15 surprising facts about Canadian celebs that you probably didn’t know – National

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Plenty of Hollywood’s biggest talents first called Canada home, and it’s no secret that we as Canadians are always rooting for our hometown celebs.

And while many of us feel a connection to these big name actors and musicians, there’s often a lot we’ll never know about them due to lengths many celebrities go to keep their private lives out of the press.

So, it’s exciting when a Canadian A-lister pulls back the curtain and gives us a funny or interesting fact from their life before they made it big.

In honour of Canada Day, and in the spirit of sharing, we’ve dug up some little-known facts from some of our country’s biggest names in Hollywood.

1. Sandra Oh stood out by laying down

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Before her success on Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra Oh was just another young face in an audition room. However, the Nepean, Ont., actor earned her first big role and stood out from the crowd by laying down.

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When Oh, 52, auditioned for the titular role in The Diary of Evelyn Lau, she asked director Sturla Gunnarsson for a moment to centre herself — by laying flat on the floor for five minutes.

“I thought it was remarkable that at 19 she had the confidence — and audacity — to do that,” Gunnarsson said of the young actor, who was competing with over 1,000 other girls for the part.

Oh would end up winning the role of Evelyn Lau, and would go on to score a Gemini Award nomination.

2. Tommy Chong helped sign the Jackson 5

Chris Young / The Canadian Press

Today, most know Tommy Chong as one-half of the comedy stoner duo, Cheech and Chong — but before that, Chong waxed musically with some of Motown’s greatest talents.

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The Edmonton-born actor was once the guitarist and songwriter for the band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. The group was best known for their song Does Your Mama Know About Me, which was co-written by Chong, now 86.

In his 2009 book Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Biography, Chong said he met the Jackson 5 during a Chicago show in 1967. The Jackson siblings had yet to be signed to Motown Records, but were invited onto the label by Bobby Taylor.

Chong said Joe Jackson, father of the Jackson 5 members, had him review the Jackson 5 contract with Motown Records. Chong encouraged Jackson to have his sons sign the contract, thereby playing a small role in launching the Jackson 5 — and later the Prince of Pop, Michael Jackson — into superstardom.

3. Drake’s uncle played bass for Prince

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press

Drake may be one of the best-known Canadian celebrities, but he’s not the only member of his family to possess a special musical talent. Drake’s uncle, Larry Graham, played bass for the band Sly and the Family Stone — and even worked extensively with Prince.

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Graham and Prince collaborated on several occasions, and together produced the album GCS 2000 by the band Graham Central Station.

Graham Central Station, for which Graham played the bass, opened for Prince on his “Welcome 2 America” tour in 2011.

Also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Graham is often credited with the invention of the slapping technique on the electric bass guitar.

4. Céline Dion won the Eurovision Song Contest… for Switzerland

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In Canada, we don’t pay much attention to the annual Eurovision Song Contest, but across the pond it’s a pretty big deal.

So, not only was it huge when Quebec’s own Céline Dion won the competition in 1988, beating out the runner up by just one point, but it helped propel the chanteuse to new heights in her career.

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The competition involves various European countries sending a musical act to perform an original song, and smart-thinking Switzerland chose Dion to perform their submitted entry — a French-language power ballad titled Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Don’t Leave Without Me.)

Europeans who tuned in at the time remember the 1988 competition as one of the most exciting voting sequences in Eurovision history and Dion has said she is grateful to have had the opportunity, as it introduced millions of viewers to her outstanding vocals and captivating stage presence.

5. Ryan Gosling was suspended from elementary school for throwing knives

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Ryan Gosling might come across as a cool, collected and laid-back actor, but it sounds like his childhood was a little wild.

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In 2011, he shared with Company magazine that he was introduced to the 1982 movie First Blood when he was in Grade One and really identified with Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo.

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“When I first saw Rambo, that movie put a kind of spell on me and I actually thought I was Rambo,” he said. “So much so that one day, I took a bunch of steak knives to school and threw them around at recess time because I thought we were in the movie.”

Gosling said he learned his lesson after the dangerous stunt — not only was he suspended, but his mom told him he wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies anymore.

6. Ryan Reynolds failed drama class

Charles Krupa / The Associated Press

Ryan Reynolds might be one of the wittiest guys in the acting biz, but he admits he wasn’t always such a winner — especially in high school.

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In the past, the Deadpool actor admitted to being suspended from his Vancouver high school after he stole a teacher’s car. At one point, he also flunked math.

However, one of Reynold’s admissions proves that high school achievements or failures aren’t necessarily a determinant for how your life will turn out. Despite failing his high school drama class, he went on to become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand stars.

7. Keanu Reeves went from Speed to Winnipeg Shakespeare

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Hot off the heels of starring in the mega box office blockbuster Speed, Keanu Reeves made a surprising next move — he hightailed it to Winnipeg to take on the titular role in a stage production of Hamlet.

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An up-and-coming actor at the time, Reeve’s performance in the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s 1995 production was a big draw for locals and the show sold out every night of its run.

In a review of the show, Maclean’s theatre critic wrote “although he was out of his depth in the big swatches of text, Reeves proved adept in the comic scenes,” and that he “commands the stage with acrobatic finesse, leaping and rolling like a true action hero,” during the play’s action scenes.

Apparently, the theatre was overrun with young women eager to get Reeve’s autograph after each show, to which he obliged and patiently signed signatures each night.

