Where Are They Now? - Yvon Barrette

In what we hope is the first of many interviews, we have put together an interview with Yvon Barrette, the actor that played Denis Lemieux. This interview is exclusive to our site and is the first interview he has ever given about Slap Shot! We hope you enjoy the interview as we grill him about various topics such as "who own the Chiefs" and if he ever went to Florida and got his money. So sit back, take a deep breath of "hair" and enjoy!

Thanks for letting us spend some time with you today, Yvon. We are really excited to be able to speak with you about your role as Denis Lemieux. We'll start off with some questions about your childhood and what not, then go from there. So, did you play hockey as a kid?

Oh, yes, I think every Quebecer does. I start skating around 5 or 6 years old and playing hockey, there was a rink in my uncle's yard. He had a team named the Squirrels, we used to go play against other teams from little towns around. But, I never thought I was going to be a pro hockey player, I was a little small to become a pro hockey player. And that was not really my favorite sport.

What was your favorite sport?

Basketball, even though I was small, I played and scored some points. And I did some, how do you say it?, running like 6 miles, 12 miles and I was doing a lot of sports, but I never thought to become a hockey player.

Did you ever have a favorite player growing up?

Yeah, we grew up with the Montreal Canadiens leading the league and I am 55 now, so, Maurice Richard, Beliveau, those guys were my stars.

So, did you grow up near Montreal?

No, I grew up in the country, a small town, 15,000 people called Alma. The same town Mario Tremblay grew up. When Tremblay was around 12, I was like a trainer, sport trainer for young kids and I had that guy in my club. And then you know I was facing between two things, becoming an actor or a sport teacher and I was accepted in National Theater School and Ottawa University for that course. And I make my choice and went to National Theater School and then I became an actor.

Did you do all of your own hockey scenes since you could play or did they have a double for you?

I did most of it, but something happened the last Saturday before we were going to start shooting on Monday. [The] last Saturday we were having hockey rehearsal in a small town close to Johnstown and I was injured that first day. I had the goalie equipment on for less than two hours when George Roy Hill had asked every professional and actor not to shoot from too close to give me a chance to get used to the equipment. I wanted to do it all by myself, but I was injured, I received a puck by the knee. I was booked for three weeks of crutches, that was a little frustrating, but that is a good anecdote to tell you. It will show you I think that all the...what atmosphere was surrounding our practice and everything. From the beginning, we were like a team. I think George Roy Hill did a wonderful job.

Anyhow, I was injured and they brought me in Johnstown, but I was a little worried, that they change their mind and bring in somebody else. Instead of feeling alone at the hospital a lot of people came to see how I was feeling and I came back to the hotel and I was in my room for a few minutes and everybody came in. They had wrote a song to tell me that I was Denis Lemieux and nobody else was going to do the job and they brought me gifts. Newman brought me a a bottle of fine Napoleon and a deck of cards and George Roy Hill brought me some adult magazines, anyways, they all wanted me to be on my legs as soon as possible. Instead of being 3 weeks on crutches, I made it in one week and a half. But to protect the character, I was doubled by Ron Docken, who was playing the substitute goalie in the movie. When there was danger for myself he was in the goal. Each time he had to do my part, he was like a magician, you know. That's the story.

We noticed that you did your own voice for the French version of Slap Shot. Tell us a little about that.

I did the French version myself, but you know regarding my character Denis Lemieux, with the French Canadian speaking so-so English, doing mistakes, that was the funniest part of my character in English, saying he has a big cock, like a horse, you know a lot of those things are impossible to bring in French. I prefer for that reason, the original version to the French one. But the French people really love the French one. I think they use too much bad words that we don't find in English. For me it was a cheap translation of it.

Yeah, that was a big part of your character, the thick French accent, so I would think that wouldn't have translated very well to a French version.

Yeah, for the original George Roy Hill kept saying to me, "Yvon, you're speaking too well", so I had to be careful. For the French, I did it simply using my voice and just the same words with the same intention. But, I did it I think in only a few hours, it was really a fast job. I go back easily in the atmosphere, that was not a problem for me. Also, I saw a Spanish version of it, there was a German version. I don't know if they did a Japanese one, but, it is impossible for me to double my voice in Japanese (laughing).

Switching gears a bit, Mike Vernon is a big fan of your Denis Lemieux character and he apparently is the king of Slap Shot quotes in the locker room. Have you ever noticed how Slap Shot and your contributions have become embedded in hockey lingo?

You know when that movie was done, for me it was just like another one. The character went I don't know where and I start back to my life. I live very simply in the country. If somebody finds me, it's alright, somebody did last year. I did a movie [15 Fevrier 1839] with Pierre Falardeau, a beautiful movie. You are the first whom I give an interview. I refuse all interview when the movie went out. I don't like that part of the actor job, it's like a plumber is a plumber, when the job is done, it's done (laughing).

If Mike Vernon would like to get in touch with me, I wouldn't mind. But [the quoting of lines], that's one part of it I don't really understand. George Roy Hill is a great director. We had a wonderful script written by a woman, Nancy Dowd. Do you know why she wrote that script?

Well, her brother was Ned Dowd who played on the Johnstown Jets team that the Chiefs were based on and she got most of her story from that, as far as we know.

