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Q&A: Don Cherry on the CBC biopic Keep Your Head Up Kid

(Image: courtesy of Don Cherry)

Don Cherry spends a lot of time talking but rarely opens up about himself. This month’s Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story, a CBC biopic written by Cherry’s son, film producer Tim Cherry, promises an intimate glimpse of the man inside the garish suits, and it isn’t altogether pretty.

How involved were you in the making of the movie?
My son wrote it, but I was really involved. We talked about everything.

The film doesn’t exactly hide your flaws. Are you OK with that?
Of course. All I asked was that the movie have no swearing. I wanted kids to be able to watch it.

How are you portrayed as a dad?
I come across as pretty selfish sometimes, which I was.

Did you have any say in casting?
As soon as I saw Jared Keeso, I knew he was the actor to play me. He’s a lot better looking than I was, like a cross between Marlon Brando and Paul Newman, but he has the right build. Sarah Manninen, who plays my late wife, Rose, was incredible. I was on the set for her first scene and I had to leave. She looked so much like Rose. That was tough.

Can you put into words what was so special about your wife?
We moved 53 times, and she never complained. We lived on $4,500 a year for 10 years, but she knew I wanted to be a hockey player, and she supported me.

At 76, is there anything else you hope to achieve?
I honestly never aimed to achieve much of anything. I’m a man of simple pleasures. Every night, I sit in a chair I’ve had since 1964. I drink four beers and I watch hockey. I have nice suits, but my car is from 1983.

Any extravagances, besides the suits?
I sit in a steam room every day. When we’re on the road, Hockey Night in Canada makes sure our hotel has a steam room. It’s the only thing I insist on in life. That, and beer.

  • The_Flash

    Don Cherry is a beauty.

  • Wayne Peterson

    What an incredibly inspirational movie! Acting was great and boy oh boy, what a story, what a movie!!
    Grapes was right, a movie for all ages and one I’ll be watching more than once! I love this guy!
    Wayne Peterson
    Alert Bay, BC Canada

  • T. Mogck

    I was really captivated by this movie. Lots of things to think about. Guts, perseverance, will out. Way to go, Don.

  • joey_b

    Last night I finally got to watching Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story.
    If you happened to catch the two-part CBC television movie, you know the film’s director, Cherry’s son Tim, did an excellent job chronically the legendary hockey commentator’s life.
    However, I must admit there were quite a few surprises:

  • cherryblossum

    Don, You are such an outdated old clown. Actually, I’m ashamed that this country would pay you more than minimum wage and even acknowledge you.

    There are soooo many talented people out there screaming for attention and a job. I don’t know how you sleep at night.


  • Doug Chapman

    Don’t pay any attention to this clown Don! You are admired by the majority and the beauty of it is that those that don’t admire you have the right to learn by example…themselves.

  • Lynne

    Love the first part. Can’t wait to see the 2nd tonight on CBC. My 3 year old hockey nut also loved it. He has been asking to watch it all week. Great movie!!!!!

  • Dave

    My two boys age 7 and 9 and I loved watching part#1 last sunday.
    I particularly am impressed with the fact that he asked that there be no swear words in the movie portraying his life so that kids could watch it too. Can’t wait until tonight to see part#2.
    Way to go Don!
    The guy is a hockey icon here in Canada.
    Cherryblossum you’re response oozes jealousy.


  • Dave

    Go Whitby Wildcats!

  • jimbo

    I never gave much thought to Don Cherry until I watched “Keep Your Head Up Kid” on CBC.

    I truly believe that if you are passionnate about something and keep at it, then success will follow. There is no easy path to your success. Whether your passion is hair dressing or hockey, succeeding at your passion will require passion and hard work. Don Cherry had a passion for hockey, yearned and worked hard to be a player, and discovered that he was a coach.

    It’s a great story, inspirational even, and Tim Cherry did a wonderful job of bringing it to life.

    I’ve gone from thinking that Don Cherry was a clown to thinking that he deserves the Order of Canada (but given the consternation over concussions, his endorsement of Rock’em Sock’em hockey guarantees that will never happen).

  • Lesm

    Fantastic movie whether you like Grapes or not. Entertaining for the whole family, can’t wait to watch Wrath of Grapes.