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Vancouver actor goes bad for latest role

Dan Payne stars in Brent Butt's locally shot No Clue

Dan Payne is having trouble getting one child down for a nap and another planted in front of the TV so he can talk. “I’m just on the phone with the nice lady, OK buddy?” he patiently tells his five-year-old. It’s quite a switch from the tough, imposing characters the actor frequently plays onscreen, including his latest bad-guy turn in Brent Butt’s No Clue, opening today.

Payne plays Church, a dirty cop turned gun-for-hire in the film written and starring Butt (Corner Gas), directed by Carl Bessai, and co-starring Amy Smart and Anchorman’s David Koechner. It’s a classic case of mistaken identity: Butt plays Leo, an ordinary man who sells novelty products but happens to be in a vacationing private detective’s office when a beautiful woman wanders in, needing help. It isn’t long before Leo gets in way over his head.

Vancouver gets to play itself for a change in this tale of murder, sex and video game-industry intrigue. “Brent doesn’t hide that it takes place in Canada,” says Payne. “Comedy is universal and I think he has captured that.” There’s even a line in the film ripped straight from the headlines: “Whoa, whoa, where’s everyone getting guns? This is Canada!”

“I knew Brent was funny, it’s obvious to the entire universe, but when there’s a personal aspect level of intelligence that’s off the charts, good luck catching your breath,” says Payne, also has high praise for director Bessai.

“His style is very much his own and it’s a great thing for any actor to experience. He’s very good at nurturing what the actor needs and still getting the shot he needs.”

During filming, Payne spent a great deal of time chasing Smart and Butt through the streets of Vancouver, Langley and Squamish for the noir-ish thriller/comedy, and doing many of his own stunts. It was a tight shoot but a nice commute for the actor, who has called Vancouver home for the past six years.

Payne was born in Victoria but was a “borderline nomad” growing up. With the advantage of his height — he’s 6’4” — he emerged as a star volleyball player and was recruited to play professionally in Holland. The language barrier was tough (a Dutch girlfriend to act as translator helped) but Payne loved the game and the experience. After that he joined his brother in Australia, where the two made their own short films and talked of starting their own production house.

Instead Payne headed for London, doing theatre and the audition circuit.

After moving back to Canada, Payne found himself with roles on Stargate, Supernatural, Divine: The Series, Tower Prep and in such films as Watchmen (he played Dollar Bill), Cabin in the Woods, and a lead role in the drama Mulligans, from which he says he still gets “very gratifying feedback” from fans online.

But writing is his other passion. Payne has written a “by me, for me” comedy pilot about a broken down hockey player that he calls “Californication in a toque.” While it’s fun to play bad guys, the actor finds himself constantly drawn back to comedy.  

Payne is nursing a smashed thumb from stunt work on last week’s job and is shooting a lead in a movie of the week this week. “I’m extremely grateful to be busy,” says the actor, who appreciates being able to kick back with the family and be a stay-at-home dad in his downtime. “I am just a huge supporter of living your life the best way you know how, and trusting your heart… because if you ride the roller coaster of the external, you’re bound to be disappointed.”

No Clue screens at International Village.