Yeah, her idea was to...ahh...there were people from violence in hockey. In that league, it was really a rough game, like throwing sticks in the stands. You know it was very tough. Really, nothing looking so much like hockey for me. There were great people around, Steven Mendillo, Brad Sullivan and all those guys. Great actors, great team, and you know there was only one star with Paul Newman, so Paul had to be close, we were a team. Like I do for any other movies, I had to play a character of a hockey player, so I became a hockey player for the six months before the movie and a few weeks after, but, I used to be very close to professional hockey players like the [Hanson] Brothers, like Ron Docken, all those guys. I became a part of their lives, too, and maybe it's the reason my character was so close to reality for the fans. You don't know if I'm a hockey player or an actor. I was a hockey player for that part of my life, it was a great feeling. All the girls around and everything, it was a party. When you put a bunch of guys together, that's a party. We had fun, a lot of fun. When I think of that movie, I think of a lot of funny things, you know. We did such things, you know on the bus the fans are passing by and we show our asses? (laughing) That was great to see those faces looking at the windows.

Did you actually stick your ass out the window?

I'm not going to tell you in which window I was. You will never know which one was me (laughing). Anyway, the kind of things we did, one scene that the bus with fans are following our bus, we stop in front of restaurant and some of the girls come out of the bus and we do the same and run to each other, but the first time we did the scene, we had the assistant director on our bus and we had to go back three miles to get the speed and the feeling and everything. We told the guy to shut his mouth then, we undressed, all the players and actors, we undressed completely. And when the bus stop and we were on the fan bus, they all run back on their bus (laughing). But you know Universal is a lot of money, so those scenes were good to watch the day after and laugh. It was a great party.

In the movie, you never had any one-on-one fight scenes. Did you have any and they got edited out or were you just always in the background?

I was always fighting, but, the accent was on the [Hanson] Brothers. The camera was not on me, but I was injured during a fight. You know that was dangerous, the danger was not from the guy we were fighting with, but other people dancing around with their skates. Skates in the air and that was quite dangerous. There is a scene where I try to go in the stands to give help to one of the [Hanson] Brothers and they break a bottle over my head. I was a fighter, but not the violent player. Not looking for that, but ready to face them at anytime. It was a little difficult not to close my eyes before I knew she was going to hit. I had to do the scene three times. George says, "Oh, you close your eyes, try it again". Then the time I didn't close my eyes, I opened my head on the ice. It was a good headache.

Was there anything else you remember that might be of interest to our readers, any funny stories or memories?

Well, to make the teams against who we were playing, they brought back some hockey players from that league specifically and the guys knew each other very well. Some of them were out of touch for many years, so that was a party for them. The guy that played the Indian, the big chief? He was an insurance seller, you know, very far from hockey and when he came to do those days of shooting, he was excited. There were most of the time three-thousand people in the arena, it was a very big show. It was funny, it was interesting to see how professional hockey players like the [Hanson] Brothers were getting into the movie, to see them play parts. They had to teach us how to play hockey and sometimes needed our help to become an actor. It was a very good friendship.

The Hansons are the best athletes as actors ever to be on film, as far as we're concerned. We're guessing their roles weren't much out of character from their real life, though.

Yeah, they were playing their lives.

When they first came on the set, what was your first impression of them?

Ahhhh...who are those guys?(laughing). They were nice fellows.

Do you remember if they actually wore those glasses in real life back then?

Two of them did. There were three brothers. There was Steve and Jeff and the other brother was playing for Edmonton in the World Association, so they brought Dave Hanson to play the third one. Because two of them were wearing glasses for real, they had to bring glasses and that's why all three wore glasses.

To finish up here, let us know what you've been doing for the last twenty or so years.

Well, I did a few movies afterwards, but I came back to theater. I was directing a group and we did some theater shows. At the beginning we were supposed to do it thirty times and we did it two-hundred times. We went all around the country to do it. That's a show to bring people together, to bring the people aware of their village, where there village might be closed by the government if they don't do things. It's a little political show. [I did] a few movies, and then I invest in a mill. We sell cedar to an American company in New Jersey and they do garden furniture. I work in that mill, I love to do physical work. I did a nice trip, a nice boat trip, I went across the Atlantic on a sailboat in 1984. Twenty-nine days of sea. It was a forty-seven foot boat with five people. That was my first experience. I do a very simple life. I am the grandfather of two, my son works with me at the mill. I live in country, I wouldn't be able to live in town. That's why I only do things that I feel like will be interesting, like the movie I did last year. Now Slap Shot is haunting me.

Did anyone contact you to have a part in the sequel?

No, never did. I don't think it [the sequel] will be a great thing. I would have loved it. I'm still an actor! (laughing)

Well, if we were in charge of the sequel, you can bet you would've been one of the first actors we called. Maybe if we can scrape together a few million, we can do something.

Let's do it! I've got everything to be like a hockey player, except the salary (laughing). That's funny to think that Mike Vernon is getting, I don't know how many millions a year and is looking at my picture to get courage, just ask him to give me one percent and I'll send him color pictures! (laughing)

Well, that about wraps it up. Thanks so much for the interview, Yvon. We really appreciate the time and we hope to hear from you again.

Your welcome. Tell the fans its a great thing to see that movie still living. Bye.

Well, there it is folks, our first interview in the books. We'd just like to say thanks to Yvon again for spending time with us. We hope that you enjoyed reading the interview as much as we enjoyed talking with him. Yvon can now be classified as one of the greats, right up there with Toe Blake, Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper. He never did tell us who own the Chiefs, though.