Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart

The Terry Fox Story

(Terry Fox le coureur de l’espoir)

Year: 1983
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 97 min
Director: Ralph Thomas
Producer: Robert Cooper
Executive Producer: Gurston Rosenfeld, Michael Levine
Writer: Edward Hume, John Kastner, Rose Kastner
Cinematographer: Richard Ciupka
Editor: Ron Wisman
Sound: Bruce Carwardine
Music: Bill Conti
Cast: Michael Zelniker, R Thomson, Chris Makepeace, Robert Duvall, Eric Fryer, Rosalind Chao, Elva Hoover, Frank Adamson, Marie McCann, Saul Rubinek
Production Company: Robert Cooper Films II Inc.

The Terry Fox Story follows the now-familiar experiences of Terry Fox (Eric Fryer), from the day he learns he has cancer to the abrupt end of his Marathon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he discovers he has a new tumour and is sent back home to British Columbia. The film primarily revolves around his relationships with the people closest to him: brother Darrell (Chris Makepeace), mother Betty (Elva Mai Hoover), girlfriend Rika (Rosalind Chao), Ontario Cancer Society representative Bill Vigars (Robert Duvall), and Doug Alward (Michael Zelniker), his best friend and driver of the support van during the run.

The first feature film ever produced for HBO, this popular account of Fox and his courageous cross-country run is far less sentimental than might be expected. Rather than soften or smooth over Fox’s character, the filmmakers show enough respect to Fox and his legacy to portray him as the young man he was: an abrasive, intensely competitive, emotional volcano fuelled more by rage over the loss of his leg than by altruism for a charitable cause. Wisely choosing to depict him as a real person rather than a saint also allows writer Edward Hume and director Ralph Thomas to make Fox’s growing self-awareness a central strand of the narrative.

Utilizing many of the skills he developed while working on television docudramas, Thomas’s vision of the Canadian landscape and myth is a powerful one. Eric Fryer (who, like Fox, lost his leg to cancer) gives an admirable performance in his first role and is not afraid to shy away from the unpleasant aspects of Fox’s character. Thomas wisely surrounds the newcomer with veteran pros like Robert Duvall and captures the heroics of the story with striking images such as Fryer pounding down stretches of mind-numbingly lonely, empty highway.

The Terry Fox Story was nominated for eight Genie Awards and won six: in addition to claiming prizes for Film Editing, Overall Sound and Sound Editing, the film was named Best Picture, while Fryer (Lead Actor) and Michael Zelniker (Supporting Actor) both scooped acting prizes.