CBC commissions Howe and Layton biopics

The life stories of heroes of Canadian hockey and politics plus a tale of murder in small-town Quebec from the pen of an award-winning Canadian author are coming to CBC Television, with the commissioning of three new films announced today at the Banff World Media Festival.

Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story, Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story and Still Life, based on the novel by internationally best-selling author Louise Penny, have been green-lighted by the public broadcaster at the annual showcase event in Alberta, underscoring CBC’s commitment to Canadian film and TV production.

Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story (Brightlight Pictures/Nutmeg Entertainment) is the story of the greatest comeback in sports history. At age 45, Gordie Howe, reluctantly retired from the NHL, comes back to play professional hockey with his two sons, 18- and 19-years old. Howe’s comeback was labelled the biggest publicity stunt in hockey history and critics doubted his skills, given his deteriorating health. But for a father, it was merely the opportunity to play hockey with his boys. Keeping them all together was Colleen Howe: wife, mother of four children and manager to Gordie and her sons—a role virtually unheard of for women at that time. Hockey fanatics across the continent will unite for this inspiring story of one man’s quest to prove he still had the skill to live up to the name “Mr. Hockey”.

Set against the backdrop of the 2011 federal election and the weeks that followed, Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story (Pier 21 Films/Eagle Vision Inc.) is the inspiring story of Jack Layton, a man who came from privilege yet rejected his family’s politics in order to follow his own path. The movie will chronicle the journey of the guitar-playing, theory junkie who emerged as a student activist, eventually becoming one of this country’s most treasured federal politicians in his later years. “SMILIN’ JACK” is also the love story between Layton and Olivia Chow, a beloved political power couple. But above all, “SMILIN’ JACK” is the touching story of a man who reached the hearts of many Canadians, and fought for rights that would ultimately change the face of this country.

Still Life (Three Pines Productions): Based on the award-winning novels by international best-selling author Louise Penny, comes an event TV movie about murder in a small town. The village of Three Pines, Quebec may seem tranquil, but all is not as it appears. In this psychological thriller that combines Hitchcock with Christie, death comes to this peaceful Eden, and brings with it Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of Homicide for the Surete du Quebec. Here he discovers that nature, both human and otherwise, is capable of great beauty, and great cruelty. Beneath the exterior of the pretty little village, dark secrets lie hidden. Behind cheerful smiles, hurtful thoughts swirl. As he digs deeper, Chief Inspector Gamache finds old sins, buried alive. Rancid and stinking. And now, one of those secrets has surfaced, and created a corpse. C.I. Gamache must follow the trail of smiles and lies, of courtesy and cruelty. To the killer. In a rare starred review, Kirkus Reviews in the US said, ‘If you don’t give your heart to Gamache, you may have no heart to give.’ Charming, urbane, intelligent and kind, Armand Gamache has been hailed internationally as a cop like no other.

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