For much of the 1980s and 1990s, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were the NHL’s biggest rivals and most celebrated superstars. They filled nets with goals and arenas with fans.
Three decades later, the names Gretzky and Lemieux are in the spotlight together again, but this time on a different stage. Gretzky’s son, Trevor, and Lemieux’s daughter, Alexa, have acting roles in a hockey movie called “Odd Man Rush,” co-produced by former Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin.
“Of course, it helps that their names are Gretzky and Lemieux, but they deserve this,” Baldwin said. “They are both working hard. And it’s a hockey movie, and it doesn’t take rocket scientists to know if you put them together, it’s good for the movie and good for them.”
Lemieux is a senior in film school at USC, and Gretzky has already appeared in the movie “Mile 22” and “Loudermilk” and “Lethal Weapon” television shows. Gretzky’s mom is Janet Jones, a former actress who appeared in “A Chorus Line”, “Flamingo Kid” and “Police Academy 5” among others.
She has given her son tips. “Everything I know,” he says, laughing. Her best advice? “Just being confident,” he said.
Trevor Gretzky, 26, was playing professional baseball before a second shoulder injury ended that career.
Young Gretzky and Lemieux didn’t meet until Thursday. They filmed their scene together on Friday.
“Each has a small role, but they are prominent roles,” Baldwin said. “You know who’s up there. They aren’t just walking by a drug store waving.”
Alexa, 21, said she has talked to her dad about the movie role, but only about what it means for her and not the buzz that will be created by Lemieux and Gretzky being together in a film.
“Our dads have been super supportive — they know how hard it is to make it,” Alexa said.
She said has aspired to be an actress since she was old enough to know what an actress was. “Since I was five or six, it’s all I’ve wanted to do,” Alexa said. “I just sat in front of a TV and watched movies and said, ‘I want to do that.’”
Baldwin said he purposely didn’t talk to Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky because he wanted this to be about Trevor’s and Alexa’s careers. Trevor said he’s not sure his dad knows exactly what is happening with this film. “I think it will be a surprise for him,” he said.
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The movie is based on a book written by Bill Keenan that had a subtitle of “A Harvard Kid’s Hockey Odyssey from Central Park to Somewhere in Sweden — with Stops Along the Way.” At one point, during Keenan’s European career, he was traded for a washer-dryer combination. Trevor plays “Sully” the best friend of the main character. Alexa plays Annabel, a Harvard student.
Baldwin, a long-time producer, has always been open to doing hockey movies. He’s previously done “Sudden Death,” “Mr. Hockey” and “Mystery, Alaska.
This movie has extensive hockey ties. Dylan Playfair, son of former NHLer Jim Playfair, is in the cast. Todd and Grant Slater, sons of legendary Colgate and former World Hockey Association coach Terry Slater, are also co-producing.
Baldwin is planning to debut the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. In Canada, the Gretzky and Lemieux connection will draw even more notice.