TORONTO – James Cromwell decides to sing an Irish ballad in the midst of talking about some upcoming projects.
The veteran actor — impossibly tall and possessed of a terrific singing voice — came through Toronto recently to promote Still Mine, an exquisite film that stars Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. The film is about a man who challenges city hall out of love for his beloved wife, and it has already won Cromwell a Canadian Screen Award for best actor.
“It hit me like a bolt!” says the Oscar-nominated Cromwell of the award, and he cheerfully points out that it’s his very first such prize in a 40-year career.
Still Mine is based on the real-life experiences of a New Brunswick master builder who tries to put up a new house for his ailing wife and does not understand why he needs permits. He crosses swords with the bureaucrats at city hall. Cromwell plays his curmudgeonly character with relish.
Still Mine is a film about doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe in, so it’s a project right up Cromwell’s alley — the actor has been known to turn up at animal rights and environmental protests and has been arrested for same.
Cromwell is the son of director John Cromwell, and like both his parents, began his career in the theatre. Over four decades, his film and TV credits are quite extraordinary — he’s been in everything. On the film front alone the list includes Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile, Star Trek: First Contact and The Artist.
His next film is The Trials of Cate McCall. His more recent TV appearances include Boardwalk Empire and American Horror Story. At 73, he’s working all the time.
Will he finally retire to his books and his garden?
“Nah — I’m having too much fun,” he says.
“I’m a very late bloomer,” Cromwell says of himself and his career. “I was late to mature, I was late to succeed and late getting to the work of older age, which is to come to terms spiritually with whatever this thing is we call life — to make some sense out of it, if possible, and to come to an agreement with it, to jettison the regrets, and pass calmly into whatever comes next. I’ve been incredibly fortunate,” he adds. “In every way.”