Spotlight fades on Ryerson’s shooting star

In Arts & Life /

By Stephanie Bomba

These days, 15 minutes of fame don’t seem to last as long as they used to.

One minute critics are raving about your “stunning debut,” calling your character portrayal “a beguiling mix of native introspection and precocious wit,” and saying you have “a natural charisma that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her.”

The next, those same critics are blasting your acting skills, saying your so-called perkiness makes you “unconvincing as a drug-addicted hooker” and that your new film is an “incongruously wholesome and light-hearted turkey.”

But for someone who never wanted to be an actress in the first place, whether or not Hollywood fame is short-lived doesn’t seem to be a priority.

Liane Balaban, a second-year journalism student, says she’s bothered by the negative reviews of her latest movie, Saint Jude, premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival Thursday.

But her reason is not what one would expect—she feels as though she has “disappointed all the critics [I] befriended last year.”

The huge success of 1999’s New Waterford Girl, in which the 20-year-old actress plays unfulfilled teen Mooney Pottie in a coming-of-age comedy set in Cape Breton, was almost as unexpected as the casting of Balaban in the film.

She was “discovered” by her uncle’s neighbour, producer Allan Moyle (of Pump Up the Volume fame) at a family dinner. A short time later, Moyle contacted Balaban through her father and asked her to audition for New Waterford Girl.

“It was terrifying,” she says of her first audition. “Seven hundred people auditioned [but] I tried to be nonchalant about it.”

After seven more auditions, Balaban was finally awarded the lead role in the film.

Almost instantly, Balaban went from being a lowly Ryerson frosh to a big-time, first-rate movie star schmoozing with the likes of Courtney Love and Ashley MacIsaac.

The critical acclaim New Waterford Girl has received even haunts her on the set of Wild Geese, the CTV movie she is currently filming in Calgary with co-star Sam Shepard. The other cast members have nicknamed her “NWGLB,” short for New Waterford Girl Liane Balaban.

It seems only natural that the addition of Balaban’s name to the Canadian actors A-list was the result of hard work and emotional resilience, even though Balaban describes acting as being “so easy.”

“I don’t feel like acting is a creative job,” she says from Calgary. “You’r channelling someone else’s work, someone else’s story, someone else’s concept.

Balaban justifies her comments by explaining that acting “was never my dream in life.”

“I feel very grateful and extremely fortunate,” she quickly adds, “but I’m not completely fulfilled.”

Journalism, on the other hand, is something the actress really enjoys, even though she won’t be returning to Ryerson until after Sept. 20, when filming for Wild Geese is scheduled to wrap up.

For someone who has already missed a week and a half of classes, Balaban does not sound worried about starting school late. Her mother, Margaret, on the other hand, wants to make sure someone in Balaban’s class gets her homework assignments.

A self-titled “pop-culture sleuth,” Balaban says she likes sharing new things with other people and that her favourite part of journalism is meeting eccentric people.

She also plays host to her own Internet radio show, Loungecore, at 2cool4radio.com.

But at this point, she isn’t sure where she’s going to end up.

What she does know is that she would prefer to be remembered for something other than New Waterford Girl.

“It’s a depressing thought to not exist independently,” she says. “It’s depressing if I’ll always been NWGLB.”

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