Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, dead at 92, remembered as 'a true renaissance man'
Countless tributes poured in for adored Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent on Sunday, with friends and fans recalling his playful humour and creative spirit.
The Newfoundland native and award-winning star of the film “Away From Her" died Saturday at age 92.
Admirers from actors and directors to politicians and everyday Canadians mourned and honoured Pinsent in the wake of his passing, calling him a national treasure, a charming storyteller and an icon of the arts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him "one of the country’s most prolific and beloved actors," noting his more than six-decade-long career saw him amass credits on the likes of "The Forest Rangers," "The Red Green Show," "Street Legal" and "the Republic of Doyle."
“He won every major acting prize in the country, including two ACTRA awards, three Genie awards, five Gemini awards, and a Dora Mavor Moore award," Trudeau said.
“Mr. Pinsent loved his province and his country deeply," he said. "He entertained millions around the world and inspired us to say ‘yes’ to doing the things we love and to pursuing our dreams. On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and his many fans.”
Pinsent's family issued a statement thanking everyone for their support in a difficult time.
"A memorial is planned for spring when the lilacs are in bloom," the statement said. "In lieu of flowers, in Gordon's name, please donate to the charity of your choice."
Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley, who directed the 2006 drama “Away From Her" in which Pinsent turned in his best-known and most highly acclaimed performance, said he had "an enormous capacity for joy in absolutely everything he did."
"It was infectious and educational," she said on Twitter. "There wasn’t a moment without a twinkle of mischief and a determination to enjoy the moment."
Comedian and fellow Newfoundlander Rick Mercer said Pinsent was "a true renaissance man," adding the actor, writer, director, painter and one-time dance instructor was the "epitome of class and one hell of a funny guy."
Similar reflections came from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey.
"He made us laugh. He made us cry. He brought our province to the world stage. He represented us in a way like no other," he said on Twitter. "Thank you, Gordon Pinsent, for all you did for the arts, for Newfoundland and Labrador, and for our country.”
Meanwhile, tales of Pinsent's charm and likeability flooded social media.
Jonathan Torrens of Trailer Park Boys and Street Cents fame recounted an amusing story from the filming of “The Shipping News,” a major Hollywood production starring Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett.
When the film was being shot in Newfoundland, “so the story goes, Kevin Spacey arrived in town with several security guards in tow,” he said on Twitter.
“If you’ve ever been to Newfoundland, you would know that the people there wouldn’t care who he was,” Torrens said. “They would care more about what he was.”
Most of the guards were sent home, and eventually a barricade set up to keep “curious people away” was taken down, he said.
“What they didn’t see coming was that people would walk onto the set right past Kevin Spacey and over to Gordon Pinsent,” Torrens said. “The real star of the movie. A local boy. Who remembered everyone’s name and kept disappearing to play crib and have a cuppa with locals. Legend.”
He added: “No one can ever act as well as Mr. Pinsent but we should all aspire to act like him. A true gentleman and Canadian star if ever there was one.”
Meanwhile, others offered reflections on Pinsent’s kind heart, cheerful nature and immense contributions to the arts.
Canadian-American actor Kim Coates called Pinsent a legend and a "true red-blooded proud Canadian" who was adored the world over.
Canadian director Stephen Dunn, also from Newfoundland, said Pinsent "paved the way for all of us working in entertainment."
"He was my hero. My friend. My family. And easily the funniest man on earth," Dunn, creator of the Queer As Folk reboot, said on Twitter. "Eternally grateful to have known you."
Canadian film critic Richard Crouse said he was in awe of Pinsent’s talent and even more so his “ability to be a true gentlemen, always ready with a story and a laugh.”
“Everything you've heard about him is true, he was one of a kind,” he said on Twitter.
Even Canadians that had never met Pinsent offered short but heartfelt eulogies on social media, like one Twitter user who simply said: "I didn't know Gordon Pinsent but it sure feels like we've been friends my entire life."
Another said Pinsent "was considered almost god-like in our home." Others shared clips of some of his funniest, most well-known and what some viewed as his most underappreciated work.
"Did you know that Gordon Pinsent was the voice of King Babar?" musician Morgan Cameron Ross said on Twitter, referring to CBC's animated television show Babar.
Sen. Pamela Wallin said Gordon Pinsent had this motto on his fridge for years: "Leap and the net will be there."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2023.
Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press