LIVING THE CAPE BRETON LIFE - Q&A with Alan Arkin
Academy Award-winning actor Alan Arkin has been entertaining film audiences for decades in movies ranging from “Catch-22” to "Argo" and "Little Miss Sunshine". With his distinctive voice and chameleon like-style, he embodies each character he portrays with vitality. Yet a little known fact is Arkin’s love for Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, where he spends several months a year cultivating a quieter life. Local Connections Halifax chats exclusively with the actor on natural beauty, culinary musts and how he got his start.
LCH: I heard you have had a place on Cape Breton Island for years, and you head there every summer?
Arkin: We've been there for about twenty years. We spend several months a year in Cape Breton. It’s my favorite place on earth.
LCH: Being American, living out in Los Angeles who would have thought you would buy a place in Cape Breton… Why not Maine or Cape Cod? How did it come to be?
Arkin: I really don't know. I felt for decades and decades that I had some business in Nova Scotia and I had no idea why? The only thing I can think of is that people told me it was similar to Scotland. From the time I was in my teens I had a strong feeling about Scotland, and loved a movie that had different names in different countries. It was either "Whiskey Galore" or “Tight Little Island”. I fell in love with the people from that area in the films I had seen.
I heard that Nova Scotia, particularly Cape Breton, had some of that same character. I finally met somebody who had a place in Cape Breton and he invited us up. I remember going across the causeway and I just felt like I was in Shangri-La. I went to his place; I fell in love with his place! I took a walk down the bluff and I said to my wife, “Were going to have a house right here”.
LCH: It is truly a magical part of the world. Is it hard for you to get here?
Arkin: It’s a daunting trip from where we are. We are not even in Los Angeles so it’s harder for us to get there. By the time we get there after the four-hour drive from Halifax. I say nothing in the world is worth this - nothing! I say it every year and then I get there and I say it’s worth everything. We stay until about October unless some kind of work commitments come up that I can't say no to.
LCH: What does Cape Breton represent to you when you spend time there?
Arkin: It represents peace and a very, very dramatic connection with nature. It represents being with some of the most genuine people I have ever met in my life.
We have made some very close friends there; people that I hold very dear to me and of course the best seafood on the planet! Also in the last four tO five years there are a lot of changes going on that are helpful to the island, like different kinds of foods are being introduced. There are a couple of restaurants down in the area that are kind of adventurous that we love going to. We love the Dancing Goat - they have wonderful food. The soups are so good that I got slightly depressed, that they make soups that are better than mine. We also love the Herring Choker, which is near Baddeck, They do wonderful breads and pastries.
LCH: Something people may not know about you is that you started your career in a music band.
Arkin: It was kind of an offshoot. I had wanted to act since I was a kid and as a hobby I played the guitar and sang for some pocket money, but I got connected with a group and it took off. We did very, very well for a few years. That was my first success, but it wasn't what I really wanted to do. I wanted to get into film and theater. I left the band when I was still on a high, but I managed somehow to make a living as an actor.
LCH: Cape Breton has such a strong Celtic music scene. Do you listen to live music on the island?
Arkin: Yeah we do, when we can find Natalie MacMaster or Ashley MacIssac
LCH: Any new projects coming up for you that we can anticipate in the next while?
Arkin: I finished a film a few months ago called "Going in Style" with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Ann Margret. We’re waiting to find out when that comes out.