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Matt Johnson And Jay Baruchel Discuss Making A Uniquely Canadian Film With BlackBerry - Exclusive

As a nation, Canada isn't one to trumpet their successes. Many people might not even realize that one of the most influential tech products in history — the BlackBerry, which created an entirely new understanding of what a cellphone could be — actually got its start in the Great White North. Matt Johnson's latest film, "BlackBerry," starring Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Cary Elwes, and Johnson himself, details the meteoric rise of Research in Motion, the company that first developed the BlackBerry as a way to combine the cellphone, pager, and computer into one device. 

In the film, although the BlackBerry is an instant success, founders Mike Lazaridis (Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Johnson) struggle to execute their vision for the product and the company at large without sacrificing their ideals along the way. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Matt Johnson and Jay Baruchel (native sons of Canada) discussed their approach to bringing to life such a distinctly Canadian story.

Baruchel's reason for joining the project

When asked what about the script stood out to him and made him want to join the project, Jay Baruchel was quick to note his desire to work with Matt Johnson. But he was also drawn to the story, calling it "a definitively Canadian morality tale that is also global — this little company in Waterloo that ended up basically setting the stage for the world as we know it in a pretty profound way." He also admitted that prior to reading the script, he hadn't even realized it was a Canadian company. 

Johnson commented on this lack of public knowledge about the BlackBerry story as one of the reasons he felt it was such an exciting opportunity, saying, "Because nobody knew anything about BlackBerry, this was a perfect canvas to tell a story that was going to make people go, 'Whoa, I can't believe that happened.'"

The pressure to represent

Although Matt Johnson was aware that with this project, he was going to be bringing to life an undertold Canadian tech story, he didn't feel pressure to assert its Canadianness. Rather than making it "kitschy and cute and funny," he instead thought, "How can we show Canadians — especially the odd multiculturalism that was happening in Waterloo around university towns at this time — in a very accurate way?" Johnson went on to explain that he wanted to "show what Canada was like for me, which was that I didn't know the water I was swimming in." He was in fact wary of trying too hard to make it feel artificially Canadian, saying that it would have "made it too precious."

Jay Baruchel discussed what he considers to be a trend in filmmaking, where Canadians feel the need to "pre-censor" themselves, "as if there's such a thing as being prohibitively f***ing Canadian." Johnson described a moment during production when he had initially included a title card that showed the location as "Waterloo, Canada," and Baruchel pushed back against the idea, saying that it should be "Waterloo, Ontario." Although Johnson was concerned that people wouldn't know that Ontario was in Canada, Baruchel had a simple response: "F*** them." He went on to argue, "It's nonsense. You'd never put 'New York, America.' How f***ing dumb would that look? It would look insane."

A release date for "BlackBerry" has not yet been announced.