It’s a story that reads like the plot of a top-grossing Hollywood rom-com: a California boy from a showbiz family crosses paths with a down-to-earth girl from Newfoundland.
Sparks fly. Worlds collide. Hilarity ensues. Cue the wedding. Roll credits.
We’ve seen this kind of story unfold on the big screen countless times before, but this particular made-for-the-movies romance belongs to Peter and Anne Marie DeLuise.
Anne Marie is a prolific actress (Smallville; Leap 4 Your Life) who was born and raised in a non-showbiz family in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Actor-director Peter grew up in LA’s picturesque Pacific Palisades neighbourhood, the oldest of three sons born to actress Carol Arthur (Blazing Saddles) and the late comedy legend Dom DeLuise. (Watch Peter’s parents in action.)
“I often say that it’s like we’re from two different worlds, but we’re very similar,” says Anne Marie seated next to her husband on the patio of a West Vancouver café.
As an actor, Peter is arguably best known for his role as Officer Doug Penhall on 21 Jump Street, partner to Johnny Depp’s Officer Tom Hanson (“arguably” because SeaQuest 2032 – on which DeLuise played Seaman Dagwood – is one of Reel People’s favourite sci-fi shows of all time).
But Peter’s also a busy director with an extensive list of directing credits. He’s helmed multiple episodes of beloved local series like Stargate SG-1, Sanctuary, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Garage Sale Mystery, and Higher Ground.
It was on Higher Ground that Peter DeLuise first encountered Anne Marie Loder.
The location: Brooksbank Avenue in North Vancouver, just outside the North Shore Studios.
The scene: Anne Marie is heading to lunch with Higher Ground’s show-runner when she runs into Peter, who’s directing that particular episode, on his way to the set.
Anne Marie was familiar with Peter’s family via the movies, less so with his work. But once they started working together, she figured him out pretty quickly.
“I just thought he was really, really smart, and funny, and he was the most irreverent director I’d ever worked with,” Anne Marie recalls.
Peter was similarly wowed. “She was in a situation that was very unenviable. She was replacing another actress on the show, and so she could have come from a place of being vulnerable and overly sensitive and second-guessing everything, but she wasn’t,” says Peter.
“She was just putting it all out there, and I saw that immediately and I was quite impressed with that.”
Fast-forward a month, and they were dating.
Anne Marie’s first encounter with the extended DeLuise family could be a standalone movie on its own. Let’s call it Meet the DeLuises.
Peter sets the scene. “It had in fact been eight years since I had introduced anybody [to my parents] as my girlfriend, and they went to pick her up at the airport with a giant sign that said ‘Anne Marie’,” says Peter.
Anne Marie describes Peter’s parents as “the warmest, most welcoming, most generous, amazing people, and being at a dinner at their house was like being at a 3-ring circus,” she says. “There were always games and charades and board games, and it was just a lot of fun.”
But the onus was on Anne Marie to, quite literally, sing for her supper.
“The one thing Peter said to me before I went there was, ‘you have to participate, you have to engage and play the games, and you might have to make a speech or a toast or do a grace or something like that,’” says Anne Marie.
Anne Marie’s hometown served up its own distinctive culture shock for Peter, who, despite having lived in Canada for many years, reveals he “knew zero about a place called Newfoundland” before dating Anne Marie.
This was all to change in 2002. Shortly after tying the knot in Vancouver, the newlyweds journeyed to the Rock for a celebration hosted by Anne Marie’s parents.
“I went [to Newfoundland], and I went, ‘oh my goodness, no wonder she’s so down to earth. No wonder she can drink me under the table. No wonder she wants to pay her own way,’” says Peter. “It’s a very special place, and the people there are amazing, and the culture is beautiful and sad and lovely.”
It was likely because of these cultural roots that Anne Marie connected so strongly with Mrs. Briggs, the industrious widow she portrayed on CBC’s gritty and groundbreaking female-driven western, Strange Empire.
Shot in Langley, the period drama was cancelled earlier this year after a single season, but it will always occupy a special place in Anne Marie’s heart and filmography.
