Brandon Firla is probably best known for his role as Reverend Thorne on CBC's Little Mosque on the Prairie, but that may change after the world premiere of Score: A Hockey Musical at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Firla plays a sports agent alongside celebrities such as music icon Olivia Newton-John and Canada's most famous hockey dad Walter Gretzky. But Firla hasn't let fame go to his head; he's likely to drive his 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit to the red carpet affair.
"We're not really fancy-car people.… Cars define some people, but I can't really say that about me.
"We don't do cars that are a status symbol. We don't really love high speeds. We don't need a massive engine."
Will we ever share Europeans' taste for premium-priced small cars?
That's why Firla bought the Rabbit after getting married two years ago. "We knew we wanted a family so we picked the most logical thing. We bought a two-door car," he says sarcastically. "Now we have a four-month-old daughter and we do wish we had the four-door now. But it's still fine," says Firla whose other credits include the sitcom Billable Hours and the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers.
"I do like German cars - it's installed in my genetic code I guess. They're practical; they're not flashy, but not hideously ugly to look at. They have reasonably cool names like the Rabbit or Golf."
Firla bought the Rabbit in California and drove it to Toronto. He says he had no choice but to go with a German car. "I had to get a Volkswagen because my father is German; he would have disowned me had I not got a German automobile. I always liked VW. We had them in our family growing up. I like the size, the look - it's basically all we needed.
"The Rabbit is really good in the city. It's not bad on gas -it's not incredible, but it's good. I do enjoy the built-in iPod and the rear-view mirror because I enjoy looking at my self," he laughs. "Now I enjoy looking at my daughter in the rear-view mirror."
"I'd add a couple more doors, a sunroof and ejector seats. I don't mind the small car. I like feeling exceptionally tall all the time," says the 6-foot-5 award-winning actor and writer.
Early on, the VW had some issues. "To be honest, we thought we had a lemon when we bought it. In the first week, twice when my wife was driving, the car just shut off! The computer and dashboard completely went blank, but that all got fixed up and we haven't had any problems since."
"One thing I love about Volkswagens is their pretty low maintenance. The computer dashboard tells you when you need service or when your tire pressure is low or need the oil changed. It's good for people who know absolutely nothing about cars."
Firla confesses he's no car guy. "I'm absolutely useless with cars. I know there are some cylinders in there….
"I've heard the terms before but I don't know what they mean, which is sad because my Dad is a huge car nerd. Back home, he always had his head underneath the hood of a car. I never took the time to actually stand next to my father and look at what he was doing and ask questions so now I'm pretty useless."
But he boasts of his clean driving record. "No speeding tickets! I've never had a speeding ticket - if there was wood around, I would knock on it.
"But this car is a parking ticket magnet. We don't have good luck with that. We're too lazy to fight them. Eventually we'll have to pay them."
Firla had a minor mishap in his first car, a 1980-something Volvo his Dad gave him in high school. "I scraped a concrete pillar in a parkade.
"It scraped up the side and I decided that the best thing to do was to tell my Dad that someone had side-swiped me in the parking lot as opposed to owning up to the fact I was distracted and scraped it myself. He sniffed that up pretty fast - there was concrete dust on the side. Also, I'm a horrible liar."
Firla's best driving memories are as a child on family road trips. "We drove across the country in this Westphalia camper with the popped-up roof. I have two brothers and we fit in there pretty cosily.
"Our Dad took turns putting one of us in his lap to pretend we were actually driving on the highway - that was actually fun. Those trips were the best memories I had as a kid driving across Canada."
But it wasn't always good times in the Westphalia. "It broke down several times, but that would extend our vacation. Dad would tinker with it until he figured out it needed serious help and then we'd take it to the shop. We once had to wait a week for a part in the east coast - near Halifax."
On the road, Firla admits he loves singing in the car. "I sing non-stop at the wheel, usually not with my wife. She usually tells me to be quiet.
"Our favourite song in the car is Lovely Day by Bill Withers. There's something about it - we will sing it together. That's our only duet. I sing show tunes. I'm a big jazz fiend. I love Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Dean Martin."
Another oldie he loves is his dream car. "I would like a really old-school Packard. Whatever the gangsters drove in the 1930s.
"I'm a big Humphrey Bogart fan. I would just put on my fedora and just drive through the city like I was in the 30s or 40s, but not with a gun."
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