Jeremy LaLonde and Gordon Pinsent, Sex After Kids

Jeremy LaLonde Remembers Gordon Pinsent

The first thing you need to know about Gordon Pinsent is that the story I’m about to tell you is one of a hundred just like it — if not more. I don’t say that to diminish my experience but to paint the picture of what kind of man Gordon was.

By the time I came into the Canadian film and television industry, Gordon was already a giant many times over. We often talk about how there’s no star system north of the border, and how Canadian actors don’t become famous or household names until they move away and find success elsewhere. If that’s true then Gordon was an exception to that rule. No matter what you saw and loved him in — and there are a lot of things to choose from — he’s someone who always left an impression.

Gordon was like that in real life too, which brings me to my own story. Albeit a small part of the life of Gordon Pinsent, it’s something that informed me early in my career and has stayed with me. To say that I was forever changed by having gotten to know him would be an understatement.

When I was just a baby filmmaker, I had the ballsy idea of reaching out to Gordon to be in my film Sex After Kids. A small but vital role, the only thing I had going for me was that he didn’t have to leave town and we could shoot him out in half a day. Let me paint a picture of the kind of film we were making. Our entire budget for this feature film was $70K and we had a crew of about a dozen people. No trailers, no private space for actors. And on that particular day, we were shooting in my own home. It was about as low-budget an affair as you can get.


I was actually embarrassed when he walked through the door, but I would soon realize that there was no reason to be. He came through the door as if we were the biggest film shooting in town. He didn’t care that we were a rag-tag group of indie filmmakers or that I had done almost nothing to deserve such an icon in my film. He stole all of his scenes, and when the time came for us to wrap him, he was in no rush to leave. He stuck around telling us stories and getting to know everyone on the crew. He had time for you no matter who you were. You were a part of our film family and so Gordon made time to know you.

Gordon Pinsent and Ennis Esmer in Sex After Kids.
Gordon Pinsent and Ennis Esmer in a scene from Sex After Kids.

I was shocked that he agreed to be in the film, but what followed was even more wonderful. Following the shoot, I got an e-mail where he invited me over to his penthouse apartment in downtown Toronto. I was tremendously nervous as I rode the elevator up trying to figure out what the hell I was going to talk about with this living legend. How was I not going to waste his time? He opened the door and wrapped his arms around me. I was treated to a tour of his lovely home and office — all filled with amazing little touches of himself and all of his projects. We spent an entire afternoon together getting to know one another and talking about projects we were hoping to still make one day.

When I left, he gave me a script and asked if I’d give him my thoughts. This is a man who had worked with the best of the best and could get feedback from anyone. It meant a tremendous amount that someone of his stature thought my opinion of his work meant something. I was humbled. We shared several e-mails and phone calls after that. We even briefly discussed me potentially directing a feature he had written but no longer desired to direct himself. It never came to be, as is often the case in this industry, but the fact that we discussed it still blows my mind.

The torrent of social media tributes over the past few days have demonstrated that my story of Gordon and his generosity is far from unique. It’s clear he greatly respected people, regardless of how early they were in their careers.


From Gordon Pinsent I learned never to underestimate or undervalue anyone. Nor to value them only by what they’ve done — but by the potential you see in them. Gordon had time for everyone; he wanted to know their name and their story. And when he found out, he remembered it the next time you saw him. It let you know that you mattered. He had that effect on everyone he met.

With his death, we’ve lost not only a national treasure, but a beautiful soul. Despite having lived a long and fruitful life, he is gone far too soon. I almost wrote ‘there will never be another like him’ but instead, I’ll end with asking you to try. Try to be like Gordon. Be the kind of person who values everyone they meet. A person who wants to know everyone’s name and story, no matter who they are. Because we all matter. A wise man from Newfoundland taught me that.

Jeremy LaLonde is a Canadian filmmaker and host of the Black Hole Films podcast.

That Shelf’s Editor-In-Chief Jason Gorber stopped by Global News to also share his memories of the Canadian icon. Watch the segment below: