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Jacob Tierney

Writer, Actor, Director
(b. September 26, 1979 Montreal, Quebec)

The son of veteran film and television producer Kevin Tierney (Bon Cop Bad Cop), Jacob Tierney began his film career at the age of six, performing in numerous film and television productions. His most notable acting credits include Terrence Davies’ The Neon Bible (1995), in which he acted alongside Gena Rowlands; Paul Quinn’s This is My Father (1998), with Aidan Quinn and James Caan; and, perhaps most significantly, in light of his subsequent career as a director, Jerry Cicorritii’s The Life Before This (1999) and Blood (2004). On The Life Before This, Tierney met actress Emily Hampshire, who would appear in all three of his feature films to date.

In 2002, Tierney wrote and directed the short film Dad, and the following year wrote and directed his first feature film, Twist, which transplanted Charles Dickens’ seminal novel to Toronto’s male hustler scene. Bleak, realist and deeply engrossing, Twist was hailed by Telefilm Canada as an example of what could be done on a nominal budget. Twist featured a stellar cast, including Nick Stahl as Dodge, Gary Farmer as Fagin, Stephen McHattie as a suspect john, and Joshua Close as Oliver (who’s escaped from a very troubled home). Tierney and Ron Proulx won a Genie for best song.

Tierney spent the next few years trying to secure funding for several projects. Unsuccessful, he revised an old script about a deluded, obsessed teenager who believes himself to be the reincarnation of fabled Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The result, The Trotsky (2009), starred Jay Baruchel as Leon Bronstein, the son of a well-off garment manufacturer (Saul Rubinek) who is transferred to a public school as punishment for encouraging his father’s employees to go on strike. At his new school, Leon runs afoul of the crusty principal (Colm Feore) after demanding a student bill of rights. When he consults aging radical Frank McGovern (Michael Murphy) for legal advice, Leon falls for his daughter Alexandra (Hampshire), who happens to have the same name as Trotsky’s first wife. The Trotsky evokes teen comedies in its conflicts and set-ups, but its frames of reference are radically different, boasting allusions to Ayn Rand, Stalin, and a multitude of revolutionary factions from the Black Panthers to the Sandinistas. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was an audience favourite, and went on to win audience prizes at the Atlantic, Tokyo and Sofia film festivals.

Outspoken, Tierney raised the ire of some Québécois when he remarked in an interview with Montreal’s La Presse in July of 2010 that current films made in Quebec failed to acknowledge the province’s multicultural character. His comments were precipitated by the impending release of his third feature, Good Neighbours (2010), a decidedly off-beat thriller that follows some unusual inhabitants of an apartment building in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood as they deal with a recent rash of brutal and inexplicable murders.

The three principal characters are Louise (Hampshire), a vaguely misanthropic waitress who prefers solitude and her cat over the company of other human beings, and has become increasingly obsessed with the killings; her only apparent friend, Spencer (Scott Speedman), a sardonic, caustic widower who’s confined to a wheelchair; and newcomer, neophyte teacher Victor (Baruchel), who’s so desperate for company he practically proposes to Louise the minute he meets her. Adapting Chrystine Brouillet’s pulp thriller for the screen, Tierney transplanted the setting to the 1995 Quebec referendum, a decision which foregrounds the characters’ general navel-gazing and their lack of interest in other people.

Part perverse thriller, part sinister comedy, Good Neighbours mashes genres much like The Trotsky, but it also clarifies Tierney’s major subject of concern. All three of his features question the depth of anyone’s socialization while exposing how artificial, or possibly untenable, our definitions of normal may be. For most of the hustlers in Twist, for instance, escape to another, more conventional life is practically impossible. The Trotsky proposes a comic variation on this dilemma with Leon, who can’t accept other people’s definition of reality and instead forces them to acknowledge his version. In Good Neighbours, at least two of the main characters are completely uninterested in other people, if not outright hostile to them, and the intensity of their rejection calls any commitment to the social order into question.

With three features to his credit, Tierney has established himself as one of English Canada’s most consistently intriguing filmmakers.

Film and video work includes

Obsessed, 1987 (actor; TV)
Ford: The Man and the Machine, 1987 (actor; TV)
Horses in Winter, 1988 (actor)
Extra! Extra! Series, 1988 (actor; TV)
Pin: A Plastic Nightmare, 1988 (actor)
Mindfield, 1989 (actor)
The Jeweller’s Shop, 1989 (actor)
Nathaël and the Seal Hunt, 1990 (voice)
Dracula: The Series series, 1990-1991 (actor; TV, 21 episodes)
Are You Afraid of the Dark series, 1991-1992 (actor; TV, 13 episodes)
Josh & S.A.M., 1993 (actor)
TekWar: TekJustice, 1994 (actor; TV)
The Little Lulu Show series, 1995 (actor; TV)
Rainbow, 1995 (actor)
The Neon Bible, 1995 (actor)
Princess Sissi series, 1997 (voice; TV)
Whiskers, 1997 (actor; TV)
Motel, 1998 (actor)
This is My Father, 1998 (actor)
Dead End, 1998 (actor)
You Can Thank Me Later, 1999 (actor)
The Life Before This, 1999 (actor)
The Hunger series, 1999 (actor; TV, one episode)
Big Wolf on Campus series, 1999-2000 (actor; TV, two episodes)
Poor White Trash, 2000 (actor)
Touched by an Angel series, 2000 (actor; TV, one episode)
A Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000 (actor; TV)
The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, 2002 (actor; TV)
Dad, 2002 (director; co-writer with Tygh Runyan; actor)
Twist, 2003 (director; writer; executive producer)
False Pretenses, 2004 (actor; TV)
Trouser Accidents, 2004 (actor)
Blood, 2004 (actor)
Murder in the Hamptons, 2005 (actor; TV)
Slings & Arrows series, 2005 (actor; TV, two episodes)
Walk All Over Me, 2007 (actor)
St. Urbain’s Horseman mini-series, 2007 (actor; TV)
The Trotsky, 2009 (director; writer; producer)
Good Neighbours (a.k.a. Notre-Dame-de-Grace) 2010 (director; writer; producer)
French Immersion, 2011 (actor)

By: Steve Gravestock