Director Adriana Maggs delves deep into her emotional and stirring portrait of the pain and passion of hockey legend Terry Sawchuk
Adriana Maggs is what folks in the entertainment industry world call a multi-threat.
Occasional actor, director, writer and producer, Maggs has clocked considerable hours across film and television sets across the nation, working on high profile projects including Caught, Aftermath, Rookie Blue, Little Dog, Burden of Truth, Hatching, Matching and Dispatching and her directorial debut, the acclaimed Grown Up Movie Star.
A Family Dynamic
But for her latest project, there’s a family dynamic that hits close to home.
Adriana and her sister Jane Maggs (creator of the hit series Bellevue) co-wrote the script for the stirring sports biopic Goalie, a deep dive into the life and highs and lows of legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk, based in part on the acclaimed book of poetry Night Work by their father, the legendary Randall Maggs. You could say that creative gene runs in the family.
“I didn’t know that it would ever happen,” shared Maggs, who directed the film starring Newfoundland’s own Mark O’Brien. “My dad’s book came out and my sister and I loved it and we wanted to do something. It’s partly that hockey is so big in my family … We were raised with hockey our whole lives. We adapted the story and we just didn’t know if it would ever happen.”
Maggs shared that the rising star in O’Brien was the early choice to tackle the weighty role of Sawchuk. As his stock grew with roles in Arrival, Bad Times at El Royale and The Last Tycoon, his emergence as a quality leading man became all the more plausible.
“We always loved Mark,” Maggs admits. “Mark was in my first film I ever did (Grown Up Movie Star) and was in my sister’s first play in Toronto. We always had him in mind and his star kept rising and rising and it just came together and was perfect.”
The game of hockey has seemingly always been intertwined in the Maggs household. Her father Randall was quite the prospect, though it was Uncle Darryl Maggs who would become the star on the ice, suiting up for 135 games in the National Hockey League, including stints for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.
So the pedigree and interest are there for Maggs, but Goalie is no ordinary, paint-by-numbers hockey story. It is dark, at times soberingly so, and an intimate portrait on the highs and lows of an elite athlete at a particularly curious time in the sport’s history.
It’s all there, in gritty detail, and was signed off on with the adamant approval of Sawchuk’s surviving family.
“We were very fortunate that (Sawchuk’s) family supported the story being told in that way, that they don’t just want the triumphant sort of story,” Maggs explained. “They were very clear that they wanted it to be truthful to everything. We were very happy that we made something that they were ok with, supportive of and they liked. It could have gone the other way.”
‘Goalie Goes First’
The film tackles Sawchuk’s at times turbulent life and career with a steady hand and vision, not shying away from the uglier side of a man held in almost reverence when discussions turn to the greatest net-minder of all time. The idea that ‘the goalie goes first’ is something echoed throughout the film, an overarching allegory that threads from Randall Park’s poetry, to his daughters script and the cutting portrait on screen from the ever-talented O’Brien.
“I think dad’s book was really beautiful in the way that it dealt with mortality and being on the top of the game and all of a sudden not being there and maybe not even enjoying it while you’re there,” Maggs said. “You’ve got the gift, you were chosen and it can be hard probably, especially without a mask.
“It is a biopic but it’s not,” she adds. “It’s also dealing with stories and themes and his vulnerability and what he was like as a man, with his family and his wife.”
O’Brien stars alongside his real-life wife Georgina Reilly, who played Sawchuk’s wife Pat in the film.
“There was a place for his family in there. We kind of wanted to play around with how his team became his family, and maybe he had too much hurt and rejection to even be comfortable in his own family, with his wife. We had Georgina, who just played the hell out of that role. We were very lucky.”
In addressing her varied path through the world of film and television, Maggs shares her enthusiasm for the opportunities she’s been afforded, which allow her freedom to create within the lines, or paint freehand if she so chooses.
“I love it on a case by case basis. I feel like I’m lucky enough to get offered really exciting work or I’ll make my own. I’m crazy about anything I’m doing whenever I’m doing it, whether that’s writing or directing. I do love directing, because then you’re in control of everything. I kind of love everything while I’m doing it. Movies are very freeing where you kind of get your own voice, whereas tv there is a lot more collaboration, but I love that too.”
Father the poet, sister the screenwriter, brother the emerging author and artistic director. It’s a family with talent to spare. Adriana Maggs chuckles reflecting on opportunities in the rear view and ahead. “We’ll ride it as long as it lasts,” she says.