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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.