It seems that Hollywood has discovered the Saskatchewan Roughriders. First, Tom Hanks and Martin Short wound up in the stands at the Grey Cup, with Hanks even flipping to a Roughriders hat midway through (and getting mocked by famed Ticat fan Short for doing so). Now, Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton told Bill Brioux at the Television Critics' Association winter tour in Los Angeles this week that one of his most notable memories from shooting FX's new "Fargo" TV series (based on Joel and Ethan Coen's famed 1996 movie) in Calgary was seeing how crazy Saskatchewan fans got in November's West Final against the Stampeders. . That was an awfully cold game, with temperatures dropping to -10 Celsius before windchill, but it didn't deter the Roughriders' fans, which impressed Thornton:
"I gotta tell you something," Thornton said Monday night at a Fox Network evening event during the Television Critics Association press tour. "Those Roughrider fans are insane."
He was expecting Canadian football fans "to be a little bit more reserved." Instead, he was surrounded by folks "with no clothes on painted green and they had watermelons on their heads. They're tailgating in sub-zero temperatures with no clothes on!"
The colder-than-usual winter has proven challenging for Arkansas native Thornton and other U.S.-born "Fargo" cast members. The 58-year-old actor stars along with Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit"), Bob Odenkirk and Kate Walsh in the 10-episode, limited run drama, which is currently in production in Calgary.
It is scheduled to premiere in the U.S. on April 15 on FX and the same day in Canada on the new specialty network FXX.
"One night, it went down to 40 below and they wouldn't allow us to work," he says. "You figure if a Canadian says it's too dangerous to go out there, it probably is too dangerous to go out."
The Roughriders really are getting everywhere these days. They've been mentioned in the NFL playoffs (thanks to the Colts' Jerrell Freeman, a former star with the Riders), and their Hollywood stock seems on the rise. You never know, maybe someday we'll even see a CFL movie. Thornton's done some work in sports films, including starring as coach Gary Gaines in the 2004 Friday Night Lights film (based on the book, not the later TV series) and playing coach Morris Buttermaker in the 2005 remake of Bad News Bears, so maybe he could even be involved. From what he told Brioux, his affection for Canada seems high:
"I love Saskatoon, and I think Calgary seems more like the kind of people I grew up around more than any other place in Canada. I feel real comfortable there."
Just not when it's -40 below...