MILK RIVER, Alta. – Some friendly advice from Steven Seagal. Getting into fisticuffs with Paul Gross. Not too many truck drivers can tell personalized Tinsel Town tales from behind the scenes.
But despite his professional acting work with numerous Hollywood notables, Robert Nogier is still not willing to completely give up the keys to his rig.
The Southern Alberta resident drives truck for Commodity Carriers out of Lethbridge, Alta., but spends about three months of every year working as an actor.
Part of the reason Nogier is able to continue his acting career, is due to the cooperation of his employer at Commodity Carriers.
“Ray (Taylor, owner of Commodity Carriers)…goes out of his way to accommodate me,” explained Nogier. “I don’t think a lot of owners would, and you can’t blame them.”
With the flexibility provided by Commodity Carriers, Nogier was recently able to play a role in an upcoming film written and starred in by Paul Gross, who has previously starred in the movie Men With Brooms and played the main character on the television series Due South.
Passchendaele – a World War I period piece – was filmed in Calgary, where Nogier spent a week on set filming his role as the neighbour of Paul Gross’ character.
“My character is Mr. Harper; he’s a bit of a redneck I guess,” explained Nogier. “He’s a typical working man of 1917, and he finds out his neighbours are of German descent. Basically me and my buddies – my cronies – trash their house and are basically just jerks all around, making snide remarks.”
Nogier’s time on set pretty much comes to an end when his character gets taught a lesson by Gross, which prompts his henchman to back off.
Most of the picture takes place in Calgary and is based somewhat biographically on Gross’ grandfather, who lived in Calgary where Gross was born and raised.
The $20 million film will be released in theatres in the near future and captured Nogier’s thespian side the moment he read the script.
“Everyone’s so dedicated and it’s going to be one hell of a movie,” Nogier told Truck West. “After I read the script, I was going to bribe him to let me do it. I wish I could tell you what happens, it’s going to be such a good movie.”
The Passchendaele role came decades after Nogier’s first movie experience.
Born in Saskatchewan in the mid-60s, Nogier grew up in parts of Northern B.C. and the Central Interior, where the passion for his two career choices was born.
Nogier’s first acting experience, on the set of the television series The Beachcombers, was mostly coincidental and the result of childhood antics.
“I was 9-years-old, and a runaway,” recalls Nogier. “Me and a friend ran away from home, and we went to sneak on a B.C. ferry to visit family on the island, I guess we read the signs wrong and wound up on the wrong boat. We ended up on the Gibson’s boat, and when we landed we caught a ride into Gibson’s and ended up at Molly’s Reach, which is a restaurant now but at the time was part of the set.”
The two young hungry runaways were caught sneaking food off of a table and one of the cast members figured they could be put to good use.
“He figured they could use us as extras in the diner and feed us a couple cheeseburgers, while they waited for the police to come and take us where we needed to be,” added Nogier. “I didn’t do much after that, it was pretty much it until I went to California. That was my first brush with it and I kinda enjoyed it.”
Nogier’s other career choice was a family affair which also began at a young age.
“Right from the time I was a little kid I wanted to drive a truck. I was the kid at the side of the road, pumping his arm, getting them to blow their horns,” said Nogier. “I’ve had family involved in the industry, my uncle Norm had a logging operation and he taught me.”
The trucking industry ran thick in Nogier’s blood, as one of his great uncles started Caron Transport in Edmonton, and it was not long before a young Nogier was behind the wheel of a truck.
“I started driving when I was 15 for my uncle, who had a logging truck, I started the old-school way,” noted Nogier. “When I turned 19, I got my Class 1 and started heading south and running into the States from there.”
It was Nogier’s career in trucking that essentially drove him back into acting and down to California.
“After a few fluke moves I met the producer of Smokey and the Bandit 2, and ended up doing some stunt work on the movie,” said Nogier.
His first role and brief bit of work, turned into numerous stunt jobs and background work. On sets, mostly in California and B.C., Nogier worked on numerous television shows and movies, including 21 Jump Street, Wiseguys, MacGyver, Needful Things and Jennifer 8.
“I also did some work on Star Trek the Next Generation, which was cool ’cause I got to dress up like a Klingon,” noted Nogier.
About eight years ago however, after filming wrapped up on a set in Calgary, Nogier decided to take his acting career in a different direction.
“I was doing stunt work on a (Steven) Seagal film called Exit Wounds in Calgary,” said Nogier. “After we wrapped up filming, I was talking with Seagal at a cast party – because he was also the stunt coordinator for the film – and he said, ‘you know you’ve been doing this long enough and you know what you’re doing, why don’t you get an agent and do it?’ So I did; and have been at it ever since.”
Since 2002, Nogier has been working strictly as an actor and no longer does stunt work – unless it is called for by the character he is portraying. He has held various roles in television and movies including North of 60, and Ghost of Christmas Past; and has also done some work filming commercials.
“I love acting. I love being on the set period,” noted Nogier. “In some ways it’s a lot like being a truck driver, you’re bored to tears for a long time and then all of a sudden it’s boom, boom, boom…Last Friday, I had eight costume changes in two hours, I didn’t even have time to take a sip of water, it’s just go, go, go, go, go…It’s one extreme to the other.”
Nogier’s acting career is beginning to get a lot busier. His agent has been fielding more calls from casting directors in B.C. and California; and the casting agent from Passchendaele is in talks with Nogier’s agent about a permanent role on the television series Heartland.
Between an increasingly busy acting career and a full-time truck driving career, Nogier has little time for much else, but makes sure he has time for his family.
“Being a trucker you never really have spare time,” added Nogier. “I usually have more time at home when I’m acting, but the reason I’m in Milk River, Alta. is so I can get home easier, pop in and see the missus and the lad.”
Between the busy schedule of both careers, Nogier often fields questions about why he doesn’t just give one up and focus on the other.
“People always ask me, if I’m doing well, and love acting why I’m still driving truck? I love it,” he added. “I’ve been driving a truck so long, why bother to change? The acting won’t last forever; I’d be a fool to think that. So I’ll act as long as I can, and keep driving truck when I’m done.”