An Interview With Judah Katz

I have had the great opportunity to exchange emails with Judah Katz. Katz is a top acting talent, appearing such shows as Cinderella Man, Moonlight and Valentino, and Crash - though not the Crash you're probably thinking of. He's also acted on numerous television shows including Street Legal, Due South, and PSI Factor. He acts as the infamous Alan Eagleson in Canada/Russia '72.

Joe: You are an actor of some reputation and have built a nice resume. And while you genuinely seem to have had the time of your life with 1972, was there any initial hesitation to do a CBC TV movie?

Judah Katz: Thank you. Absolutely no reservations at all. To the contrary. I jumped at the chance to be involved in such an exciting Canadian iconic project. It's a part of me. It's a part of so many Canadians. I think every actor in Canada wanted to be in "72".

Joe: What was it like to play Alan Eagleson? How did you prepare for the role? Have you ever met Eagleson himself, and if so what is he up to  these days? The clip I've seen I have to admit thinking "Eagleson looks real."

Judah Katz: Juiciest part I've ever had the chance to play. I truly enjoyed getting to set every single day because playing The Eagle, you never knew what he was going to do next. Sometimes I didn't even know. The producers and director were extremely supportive, set up a wonderful atmosphere on set that allowed and encouraged me to bring creative ideas to character and scenes. That combination made working too much fun.

One thing I can say about Alan Eagleson. There's no way that the '72 series would ever have gotten off the ground if it wasn't for Eagleson. Think about that. All those special moments and memories...he was instrumental in giving that to Canada.

Eagleson looks real? Happy to hear that! It helps with the story telling. Amazing what a little hair colour, 70's circa glasses, bad pants and little research can do.

No, I am afraid Mr. Eagleson did not make it to set in Fredericton. I am hoping to have a chance to meet him at the Press Launch at the end of March.

I had very little time between when I was cast (out of the country) and when we went into production. I did have a chance to read as much as possible on the net (what a great invention for research). The production also set me up with a couple of VCRs and monitors to watch hours and hours of videos and film on location. That was a huge help.*

The whole production had a very unique quality to it. Something very special was happening here. We all felt it.

Joe: I'm sure there were many perks to doing this film. What was it like to meet the players? I'm sure there were a million stories told. Did you meet any of the Russian players?

Judah Katz: There is talk about Mr. Tretiak being at the press launch as well so that would be very exciting to meet him another hockey icon.*

*Being a kid from Montreal whose teacher stopped everything to bring in a TV so we can watch the games from Moscow, having the opportunity to not only recreate a great Canadian story but also meet the players was awesome.

One of the most exciting things to come from being a part of the mini-series was getting to meet quite a few of the 72 players and play golf with them (I am a hockey and golf NUT. Single handicap... my late dad would be proud) Very exciting to meet these guys. Before we teed off I had the good fortune to meet and talk with Yvon Cournoyer who was my childhood idol (I can still remember him blowing by players with his blinding speed and changing hands on his stick on the fly to shoot THE OTHER WAY. WOW), Paul Henderson , Phil Esposito (very warm and personable and one can see how he was a popular captain), Peter Mahovolich (fun and friendly just like his reputation), big Serge Savard (showed me his newly built knee...ouch), Brad Park (surprisingly nice guy), John Ferguson, Tony Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lapointe, Mickey Redmond, Bill White.... and I'm sure a few more I can't remember right now. Played golf with Richard Martin of the famed French Connection line of Buffalo. Must have told us 50 of the dirtiest jokes...and a really good golfer as well.

During dinner I was flanked by Phil Esposito and Richard Martin. Remember, Team Canada practiced in Sweden before traveling on to Moscow. They certainly had a few stories about some 72 players and lovely Swedish girls. Lots of laughs!

At the Banquet all the players were introduced, big applause for each one, the actors who played them were introduced, applause, they left me for last ( I thought that they forgot me) and when they finally introduced me as the guy who played Eagleson I was roundly but good naturedly booed. Too much fun.

Joe
: I know a lot of international and russian hockey fans. They tended to dismiss Disney's "Miracle" because they felt it didn't accurately  portray the Russians. Do you think CBC (I know I'm using "them" as blanket term) did a better job along these lines?

Judah Katz: I didn't see Miracle so I can't comment on how the Russians were portrayed in it. I do know that "72" is extremely respectful and fair.

Joe: I've heard a rumour that the movie will reveal the whereabouts of the puck that Paul Henderson deposited behind Tretiak. Is this true?

Judah Katz: Ahhh. The famous puck. Got to watch to see.

Joe: Lastly...where were in 1972 when Paul Henderson scored? Was this series a defining moment for you as a Canadian in any way? Did you ever play hockey or dream of one day playing for Team Canada or the NHL?

Judah Katz I had the good fortune to watch the series in my grade 7 class. Didn't think 33 kids could make that much noise after a goal.

We had Expo in í67 in Montreal and that put us on the World Stage (my father ran a 1/3 of Expo '67). That gave us national pride and confidence. I don't think it is a stretch to say that Summit '72 sort of gave us a sense that we could compete with the best.

We became the team to beat, the very best in the world and there are not many things that we lay claim to being the best but for us itís hockey. We took on a world power and beat them. We had to dig so deep but we did it. It made a statement about Canada, about Canadians.

I would think every single Canadian kid has pretended, whether on the street or in the rink, that they were Paul Henderson and a National Hockey Hero. Still brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.