The Canadian Film Industry’s Intertwining with Poker

Canadian actors and Canadian-made movies have often crossed paths and shared parallels with poker, especially as it becomes increasingly popular both in Canada and around the World. The world of online poker for real money is easily accessible now as you can play online poker for real money here if you live in Canada, so it’s only natural that the world of cinema will start to incorporate this into their plots. 

Let’s take a look at some of the more notable examples in recent history.

Michael Cera’s Role in Molly’s Game

Molly’s Game is a feature-length film depicting the real-life story of Molly Bloom. In the film, Michael Cera takes the role of Player X who is based on a celebrity who played a lot with Molly. It’s a vintage performance from Cera who plays a villainous role, away from the nerdy personas that made him famous in Super Bad, Arrested Development, and Juno.

Aden Young in Poker Face 2022

There are quite a few films, tv-series and songs by the same name as Poker Face – but here we are referring to the 2022 movie directed by the legendary Russel Crowe. Of course, Crowe isn’t Canadian but Aden Young, one of the stars of the movie is. The 51-year-old Toronto-born actor plays the role of Alex Harris, a guest at a high-stakes poker game that ends up going awry.

Canadian Screenplay for Casino Royale

The 2006 James Bond film has many poker overtures and themes running throughout the movie as Daniel Craig made his 007 debut in this motion picture. The screenplay was constructed by the British pairing of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as the Canadian screenplay specialist, Paul Haggis. The man from Ontario has had a hand in multiple Best Picture Oscar winners including Million Dollar Baby and Crash. After working on this poker-laden Bond film, he was invited back to work on the subsequent 007 instalment, Quantum of Solace.

2011 Documentary: Grinders

In 2011, Matt Gallagher directed a very interesting documentary that delves into the world of illegal poker games as well as the wider world of the card game. Gallagher, the director and star of the film visits nefarious poker venues in downtown Toronto every night to learn more about why these people break the law and play poker. The narrative also touches on other subjects like fatherhood and first-world poverty. Daniel Negreanu, Canada’s most famous pro poker player even makes an appearance in the film. At the time of its release, the production earned critical acclaim as it was nominated for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Direction in a Documentary Program.

Canadian Influence on the Cincinnati Kid

The story arc of The Cincinnati Kid follows the 1960s American depression, based on the novel by the same name in 1963. The story follows a young gambler in New Orleans who is climbing the local gambling ranks. As his reputation grows at the table has to overcome more obstacles as he becomes embroiled in major organised crime syndicates who try to rig games at his expense. There is a distinct Canadian influence on the end product despite the overt American themes. Firstly, the director Norman Jewison was a Canadian who founded the Canadian Film Centre. While his cast for this 1965 production was predominantly from the US, he managed to secure Émile Genest one of his professional acting roles in this project.

Ryan Reynolds in Finder’s Fee

Finder’s Fee might not be the most celebrated drama thriller from the early 2000s but the cast celebrates a rich pedigree with James Earl Jones, Erik Palladino, and Canada’s own, Ryan Reynolds. Ryan is the starring actor here as he plays the role of Quigley. While he and his friends often play poker there are complications with one specific game which this movie encompasses with its narrative. Reynolds isn’t the only Canadian in this film however as he is joined by both Carly Pope and Frances Bay, two Canadians who appear in Finder’s Fee.

Ryan Reynolds as Gerry in Mississippi Grind

14 years after completing work on Finder’s Fee, Ryan Reynolds found himself on another motion picture with a heavy poker storyline. Mississippi Grind puts him alongside Ben Mendelsohn, as the pair play men who are down on their luck. Starting their cross-state adventure as they try to win at various poker tables in Mississippi casinos. Hilariously, Reynolds has said in interviews that he doesn’t know how to play poker or at least at any great level, despite having acted in multiple films featuring the game!

A Very Canadian Set of Cards: Cold Deck

Cold Deck from 2015 is officially attributed as a Canadian film having been directed by the Toronto-born, Zack Bernbaum and featuring multiple actors and actresses from the country. Kjartan Hewit, Jessica Sipos, and Kate Trotter are among the Canadian talent on the show in this 80-minute feature set in Toronto. The music in the film has a claim to fame as Erica Procunier composed the soundtrack, she would become much more famous for her work with CBC in 2021 which has led her to more prominent projects.

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