Becoming Redwood actor Scott Hylands emerges from the basement

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      Scott Hylands is the kind of guy Quentin Tarantino should rediscover.

      He was never a star, but the Salt Spring Island resident appeared in pretty much every North American TV series of note in the ’70s and ’80s, and not a small number of films. He was handsome, rugged, and he could act. In fact, Hylands had everything the industry wanted up until he actually moved to Hollywood.

      “I went down to try out for The Graduate,” Hylands recalls during an interview at the Georgia Straight. “I was in this business partly because I thought I looked the part, but that day was gone because Dustin Hoffman got The Graduate and that began a whole era of less conventionally handsome leading men. And those of us in the line were screwed.”

      Not that Hylands was too bothered about leading roles in big-time movies. Theatre was his bag, and he eventually spent 16 years in Los Angeles, commuting between the proscenium and prime-time TV spots. “They said, ‘Oh, you can’t do theatre; you have to wait for the film,’ and I kept myself out of the schedule,” he says. “But I could afford to be lean if I needed to, and I turned that into a style for years.”

      At the age of 70, Hylands is still an actor’s actor, and even in the face of some serious competition, he arguably steals the new movie Becoming Redwood from his costars (the film opens Friday [April 12]). He also has the locally made film’s juiciest part as Earl, the possibly demented step-grandfather to golf-obsessed 11-year-old Redwood Forest Hanson (Ryan Grantham).

      “Who doesn’t want to play a guy in a basement?” Hylands asks. “He had nothing he could relate to anymore except his own guilt, so he put himself in the basement. And that’s a role.”

      Earl and his son Arnold (Derek Hamilton) both belong to the shadow side of Becoming Redwood, a semiautobiographical tale that begins with a 1967 prologue before moving to the period after the Vietnam War. It’s a tough story about broken homes, domestic violence, and the way children deal with trauma. But it’s also “an innocent movie”, in Hyland’s words, and light enough in its touch to score the most popular Canadian film award at last year’s VIFF.

      At its heart is Redwood himself, and Hylands has nothing but praise for the approach that writer-director Jesse James Miller took with his preadolescent lead. “He had a big fuckin’ job,” he says. “And he did it with such charm. They had a rapport. It was like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and he would goof off with this kid and be silly and stupid, and I think the crew sort of had to get used to: ‘This is the price of a 10-year-old in everything; I have to be 10 sometimes too.’ ”

      Moreover, Miller also charmed the oldest guy on the set. “He trusts himself,” Hyland says, pointing out that self-confidence on a pressure cooker film shoot tends to be infectious. “Well, hell, if you’re going to trust yourself, I’ll trust you too.”

      Winning over the kid is one thing, but winning over the guy with 123 acting credits on his IMDb entry? That’s another.