5 childhood acting memories from Fucked Up's Ben Cook
by Josiah Hughes
November 18, 2013
Aside from fronting Canada’s hardest hardcore band ever and playing guitar in Canada’s hippest hardcore band ever, pint-sized Toronto man-about-town Ben Cook has had an immensely varied career. Along with No Warning and Fucked Up, he’s made sweet music in projects as diverse as the fey dance pop of Yacht Club, the jangly garage of Young Governor and the glammed-up power-pop of Marvelous Darlings. That’s just scratching the surface — there’s also Roommates, the Bitters, Criminally Insane, Violent Minds, and songwriting credits for goofy stadium rock bands like Hedley.
And there’s more — Cook’s career has also included a surprisingly prolific run as a child actor. While he wasn’t, as the rumours suggested, actually related to She’s All That nerd-babe Rachel Leigh Cook, he did rub shoulders with the best of them, including a pre-Breaker High Ry-Gos.
Here, Cook tells us about five of his most notable childhood acting roles.
Road to Avonlea
Alongside a young Ryan Gosling, who played his older brother, Ben Cook played a young English orphan in the Canadian TV mainstay that also launched Sarah Polley’s career. It’s great to see Cook and Gosling chumming it up on camera and testing out their British accents (watch the full episode below), and hilarious that this episode is popular with a subset of Gosling megafans. The two crossed paths later on at a music festival, Cook tells us, but there’s also the B9 hardcore connection — No Warning was briefly labelmates with American Nightmare, and while it’s probably a lie, the Gos was rumoured to be stagediving at an American Nightmare reunion in 2011.
Here are Cook’s memories from Avonlea:
“I remember Ryan Gosling being an incredible guy (yes girls, he’s the real deal), and not one of those baby-ass actors whose mom would mousse their hair in the elevator for auditions. We had to act with English accents, and since I am from England I could do it better than Ryan’s Australian cockney thing. We had a coach and would practice together. He played me Cat Stevens songs on his acoustic in his dressing room (swoon) and we would jam together between scenes (romantic). He never complained about sub -zero temperatures on location shoot days. I learned a lot from Ryan about how not to be a little bitch.
“This was the quintessential Canadian acting experience. CBC. Ryan was on Breakfast Club or Mickey Mouse Club or whatever with Britney and Justin a few years earlier, pre-Breaker High.
“His mom would tell us heartbreaking stories about how he was home-schooled now because he was tortured by jealous white trash losers in Cornwall about being a sexy actor. I feel you, Ry. We reconnected a bit over email a couple years ago when his band played a fest we played in L.A. He sent me a t-shirt and CD.”
According to Cook, he played “an annoying little shit” in Goosebumps. According to IMDb, however, he actually played three characters spread across four episodes (one was a two-parter) — Josh Benson, Marty, and Jerry Hawkins. “Piano Lessons Can Be Murder” is a wonderful cinematic performance complete with a pre-pubescent Cook delivering some riveting monologues. Hard to believe that same pipsqueak growled out Ill Blood just seven years later.
Here’s Cook’s take on Goosebumps:
“I acted in three separate Goosebumps episodes. Since they were all filmed in Toronto, I guess they didn’t have too many options. One was about zombies, one was about piano lessons (which I take in real life, SCARY!!!), and the other was about robots who molest little kids. Actually the piano one is really sketchy too when you think about it — little kids going to a warehouse to get piano lessons and the bearded teacher fondles my hands for the entire episode until wanting to cut them off. This was childrens TV.
“I hear they are working on movie versions of Goosebumps now, which I think could be brilliant. I would love to make a guest appearance, but I feel actually actively pursuing this through an agent would be very sad and pathetic.”
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Between the Walter Matthau-led 1974 original and the 2009 remake with Denzel Washington and John Travolta, there was a made-for-TV movie version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. It’s telling as to how much of a ladies man star Vincent D’Onofrio is, too — the only clip we could find with a shot of Cook is the musical montage of D’Onofrio you see below (Cook appears around the 45 second mark). Simply billed as “older boy on subway,” Cook’s role was fairly minimal. Naturally, he still has plenty of hilarity to share from the experience.
