Elvis Stojko’s leading role in Ice Girls is a classic case of life imitating art.
The three-time world champion makes his movie debut in Ice Girls, playing a rink manager and – you guessed it – former figure skater named Mercury who takes a young, new-to-town skater under his wing.
Ice Girls, which also stars Natasha Henstridge (The Whole Nine Yards) and young Canadian skaters Michaela Du Toit and Taylor Hunsley, debuts on Family Channel on Friday, March 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Filmed in Sudbury, Ont., the movie’s plot revolves around the strong bond formed between aspiring figure skating star Mattie Dane (Du Toit) and Mercury (Stojko).
Mattie injures herself in a fall during a competition and struggles to regain her confidence after her skating dreams are shattered. Things take a turn for the worse when her mother loses her job and the family is forced to move to a small northern Ontario city, where Mattie struggles to find her place in unfamiliar surroundings.
As she tries to fit in, Mattie finds escape at the local arena, but another talented skater (Hunsley) and her overly-competitive mother (Henstridge) remind the newcomer there isn’t room at the top for both of them. Seeing the potential in the skater, Mercury begins to mentor Mattie, much like in real life when Stojko works with young Skate Canada athletes.
“It really was an awesome experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” says Stojko. “The character fit well with my personality. There are so many aspects within Mercury that are already in my life. It felt comfortable because, in some ways, it was like walking in my own shoes.”
While Ice Girls marks his maiden movie role, this isn’t Stojko’s first acting gig. In his Broadway debut a couple of years ago, Stojko played smooth-talking, manipulative lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical.
“This is the direction I’ve wanted to go for a long time,” says Stojko of his acting career. “I love acting and working with guys like (acting coach) Brad Milne. It’s been building these last couple of years for me, so hopefully I can keep that momentum going for the next project. I’ll just keep working and honing my craft.”
Both Du Toit, and Hunsley have compiled impressive skating resumes early in their careers.
Hunsley, the 2009 Canadian juvenile women’s champion, also finished tenth at the 2015 Skate Canada Challenge to qualify for the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. Du Toit, who skates out of the Richmond Hill Skating Club but represents South Africa internationally, competed in the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in February and was pre-novice silver medallist at 2013 Skate Canada Challenge.
In her first leading role, Du Toit admits she was nervous starring with Stojko as shooting began, but the two connected with their roles almost immediately. Even when the cameras weren’t rolling, Stojko took some to work with Du Toit on technical elements for upcoming real-life competitions.
“It was just amazing working with the entire cast, and especially Elvis,” says Du Toit. “I was so excited when I heard he was in movie. On set he was just a great mentor. He is just an amazing person.”
Olympic and world ice dance champion Tessa Virtue, who recently announced with partner Scott Moir that they will return to the competitive ranks next season, also has a cameo in the movie.
Scenes were shot at three Sudbury arenas – Walden, Cambrian and Countryside. Young skaters from seven local skating clubs were brought in as extras.
“The skaters were so thrilled to be involved in the movie,” says Lisa Burton, a coach with the Chelmsford Skating Club. “It was an extremely positive experience for all of them, and the crew and everyone associated with the film were great. It was quite special for all of them.”
Sudbury was the city where a young Stojko first made his mark on the Canadian skating scene by finishing second to Kurt Browning at the 1990 Canadian championships. It was an early look at the greatness that would follow, as Stojko would go on to win three world titles between 1994 and 1997.
“Every time I go to Sudbury, it always brings back memories,” says Stojko. “ I have lots of memories from up there. The community was so supportive, and it was a lot of fun to be back.”
Du Toit says the story is one of perseverance, dedication and friendship and epitomizes the strength of the human spirit as her character battles back from odds so stacked against her.
“There are a lot of life lessons in the movie”, says Du Toit. “It’s about not giving up on your dreams no matter how hard things get.
“It may look kind of cloudy right now, but if you persevere, you will get there.”
Photos courtesy Family Channel