous series, including “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Cannon” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” while his film work included the likes of a supporting part in the Blaxploitation classic Blacula (1972).


To cope with his frustrations, he began writing short stories based around characters he had developed. One of these – a semi-autobiographical tale about a happy-go-lucky Newfoundland roustabout named Will Cole – was evolving into his first novel when he decided it might make a fine film and completed a draft of a screenplay before the novel was finished. The result was the Canadian classic The Rowdyman (1972), which was filmed in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and produced through the newly formed Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC, now Telefilm Canada). The film became a commercial hit and landed Pinsent a Canadian Film Award for Best Leading Actor. The Rowdyman was published as a novel in 1973. Pinsent, having returned to Canada to continue his career, subsequently wrote, directed and starred in an unsuccessful stage musical based on the film at the 1976 Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island.

Continuing his affinity with Maritime rogues, he published his second novel, John and the Missus, in 1974. The story of a copper miner who rebels against the company when it plans to shut down the mine that sustains a small Newfoundland town, John and the Missus was produced for the stage – first in 1977 at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre and again in 1981 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa – before Pinsent wrote, directed and starred in the feature film adaptation in 1987, which earned him a Best Leading Actor Genie and a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. In the late seventies, he continued his DIY ethic by creating, writing and starring in the CBC series “A Gift to Last,” which, in keeping with his multi-disciplinary approach, was also produced for the stage in Vancouver and Barrie, Ontario. He co-starred in Allan King’s multiple award-winning Prairie drama Who Has Seen the Wind (1977) and in 1980 he won a Best Supporting Actor Genie for Peter Carter’s Jack London’s Klondike Fever.


Though he has been performing for decades, he made a new legion of fans in the nineties with his recurring roles on such popular television series as “Due South” and “Power Play,” which both earned him Gemini Awards. He also had a recurring role on “The Red Green Show” and landed guest spots in numerous series, including “Street Legal,” “Road to Avonlea,” “The Outer Limits,” “Made in Canada” and “The Eleventh Hour.” In 2001, he scored the plum role of Billy Pretty in Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shipping News, co-starring Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench and Julianne Moore. Pinsent helped coach the rest of the cast in a Newfoundland accent and also advised on the authentic use of clothes, music and props.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980 and became a Companion in 1998. In addition to his Canadian Film Award, six Geminis and two Genies, he has won two ACTRA awards for his television work – as well as the ACTRA Award for Excellence in 2004 – a Dora Mavor Moore Award for the stage, and has been awarded three honourary doctorates – from Queen’s University, P.E.I. University and Memorial University in Newfoundland – and three Lifetime Achievement Awards – from the Banff International Television Festival, the Summer Institute of Film & Television in Ottawa and the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television. His hometown of Grand Falls, which named a street after Pinsent in 1980, plans to rename their Arts and Culture Centre The Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts on his seventy-fifth birthday in July, 2005. He is also very active in charity work and has extensively lobbied the federal government for more cultural funding. His humorous and poignant autobiography By the Way was published in 1992.

