The 'BlackBerry' Effect: 5 Companies You Didn't Know Were Canadian (and Who Might Play Them in a Movie)

As 'BlackBerry' hits cinemas, here are the homegrown origin stories of a few other well-known companies

Photo courtesy of Elevation Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished Apr 11, 2023

Matt Johnson's latest film, BlackBerry, hits cinemas in less than a month, detailing the rise and devastating fall of the world's first smartphone. Undoubtedly, Mike Lazaridis (played by proud Canuck Jay Baruchel) changed the world with his desire to put a phone-sized computer in the palm of our hand, and with Jim Balsillie's (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Glenn Howerton) business acumen, the BlackBerry became one of Canada's greatest exports. 

Of course, many around the world have no idea about the smartphone's maple origins, though Johnson's film is set to change that. But which other companies with international appeal are secretly Canadian, and who would play their founders if their stories were given the cinematic treatment?

With BlackBerry hitting cinemas on May 12 through Elevation Pictures, here are five companies you might not have known are Canadian — and the hosers we'd like to see tell their stories on the big screen.

Vancouver, BC

For those who can afford it, Aritzia's brands are a popular university/college uniform of choice and beloved by Hollywood celebrities. It's no surprise then that the luxury boutique traces its roots back to upscale Vancouver retailer Hill's of Kerrisdale, where founder Brian Hill worked as a student, learning about the retail business under the tutelage of his father, Jim Hill, and uncle, Forbes Hill.

The younger Hill wanted to capitalize on the growing luxury market among young women and opened his first Aritzia boutique in Vancouver's Oakridge Centre in 1984. Since then, the company and its in-house brands have expanded around the world with great success.

It's hard not to imagine Patrick J. Adams as the well-to-do Hill with the boyish face. And since it was announced that Jennifer Wong would take over as CEO with Hill stepping down after nearly 40 years at the helm, we suggest Kristen Kreuk for a third-act cameo.

Galt, ON / Mississauga, ON

Where would cinema be without IMAX? A little less immersive and a lot less fun, that's where. Admittedly, the invention of IMAX isn't as tense or back-stabby as BlackBerry's creation, but it has the same charming Canadian feel-good vibe. Instead of BlackBerry's roots in Waterloo, IMAX hails from Galt, ON, where future filmmaker Graeme Ferguson, engineer Bill Shaw and businessman (and Galt mayor) Robert Kerr grew up together.

In 1965, Ferguson and fellow filmmaker Roman Kroitor were interns at the National Film Board, and in preparation for Expo 67 in Montreal, they were invited to pitch film ideas. Kroitor's suggestion of a multiple-image experimental film, titled In the Labyrinth, was accepted. The film required multiple projectors, which Ferguson throught was unnecessary — and, with Shaw's help, the early seeds of IMAX were planted.

It's an intriguing story for film and technology nerds, but maybe less so for a general audience. Nevertheless, let's bring in the big Canadian acting heavy-hitters for this one: Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Joshua Jackson and Seth Rogen as Kerr, Shaw, Kroitor and Ferguson, respectively. Also, it should be obvious that a movie about IMAX's creation can only be directed by Christopher Nolan, but in an effort to keep this all-Canadian, we'll sub in Denis Villeneuve. (Sorry, James Cameron.) 

Vancouver, BC

Just as BlackBerry quietly changed the tech world, Lululemon changed the world of fashion. What began as a brand aimed at kitting women out in the finest (and actually functional) yoga gear, eventually turned into a whole new genre of fashion called "athleisure." Started in 1998 by American-born, Canadian-raised Chip Wilson, Lululemon has redefined what is socially acceptable to wear out and about, whether heading to the gym or not. 

Wilson stepped down from the company's board of directors in 2015 and went on to publish an open letter to shareholders a year later (after his NDA expired) stating the company had "lost its way." It's not the first time Wilson has run his mouth: the brash businessman has previously implied that an increase in breast cancer cases is linked to the emergence of the "Power Woman" and has admitted to picking a three-"L" company name to appear exotic to Japanese people: "It's funny to watch them try to say it."

With such a controversial dirtbag behind the famed yoga brand, the screenplay practically writes itself. And who better to lead the charge than Vancouver's own Tiger Beat all-star, Devon Sawa? He's a little brawny with that West Coast appeal. 

MAC Cosmetics
Toronto, ON

Founded in 1984 by Frank Toskan and Frank Angelo in Toronto, ON, MAC has gone on to be one of the biggest makeup brands in the world. Known for its diverse colour and tone offerings, cruelty-free products, and the massively successful Viva Glam lipstick campaign where 100% of proceeds from the line goes towards supporting HIV/AIDS research, MAC has been a leader in the cosmetics industry since its foundation. 

The two Franks — makeup artist and photographer Toskan, and beauty salon owner Angelo — created the brand out of necessity. They wanted cosmetics that held its own against studio lights while still looking effortlessly beautiful.

Unfortunately, Angelo passed away in 1998, but one can't tell the story of MAC without both men. We'd suggest casting Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson as Toskan and Victor Gable as the late Angelo for a bit of humour and class in the would-be film.

Sloane Tea
Brockville, ON / Toronto, ON

We all know and love Montreal's DAVIDsTEA for their wall of loose leaf teas, but did you know Sloane Tea, although convincingly masquerading as British, began operation in Toronto?

Born in India to Iranian parents, founder Hoda Paripoush came to Canada as a religious refugee as a toddler and eventually settled in Brockville, ON. While Paripoush experienced a lot of upheaval and change in her childhood, tea was her constant: "No matter how chaotic life was, tea was always there," she told MENU. After studying at George Brown College, where she used her instructors and classmates as tea guinea pigs, she went on to become one of North America's first certified tea sommeliers. With her expertise, Sloane has quickly become a prominent, and exquisite, player in the tea world.

If she's not too busy training to be a lawyer, we think Mo Zeighami, who made her debut in last year's Canadian Screen Award-nominated Tehranto, would make a perfect Paripoush — the exact amount of sophistication and zeal necessary to brew up a success.

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