Here’s Cook’s take on The Taking of Pelham One Two Three:
“This was a week of night shoots in the extra station under the Bay subway station [in Toronto]. Vincent D’Onofrio was in it, and my lord did my Mom want a piece of that. I must say, the guy is fuckin’ hot. And a really nice and professional person to work with. Donnie Wahlberg (NKOTB), on the other hand, was the opposite. Hitting on all the chicks on set unsuccessfully, thinking he was some hardass Queens dude (maybe he is?) [ed: he’s ALL BOSTON.]. I’m pretty sure he loved the feeling of walking around all day with a fake M16 in his hand. I did my best to ignore him at all costs.
“My little brother in this movie was a very Italian kid from NY (like me) who played Howard Stern as a kid in Private Parts, and Tony Soprano as a kid in Sopranos season three or four. He was an incredible little person with so much talent and energy, I just could not stop hanging out with this eight-year-old kid for like a week. He was like a miniature Joe Pesci. I hope he has made tons of money and is happy in life.”
As Cook puts it, he was starting to be typecast as a lost orphan boy — something about that unimpressed boy face must’ve suggested toughness and heartbreak to Canadian casting directors. He does wear dirt on his face and a burlap sack rather well. Nothing screams future hardcore megastar like starring in a boy version of Little Women. Cook says it sucks, but the movie trailer wouldn’t lie — quotes include “Everything about this movie is first rate,” and “Finally, a movie I can honestly recommend to everyone.”
Here are Ben’s memories from the set of Little Men:
“This was my biggest job as a child actor. I was another bad-boy orphan, by now kind of typecast in the role of troubled little shit. Surprise surprise. I have a couple scars on my face from the times I got my ass kicked and they would fill them in everyday to make me look more bad ass. Susan Sarandon’s husband was in this (the six-fingered prince from Princess Bride) and also Mariel Hemingway. A great cast and amazing French Canadian crew. Thanks to them, by the time the month of shooting was over, I was fluent in French.
“My costar who was supposed to be my best friend was this asshole from Quebec who had a good look and played the part well, but in real life we tortured him. He was a brat, and I turned the entire cast of kids against him. During weekends we were in a hotel on Masionneuve Boulevard in Montreal and because we had nothing to do we would toss bottles off the balcony and watch them smash onto parked cars. Also I remember buying some early punk tapes in Montreal as this was the time I was discovering I was really into that music.
“The movie sucks, but is on TV quite regularly. I helped my mom buy her first house with the earnings from this job, which my brother now lives in and I’m still in a shitty apartment. Enjoy.
“Oh I also knocked a fellow actors’ teeth out during this shoot when we were out playing lazer tag. Luckily he had been wrapped from the shoot. He ran into my gun in the dark, and three of his front teeth — GONE. Lots of screaming. Oops.
Cook describes his role in Restless Spirits as that of “a teenage small-town hunk who rode an ATV.” Other than that, the plot of this movie sounds incredibly convoluted and confusing. As per IMDb, “A young girl, who struggles with her pilot father’s death in a plane crash years before, visits her grandmother in Newfoundland. While there, she encounters the ghosts of two pilots, who are condemned to Earth to constantly re-live their own crash that occurred in 1927. The girl decides to help the pair by helping them re-build their airplane and complete their flight so they may be released and, in turn, deal with her own emotional bondage.” Straight up, WTF is this movie.
Either way, skip ahead to the 4:30 mark above to watch Cook sassily tell his sister to “buzz off, brat.”
Here are Cook’s memories from the set of Restless Spirits:
“I always had crushes on my female costars and this was no exception. Juliana [Wimbles] was awesome. This was a weird TV movie about the first guys to cross the ocean in a plane they built, and the girl is hanging out on the coast for the summer and she meets the ghosts of these men who can’t rest because they need a human to help them do something… oh wait who cares.
“They had me dressed in full-on plaid Gap attire, late-’90s vibes but not in a cool way. Canvas caps. Much like in music, the wardrobe people in the film industry are aging dinosaurs with absolutely no taste or clue of what is cool and they should all be fired, but there are union things that prevent this from happening, which is the reason 99% of people fitted for TV and movies look absolutely terrible and five to six years behind the times.
“This was filmed in Unionville, ON and was quite an easy part for me. I barely had any lines, which I liked, and anytime I did, they were short and stupid. I basically just hung out with the crew on sets because there was usually four or five older dudes who were really funny. Always took them a while to warm up to me though as, for good reason, they thought every child actor was a little asshole.”
Bonus: Camp Rock 2 cameo
We didn’t talk to Ben about this, but watch him make a drumming cameo in the Jonas Brothers’ Camp Rock 2.
R.I.P. Jonas Brothers, R.I.P. Violent Minds.