“I think because of my heritage, there was something about [Strange Empire] that felt very familiar to me, and I felt like I really understood the language, and I loved playing somebody who was really tough in a vulnerable situation,” says Anne Marie.
Both Anne Marie and Peter are in the running for Leo Awards this weekend.
Anne Marie’s category is Best Supporting Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series, for her work as Mrs. Briggs on Strange Empire.
Peter is a nominee for Best Direction in a Television Movie for Zapped, a Disney Channel original movie starring American teen singing sensation Zendaya.
Leo recognition is nice, says Peter, but the fun part is actually “putting a show on its feet, taking the written word, going to the set, and creating a scene that has life and recognizable human behaviour, and can entertain.”
Lately, his priority has been on creating feel-good entertainment.
“After 9/11, and the birth of my son [in 2004], I realized I just want to make people laugh,” says DeLuise. “I want to entertain and make people laugh.”
Speaking of Peter and Anne Marie’s son – 11-year-old Jake – he’s a talented stop motion artist and director with his own YouTube channel.
But don’t expect to see Jake in front of the camera. He’s got his sights set on the gaming sphere.
“We’ve said to him, ‘do you want to try to do a one-line part or whatever,’ and he says, ‘no, I don’t think I’m that kind of guy,’” says Anne Marie.
The Leo Awards gala takes place June 14 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Follow @sabrinarmf for red carpet coverage and visit our website for next-day reportage and analysis.
MORE FROM ANNE MARIE AND PETER DELUISE
Peter on his dad, the late comedy legend Dom DeLuise:“As a child, I got in trouble for swearing a lot outside the house. My dad would get a note from school, ‘Peter’s using language we’d prefer he didn’t use in school,’ and my dad would say, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you swearing in school?’”
Anne Marie on when Peter first met her parents:“We had worked together for one episode, and we’re flirting, and then my parents arrived in town, and I took them out for dinner, and we went on a patio, and he was there, and I went, ‘Hey, Peter, these are my parents; Mom and Dad, this is Peter, you’ll meet him on set next week when you come to visit’ – this was before we had dated, and so he stood up and shook my dad’s hand and said, ‘Hello, I’m going to marry your daughter in a few years.’ And that was quite shocking and definitely got my attention.”
Anne Marie on the one time she acted opposite Peter:“The only time we’ve ever worked together as actors was many, many, many years ago. We did an episode of Andromeda when I was ten weeks pregnant, and it was a really over-the-top funny episode. He was pretty much being King Henry the Eighth, and I was in this baroque costume with this funny hat on my head and we got to slap each other around and it was so much fun. The chemistry when we were in front of the camera was really hot.”
Anne Marie on her Leo nomination: “I’m thrilled to be nominated. I honestly can tell you that I don’t care if I win because I’m just so thrilled to be invited to the party, and I worked harder on Strange Empire than I’ve ever worked on anything. It was a little bit outside of my comfort zone, but it was challenging in the best kind of way. I loved the character. I loved the writing. We had a wonderful cast and crew. It was an incredible experience, and it’s just thrilling to have somebody recognize it and to have seen it.”
Peter on directing busy Vancouver actor Aleks Paunovic in Zapped:“Working with Aleks was really, really great because he was being afforded this opportunity to be what we referred to as a Disney dad. Traditionally he plays heavies, he plays thumb-breakers, enforcers, killers, and anyone who knows Aleks knows he’s a big sweetie, a big teddy bear, and I had seen him do some great theatre and I knew that he was an amazing actor. And Disney made him jump through so many hoops to get that part, and when he did get that part, he just killed it. He came with so many wonderful choices. He came with this big, bold, wonderful, gregarious character, and I was able to pick and choose these wonderful choices that he had made, and it shows. In real life, we’ve seen that Aleks, but we’ve never really seen it captured on camera. Plus, I just really like Aleks, and I tell you what: if you work really long hours with a guy or a girl, it helps if you can get along with them. He’s the real deal. I would work with him any day of the week and twice on Sunday in a heartbeat because he’s so awesome.”