8. Matthew Perry made up that funny speech inflection as a kid

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The late Matthew Perry will forever be tied to Chandler Bing, the sarcastic but big-hearted character he became so well known for playing on Friends.

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His character’s unique speech patterns were something Perry himself played around with since he was a kid – he and his friends used to toy with emphasis when they were at school, creating an altered way of speaking that amused them to no end.

“Could it be any colder?” or “Could you be any more annoying?” they’d ask each other – an emphasis that became synonymous with Bing and bled into our everyday language, to the point it is now referred to as “Chandler-speak.”

“It was as if someone had followed me around for a year, stealing my jokes, copying my mannerisms, photocopying my world-weary yet witty view of life,” Perry wrote in his memoir about auditioning for the part. “It wasn’t that I thought I could play Chandler. I was Chandler.”

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9. Rachel McAdams worked at McDonalds, but was a bad employee

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Like many young kids, Rachel McAdams worked at McDonald’s as one of her first jobs, but the fast food giant isn’t likely to want her back behind the counter any time soon.

“(I worked there) for a good three years,” she told Glamour magazine. “I was not a great employee; I broke the orange juice machine one day.”

She also said she was a bit of a germaphobe when she started working at the restaurant and her obsessive hand washing would keep customers waiting.

“They were like, ‘Hey, the drive-thru’s backing up. Stop washing your hands!’”

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#RachelMcAdams talks about her love for @mcdonalds and the determination she had to land a role in the cultclassic, MeanGirls. #reginageorge #film

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Despite being a bad employee, McAdams says she still loves McDonald’s food.

10. Will Arnett is one of Conan O’Brien’s favourites

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Will Arnett is a super funny Canuck with a rich, baritone voice; two traits that make him a great person to interview, according to Conan O’Brien.

The late night show host-turned-podcaster thinks the Arrested Development alum is so great, in fact, that he’s listed him in his top three guests of all time.

Seems as though O’Brien might have a penchant for Canadian comedians, though — the other two top guests chosen by him and his writing staff include the late Norm MacDonald and Half Baked funnyman Harland Williams.

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11. Nina Dobrev is extremely flexible… and had a shot at the Olympics

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A young Nina Dobrev faced a fork in the road when mapping out her career plans, having to decide whether she wanted to pursue a career in Hollywood or double down on trying to make the Olympics.

The Vampire Diaries star grew up honing her skills in the gymnasium six days a week and had the Olympics in her sights, when she decided to follow her dream of acting, instead; a choice she said came down to longevity.

“It got to the point where I had to decide what I wanted to do: continue training for this and maybe go to the Olympics one day and make that my life until I’m 20 and then retire, or try to figure out acting, which is also very scary and unreliable and a lot of people don’t find success in it,” Dobrev said in 2015.

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To this day, though, Dobrev has held onto a lot of what she learned on the mat and remains wildly flexible.

12. John Candy filmed Home Alone for almost 24 hours straight

John Candy

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Every holiday season, John Candy is remembered as the fictional “Polka King of the Midwest,” Gus Polinski.

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According to director Chris Columbus, the Toronto-born actor improvised most of his iconic cameo in Home Alone — and he had only one day to shoot his part. Columbus said most of Candy’s lines were not in the script, and were made-up by the comedian in the early hours of the morning.

Candy, who appeared in the film as a favour to screenwriter John Hughes, was reportedly paid only US$414 for the cameo. Columbus said Candy was bitter about the pay up until his death in 1994.

13. Pamela Anderson’s CFL Jumbotron big break

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Before Pamela Anderson donned her iconic, red Baywatch swimsuit, she got her start at a B.C. Lions football game in 1989.

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Anderson, born in Ladysmith, B.C., attended a game at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver with a group of friends when she was by chance broadcasted to the Jumbotron — and to viewers at home. She was wearing a Labatt Blue T-shirt, allegedly prompting a flood of inquiries to the company, which would later use Anderson in the famous ‘Blue Zone Girl’ campaign.

From there, Anderson’s career in the entertainment world took off, making her one of the most famous faces of the 1990s.

14. Michael Cera and the Pillsbury Doughboy

Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

Michael Cera has been repping the dry, Canadian sense of humour in Hollywood for decades now. But before that, Cera, who was born in Brampton, Ont., starred in a creepy ’90s commercial for Pillsbury cookie dough.

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In the ad, the would-be Superbad star molds a lump of cookie dough with his hands, only to have the uncooked dough evolve into a crudely animated, table-sized monster. The monster is defeated by the pot bellied Pillsbury mascot and is turned into cookies, which a young Cera, naturally, chows down on.

Bonus: Cera was also the voice of Brother Bear in the first two seasons of the children’s TV series Berenstain Bears in 2003.

15. Seth Rogen and Ceph Rogen

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In 2018, the Vancouver Aquarium chose to honour hometown hero Seth Rogen with a very special privilege: a Giant Pacific octopus named after the actor.

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The aquarium’s cephalopod was appropriately named Ceph Rogan after the suggestion dominated an online poll, scoring more than 90 per cent of the vote — and Rogen’s enthusiastic approval.

Ceph Rogen, the Vancouver Aquarium’s eight-armed resident.

Vancouver Aquarium

Though Rogen and the octopus were hardly i-tentacle, Ceph Rogen was brought to the aquarium as part of the facility’s “cephalopod-in-residence” program, which rehabilitated octopuses for release back into the wild before sexual maturity, allowing them to repopulate.

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