SameDiff BNL

Living with the Ladies

By BOB THOMPSON, Toronto Sun, September 10th 1999.

Holy hot headlines! Jason Priestley was with Barenaked Ladies In America.

"It was true," says Priestley, chuckling as he lounges in a Park Hyatt Hotel suite yesterday. "Finally, the tabloids got something right."

Not really. Typically, the 31-year-old is being playful and self-deprecating.

In this case, he's also grinning with pride. The reason? It's his directorial chores on the Barenaked Ladies tour documentary, Barenaked In America, showing tomorrow in the Real To Reel series at the 24th Toronto film festival.

The movie features the band's tunes on stage, after-show conversations, some poignant revelations and lots of humour. That's thanks to the wise and witty editing by the Beverly Hills 90210 hunk. And that was after he spent 15 days on the rock 'n' roll road with the local lads as they toured America's northeast last fall.


"And while we were shooting the documentary," Priestley remembers of his shoot last September, "their song, One Week, became the No. 1 single in America.

"It was wonderful to document that kind of thing, because they had worked so hard to get there. Y'know, like it only took them 10 years to become overnight sensations."

Priestley could take some credit for the American build-up, although he never would. It was the 90210 star who persuaded producers to show the Ladies on a 1994 TV episode.

In fact, the Vancouver-born Priestley had so much fun with his Toronto Ladies that he went on to direct their Old Apartment video. But a documentary? Not yet.

Directing and acting chores on 90210 kept him busy, as did lots of movie parts, but Priestley kept in touch with his rock 'n' roll friends.

A few years ago, Priestley met up with the group at their Vegas Hard Rock show and decided to hitch a tour bus ride with them to San Francisco. "The conversations and antics along the way made me think that somebody's got to get this down," says Priestley.

When they arrived in 'Frisco by 5 a.m. the next day, weary, dreary and totally bus-lagged, the director in Priestley saw a moment that convinced him a Barenaked Ladies movie was a must, and he must do it.

It went like this: Exterior Barenaked Ladies bus establish shot: Singer-guitarist Steven Page standing before their retro cool but well-worn hotel. Page, shaking his sleepy head, says to Priestley, "The charm of this hotel is lost on me." Page says this just before singer-guitarist Ed Robertson jumps enthusiastically from the bus and runs into the hotel, proclaiming along the way, "I love this place."


Soon after, Priestley put his energy where his creative wishful thinking was, pitched the idea, sold the idea and shot it as a one-hour TV concert special and a 11/2-hour theatrical documentary.

"I tried to show their sense of humour, because they are all different," says Priestley. "But I also tried to show that a life on the road is not all fun and games."

As an actor, Priestley understands all about a nomadic existence. He just wrapped a telefilm in L.A. called Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, attended the recent Vancouver car race, and he'll be in New York next week after his festival duties here. Then it's back to Toronto by the end of September for another telefilm, Common Ground.

Meanwhile, Priestly will be seen in the feature Eye Of The Beholder with Ashley Judd by early next year. "I play a heroin trafficker," Priestley reports, grinning, playful again at the 90210 anti-casting. "And I love it."