Film and video work includes

Cyrano de Bergerac, Hallmark Hall of Fame series, 1962 (actor; TV)
Scarlett Hill series, 1962 (actor; TV)
The Forest Rangers series, 1963 (actor; TV)
Lydia, 1964 (actor)
Twelfth Night, 1964 (actor; TV)
Three Approaches to Leadership, 1965 (himself)
Don't Forget to Wipe the Blood Off, a.k.a. Affair with a Killer, 1966 (actor)
Quentin Durgens, M.P. series, 1966 - 1968 (actor; TV)
The Thomas Crown Affair, a.k.a. The Crown Caper; Thomas Crown and Company, 1968 (actor)
Adventures in Rainbow Country series, 1969 (actor; TV, one episode)
It Takes a Thief series, 1969 (actor; TV, one episode)
Colossus: The Forbin Project, a.k.a. The Forbin Project; The Day the World Changed Hands, 1970 (actor)
Dan August series, 1970 (actor; TV, one episode)
Hogan's Heroes, 1970 (actor; TV, one episode)
Quarantined, a.k.a. House on the Hill, 1970 (actor; TV)
The Young Lawyers series, 1970 (actor; TV, one episode)
Chandler, a.k.a. Open Shadow, 1971 (actor)
Banacek series, 1972 (actor; TV, one episode)
Blacula, 1972 (actor)
The Rowdyman, 1972 (writer; actor)
Cannon series, 1973 (actor; TV, one episode)
Incident on a Dark Street, 1973 (actor; TV)
Marcus Welby, M.D. series, 1973 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Heatwave Lasted Four Days, a.k.a. Heatwave, 1974 (actor)
Ocean Heritage, 1974 (narrator)
Only God Knows, 1974 (actor)
Newman's Law, 1974 (actor)
The Play's the Thing series, 1974 (host; TV)
Horse Latitudes, 1975 (actor; TV)
A Gift to Last, 1976 (writer; actor; TV)
The Great Canadian Culture Hunt series, 1976 (host)
The World is Round, 1976 (narrator; TV)
Magic Time, 1977 (narrator)
Drága kisfiam, 1978 (actor)
A Gift to Last series, 1978 (actor; TV)
The Suicide's Wife, a.k.a. A New Life, 1979 (actor; TV)
People Talking Back series, 1979 (actor)
Up at Ours series, 1979 (creator)
Klondike Fever, a.k.a. Jack London's Klondike Fever, 1979 (actor)
Once, 1980 (director)
The Devil at Your Heels, a.k.a. The Late Show Presents: The Devil at Your Heels, 1981 (narrator)
Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper, a.k.a. Desert Blades, 1981 (actor; TV)
A Far Cry from Home, 1981 (director; TV)
Silence of the North, 1981 (actor)
The Life and Times of Edwin Alonzo Boyd, 1982 (actor; TV)
A Case of Libel, 1983 (actor; TV)
The Castle of White Otter Lake, 1983 (narrator)
Ready for the Slaughter, For the Record series, 1983 (actor; TV)
Sam Hughes's War, a.k.a. Some Honourable Gentlemen, 1984 (actor; TV)
Seeing Things series, 1984 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Exile, For the Record series, 1985 (director; TV)
Uncle T, 1985 (actor)
Two Men, 1988 (director; TV)
Babar series, 1989 (voice; TV)
Babar: The Movie, 1989 (voice)
Friday the 13th series, 1989 (actor; TV, one episode)
Blood Clan, 1990 (actor)
The Hidden Room series, 1991 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Red Green Show series, 1991 (actor; TV)
Beyond Reality series, 1992 (actor; TV, one episode)
Counterstrike series, 1992 (actor; TV, one episode)
In the Eyes of a Stranger, 1992 (actor; TV)
The Ray Bradbury Theatre series, 1992 (actor; TV, one episode)
Street Legal series, 1992 (actor; TV, one episode)
Bonds of Love, 1993 (actor; TV)
E.N.G. series, 1993 (actor; TV, one episode)
Street Legal series, 1993 (actor; TV, one episode)
Due South, 1994 (actor; TV)
Due South series, 1994 (actor; TV, two episodes)
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues Series, 1994 (actor; TV, one episode)
Road to Avonlea series, 1994 (actor; TV, two episodes)
Due South series, 1995 (actor; TV, eight episodes)
A Vow to Kill, 1995 (actor; TV)
Les Amants de rivière rouge series, 1996 (actor; TV)
Christmas in My Hometown, a.k.a. A Holiday for Love, 1996 (actor; TV)
Due South series, 1996 (actor; TV, three episodes)
Wind at my Back series, 1996 (actor; TV)
Due South series, 1997 (actor; TV)
The Outer Limits series, 1997 (actor; TV, one episode)
Pale Saints, 1997 (actor)
Pippi Longstocking, 1997 (voice)
Wind at My Back series, 1997 (actor; TV, five episodes)
Made in Canada series, 1998 (actor; TV, one episode)
Power Play series, 1998 (actor; TV)
The Old Man and the Sea, 1999 (voice)
Relic Hunter series, 1999 (actor; TV, one episode)
Win, Again!, 1999 (writer; actor; TV)
Wind at My Back series, 1999 (actor; TV, one episode)
Jewel on the Hill, 2000 (narrator; TV)
The Life and Times of Gordon Pinsent, Life and Times series, 2000 (himself; TV)
Blind Terror, 2001 (actor; TV)
Blue Murder series, 2001 (actor; TV, one episode)
Mentors series, 2001 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Shipping News, 2001 (actor)
A Promise, 2002 (actor)
Stranded Yanks: A Diary Between Friends, 2002 (narrator; TV)
Fallen Angel, 2003 (actor; TV)
Just Cause series, 2003 (actor; TV, one episode)
Hemingway vs. Callaghan, 2003 (actor; TV)
Made in Canada series, 2003 (actor; TV, one episode)
Nothing, 2003 (actor)
The New Red Green Show series, 2003 (actor; TV)
The Seán Cullen Show series, 2003 (himself)
Snow on the Skeleton Key, 2003 (actor)
The Eleventh Hour series, 2004 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Good Shepherd, 2004 (actor)
H2O: The Last Prime Minister, 2004 (actor; TV)
Puppets Who Kill series, 2005 (actor; TV, one episode)