TORONTO – Montreal director Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World” and Space’s human cloning series “Orphan Black” emerged Sunday as this year’s big Canadian Screen Awards winners.
Including awards handed out before the televised gala, “Orphan Black” nabbed nine trophies. It won best dramatic series and best lead actress in a dramatic role for star Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple clones in the sci-fi show, all with different personalities and accents.
“It’s been such an amazing journey, this show, for me. I’ve really grown up on it. It’s been a huge responsibility and a huge privilege and I’ve made a family on it that I’m going to miss so much,” she said backstage, referring to the show’s final upcoming season.
“We’re saying bye to characters every day and that’s just devastating.”
Maslany won another trophy for another project on Sunday — best actress for the film “The Other Half.” That honour had her teary eyed as she thanked her “other half,” her boyfriend Tom Cullen, who’s also the film’s co-star/executive producer.
Dolan’s French-language drama won six trophies, including best picture and best director. Organizers said Dolan was shooting in Paris and was unable to attend. The film, about a dying writer who returns home to his estranged family, recently won three Cesar Awards — which are often nicknamed the “French Oscars” — including a best director nod for Dolan.
Toronto-born “America’s Got Talent” judge Howie Mandel got playful with the crowd as he hosted the show, which aired on CBC from Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
In a pre-taped opening bit, Mandel joked that he had created an Oscars-inspired montage of top nominees on his laptop, which turned out to include himself digitally inserted — badly — into the likes of “Vikings” and “Kim’s Convenience.”
He also riffed on how the awards show doesn’t have a good nickname, although others have suggested the Screenies or the Candys, after the late Canadian actor John Candy.
“I know other hosts have been talking about naming it, I want to name it. What is it for?” Mandel said, adding the awards honour the best in Canadian film, television and digital work.
“So what is it? Screen, television, digital. This will go viral — it’s an STD.
“How many of you are going to go home tonight with an STD?”
The tuxedo-clad Mandel often went into the audience to do improvised bits with guests including Dave Chappelle, who presented the Icon Award to the homegrown comedy brand Just for Laughs.
“You guys have a national treasure here — you sincerely do,” said Chappelle.
“I had never been to Canada before I came to the festival and it was more than I had ever dreamed of. It was close to America geographically and close to America culturally, except kinder and gentler, like a little gay brother I didn’t know we had.”
Among the other big winners on the last of several nights of awards was the Jesse Owens biopic “Race,” which won four trophies, including best actor for Toronto’s Stephan James.
“Nothing gives me more joy than to see young people coming up to me and tell me ‘Hey, you’re Jesse,'” he said, noting he’s thrilled to introduce them to a story they haven’t seen before.
“Eighty years later I bring this guy back to life and it’s been really the greatest honour of my career to portray him.”
On the TV side, CBC’s live concert special “The Tragically Hip — A National Celebration” ended up with six awards. Many expect the band’s televised hometown concert could end up being their last-ever show as lead singer Gord Downie continues to fight terminal brain cancer.
“This past year has been a difficult and emotional one, for all of us, but there’s been some joy and inspiration in it as well,” said guitarist Paul Langlois, in accepting the award for best performance in a variety or sketch comedy program.
“The tour we did last summer was tough for all of us to do for obvious reasons, especially that last show of the tour in Kingston, which was broadcast, was particularly difficult to get up for. Fortunately when we hit the stage that all fell away and it was a unique night and there were a lot of feelings circulating out there — kindness, empathy, sadness, hope, celebration and love, a sense of community, maybe for some even a shared sense of Canadianness.
“I just want to share with everyone who watched that night that none of it was lost on us.”
The CBC’s Korean-Canadian shop-owner comedy “Kim’s Convenience” wound up with four awards, including an acting honour for star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.
“I have to say that I am an immigrant and I am a Canadian and in this weird sort of political time a portrayal of an immigrant family on a national broadcaster, doing what all families do — which is try to make a life for themselves, through the laughter, through the tears, through the fights, through the love — is so much more important now than ever before,” he said.
“Because it normalizes us and it shows other people that, you know what, we might have some cultural differences but deep down inside, when it comes to family, we are all the same. And that our strength has been and always will be diversity in this country. And I’ve never been more proud to be a Canadian than right now.”
Another highlight of the show was Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer accepting a lifetime achievement award — in self-deprecating style.
“Quite obviously the awards committee used my name out of pity: ‘You better give it to him now before he croaks,'” he said. “And they’re absolutely right, I mean, I’m old. Dangerously old! I’m so old that when I was a baby the first word I uttered was in Latin.
“I’ve spent almost 70 years making a fool of myself in this crazy, mad profession of ours and I’ve had the time of my life,” he continued.
“By no means is this the end, the curtain has not yet fallen. It’s simply stuck.”