Toronto actress Alison Pill stars in the new movie Goon: Last of the Enforcers
She chats with us about her latest movie, life as a new mom and her fondest childhood memories of growing up in the Republic of Rathnelly
Image: Courtesy Entertainment One
“I grew up in the Republic of Rathnelly, which is totally a known republic,” actress Alison Pill says and laughs. “It’s not always acknowledged that it’s a republic — but it is.” Since bursting into the collective consciousness back in 2010 with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the Toronto-born thespian has given birth to a baby daughter and, this month returns to the big screen with a hotly anticipated sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers.
Pill began her acting career early. “I started when I was 10,” she says, originally dipping her feet into the industry thanks to books on tape and animation. “I got an agent in Toronto and at the time, because of where the dollar was, there was a ton of production going on in Toronto, and so I just started working,” she says.
Since her formative years in Canada’s pint-sized republic, Pill has acted in a wide variety of movies and TV series, garnering several awards and honours for her work. She received a Gemini nomination for The Pillars of the Earth and a Best Supporting Actress nod from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle for the first Goon movie.
Pill’s most recent project is Goon: Last of the Enforcers, the sequel to the 2011 film. The movies chronicle the story of Doug “the Thug” Glatt — an underachieving bouncer turned semi-pro hockey player, played by Seann William Scott of American Pie — and his ever-supportive wife, Eva, played by Pill. Although Glatt is the tough enforcer of his team, the Halifax Highlanders, he’s also the glue that holds them together and a true softie at heart.
In the second film, Glatt goes head-to-head with an angry rival, Anders Cain (played by Wyatt Russell of Black Mirror’s Playtest episode), and faces the possibility of retirement due to injury, all while building a family and a home with Eva. Throughout the film, Glatt’s team must deal with the challenges the team faces on ice as Eva prepares for motherhood.
Co-written and directed by fellow Canadian Jay Baruchel (who also wrote Goon), the second in the Goon series is full of even more outrageous scenes and slapstick humour than the first film. Think blood, gore and plenty of locker-room jokes. Pill says filming the sequel was an especially unique experience because it was Baruchel’s directorial debut, and the entire cast — which also includes Elisha Cuthbert of 24 and Liev Schreiber of X-Men — was keen to reunite.
“Everybody coming back together to film the second movie was so special, and to be part of Jay’s first directing gig was so exciting,” Pill says. “Having done the first one, we all knew we were going to have a good time.”
Baruchel, who’s known for his roles in films like This Is the End, Knocked Up, and She’s Out of My League, directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the Goon sequel, and also acted as the character of Pat, the foul-mouthed best friend of Glatt. The actor-director pairing made for quite a few on-set anecdotes.
“It was pretty unforgettable watching Jay having to direct while dressed as Pat and finish a scene [with] Seann William Scott and then saying, ‘Cut!’ The combination of him as a writer, director and actor — everything — there were a few moments of multi-hats being worn,” Pill says. “It was great.”
Baruchel’s new gig as director in the Goon sequel wasn’t the only change in production since the first movie. Pill says filming this time around was different because it was shot in Toronto instead of Winnipeg, and the scenes with her and Scott were shot first before the scenes in the hockey arena.
“We kind of did this little domestic family comedy for a couple of weeks and then they all went off and shot a hockey movie,” she says. “The scenes in the house with Seann and me were totally separate from the scenes in the arena with the dudes on skates, who I got to see a little bit, but it was mostly this lovely little family movie that I was doing.”
A cheat sheet to Alison Pill’s most noteworthy roles on the big screen:
- Midnight in Paris: In this Woody Allen flick Pill plays Scott F. Fitzgerald’s luminous wife, Zelda, whom Owen Wilson’s lead character meets while travelling back in time to the 1920s.
- Milk: Gus Van Sant’s noted film portraying the story of gay activist Harvey Milk sees Pill join an all-star cast.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: In this love letter to Toronto that follows Michael Cera’s adventures as Scott Pilgrim, Pill steps into Kim Pine’s shoes.
- Dan in Real Life: This dark comedy, starring Steve Carell as a widower, features Pill as his teenaged daughter, Jane.
- Miss Sloane: Pill is joined by powerhouse actresses Jessica Chastain and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in this recent Golden Globe–nominated thriller.
Pill attended Vaughan Road Academy as a teen, growing up in the aforementioned Republic of Rathnelly, a small area between the Annex and Forest Hill. The area is known for its rich history, tight-knit community and strong sense of fun and rebellion. To wit, back in 1967, the republic seceded from Canada and later corresponded with the office of then prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, asking for a Canadian foreign aid grant to help establish a local playground.
“It’s a neighbourhood that was brought into being by a bunch of hippies, and we had a parade every year and a queen,” Pill says. “It was an amazing place to grow up. Really incredible.”
Pill now lives in Los Angeles, although she tries to get back to Toronto as often as she can. “There’s a lot more production happening in Toronto now. I’ve been able to be up there working for the past three summers, which is amazing because some of the crew I’ve known for 15 years.” Pill says. “It’s always a welcoming, fun experience to be back.”
When she does get to Toronto, one of her favourite dining destinations is Fresh. New mom Pill says she has eased up on being fully vegan since giving birth, but the vegetarian and vegan restaurant is still one of her non-negotiable local go-tos. “Fresh is a must! I always, always eat there when I come to Toronto — multiple times, all the time,” she says.
Although Pill is undoubtedly a talented actress, one of her most admirable qualities is her charitable efforts. The actress recently posted an image to Instagram of her posing with an array of brown paper bag lunches, with the goal of helping the homeless, foster community and “make the world a little less mean,” as she puts it.
Pill is now up for a spot of respite, taking time to focus on her toughest job yet: motherhood. She and husband Joshua Leonard — a writer, actor and director — recently welcomed their daughter, Wilder, into the world, and Pill says she’s focusing on parenting for now before work starts up again.
“I have a couple things coming up in the spring and summer, but nothing is official yet. Right now is baby time,” she says. “Trying to keep the baby from dying — that’s my main parental goal for the first year. Make sure she’s eating, sleeping and not dying!”