Olivia Chow Visits Winnipeg Set of Jack Layton Biopic

The widow of late NDP leader Jack Layton was in Winnipeg Sunday to visit the film set where a biopic on her husband’s life is being shot.

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Olivia Chow was at the Manitoba legislature to oversee work on “Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story.” The NDP MP even offered up some tips to help producers shape a true portrayal of her late husband, played by actor Rick Roberts.

“I know his mannerisms quite well, so I was able to give a few pointers,” Chow said. “And because I’m familiar with (news) scrums, the journalist was way too polite. Remember this was just as the election was about to be called — journalists are very polite people, but not at that kind of scrum, so I was able to give some opinion.”

Sunday’s shoot was set in the House of Commons, where mock journalists — and some real ones like local Brian Yasui — questioned Layton’s health.

Chow herself is being portrayed in the movie by actress Sook-Yin Lee, whom she’s spent time with in shaping the story.

Some of Layton’s personal belongings will even make an appearance in the film.

“I lent them (the producers) Jack’s cane, the clothing, the guitars, ties and suits, and whatever they wanted,” Chow said.

Production moves to a hospital scene today as the late NDP leader began to experience health issues. Chow said she isn’t sure how she will be able to handle the reenactment of an ailing Layton, saying it could be difficult to be on set.

“Some parts of it are painful — others are joyous. Rumour has it that there’s some hot and heavy scenes that they won’t bring me on set for, but I’ll wait and see what happens.”

The film is being produced by Pier 21 Films and Eagle Vision Inc. and will air on the CBC next year.

Crews are shooting in Winnipeg until August 28.

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