TORONTO - It's another busy summer for Canadian Paul Gross, but merely starring in a multimillion-dollar big-screen western and commuting regularly to Los Angeles to shoot a TV series for ABC is a walk in the park for the veteran actor.
At least compared to last year, when the multi-talented performer was juggling duties as writer, director, co-producer, star and chief promoter for his big-budget Canadian war epic, "Passchendaele," a monumental ode to valour and sacrifice more than a decade in the making.
These days, Gross is immersed in considerably lighter fare, having just wrapped shooting on the feel-good comedy "Gunless," about a U.S. gunslinger who finds himself beset by odd, peace-loving townsfolk when he blunders into a small Canadian town.
The period piece required him to don three layers of wool and stringy hair extensions for a sweltering shoot in the Okanagan sun, but Gross says he loved not having to be the boss for a change.
"It is a little bit like a holiday because I don't have to worry about all these other things like whether the light's going down or whatever - the usual mishaps that occur in the course of a day of shooting," Gross said in a recent interview in Banff, Alta., where he attended the Banff World Television Festival last month.
"They tell me what to wear and what to say and where to stand and I kind of find that liberating."
Gross plays The Montana Kid, a gunslinger who manages to escape lynching by an American posse and finds haven in a quirky Alberta town.
It's not long before the cowboy picks a fight with the local blacksmith and challenges him to a showdown.
But the quickdraw is delayed when it becomes apparent that no one in town has a pistol for the duel and it'll take two weeks to order one in.
The fish-out-of-water tale also stars Brit actress Sienna Guillory as the love interest, Jane, and Gross's old "Due South" co-star Callum Keith Rennie as the villain.
"We have to actually stop each other and say we should do some work now, because it gets goofy," Gross said of his on-set camaraderie with Rennie.
"We spent a long time together on 'Due South' so that stuff keeps coming back, all these stupid things we used to do on 'Due South' we started doing again on set. And of course, nobody knows what we're doing and I think we look like fools."
Shooting took place in the desert landscape near Osoyoos, B.C., where temperatures soared into the 40s, said producer Stephen Hedges of Brightlight Pictures. A pervasive dust forced crew to wear masks and bandannas.
Hedges compared the film's tone to the 1983 Scottish film, "Local Hero," about a young Texas oil executive sent to swindle the residents of a small fishing village out of their drilling rights.
"The story is very universal in many respects, although there's a great deal of specificity around the Canadian-ness of the town," Hedges said from his office in Vancouver.
"You could take this story and turn it into a U.K. story or an Australian story - there's that same relationship to the U.S. on a bigger thematic level. And our hope is that the film actually does do business south-of-the-border as well because I think there is something there for American audiences."
Gross's other summer plans involve shooting scenes for his upcoming ABC series, "Eastwick," based on the John Updike novel, "The Witches of Eastwick." It's set to air in Canada on CTV.
Also starring Rebecca Romijn, "Eastwick" features Gross as a devilish mystery man who unleashes unique powers in three very different women in a small New England town.
Filming takes place in L.A., but Gross said he has no plans to move south. Instead he commutes, noting that he'll only need to be on set for two-to-three days out of the eight days it takes to shoot each episode.
"Eastwick" debuts in the fall, while "Gunless" is planned for release in March 2010.