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Jay Baruchel isn’t ashamed to admit that before he was cast in The Trotsky—a comedy about a Montreal student named Leon who believes that he is the reincarnation of the eponymous Soviet revolutionary—his knowledge of the great man was spotty at best. “I knew that he got an ice pick in the eye and that was about it,” says the 28-year-old actor. But he did know writer-director Jacob Tierney, a childhood friend from Montreal whose desire to make a film about that city’s English-speaking population struck a nerve with the star. “If you watch movies from English Canada, you’d never know that there are Anglos in Montreal, and the same goes for films from Quebec.” Baruchel, who has made a name for himself in the United States, is committed to Canadian cinema.
The Trotsky is just the latest in a long line of his homegrown star vehicles that includes Real Time, Just Buried and Fetching Cody. “If some kid sees me in Tropic Thunder and digs it, maybe it helps us get butts in seats for this movie. But the point is, we have to make badass movies that people want to see.” This leads to the question of whether The Trotsky will be a victim of its own thesis: namely, that teenagers are too apathetic to engage in political activism—or political comedy. “I think it was Nietzsche who said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” says Baruchel, smiling. “Ideally, if we can get a young audience into theatres and laughing, we can slide some of that other stuff by them and they can pick their own causes. That’s what Leon does in the film.”