When I imagined this iconic character of Johnny Canuck and researched his 140 years of existence, I realized that his character didn’t have a whole lot of depth. Sure he was easy to grasp and likeable but beyond hard working and humble, his character was wide open.
From experience I’ve learned that all great characters have history, flaws, instincts and as a director or actor, they need rules. The following details some of the main laws we put in place for our simple Johnny Canuck character.
Johnny’s Universe and its simple rule
One of the first rules I established for our specific Johnny Canuck Universe, was that nothing should seem out of place from the 1940′s or earlier. Sure some items and wardrobe might resist this rule, but this rule became a quick and comprehensible way to block out tempting concepts that could weaken the film’s consistency. For example, would Johnny use a modern chainsaw? That would mean he would work less and Johnny does not understand laziness. He’ll stick to the axe thank you very much.
Johnny will challenge anyone or anything that threatens his surroundings, namely his forest. When I was determining this instinct for Johnny’s character, I kept relating to Batman and Gotham. Johnny’s Gotham is his forest, his life, his livelihood and his greatest care in the world. What Batman would do for Gotham, Johnny would do for the woods.
Character vs. Actor
In regards to acting as Johnny Canuck for the films, my goal was and still is to keep Johnny in his film world as much as possible. If I were to act as Johnny and sit on a talk show couch as Johnny, Johnny would get a whole lot less intriguing. This rule also went the other way, in that if someone or something, or even a concept or Canucks reference appeared in the films, they would have to conform or reinvent themselves to enter into Johnny’s Universe.
I live for this type of character and universe development, and learned much of it from working with the Dark Knight film creators and comic book legend Marv Wolfman. Whether it shows on film or not, these previous rules we followed are pretty common and obvious, but important none the less.