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Cochrane's RAD big-screen appearance celebrates 35th anniversary

The 80s cult classic RAD, which finds its roots in Cochrane, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

COCHRANE— The 80s cult classic RAD, which finds its roots in Cochrane, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

RAD tells the story of Cru Jones, a young BMX racer faced with the tough decision to take his SATs or ride in the qualifying races for a famous BMX race held at the Helltrack, where he can win $100,000, a brand-new Corvette and fame.

Thirty-five years later, the film still has a dedicated following of fans.

Jerold Hoshowatiuk, who sits on the board of Cochrane BMX, said the film was an iconic piece of his youth.

Hoshowatiuk grew up in Northern Quebec in a small town called Baie-Comeau as well as in Montreal.

During his youth he got involved with BMX racing, and watched the film RAD many times while growing up.

“Back in the late 80s, BMX was taking off and everything was pretty cool, and I saw this movie named RAD that was filmed in a place called Cochrane. At the time I thought it was a real American city, because that’s where they play it off to be, but it turns out it’s actually Cochrane, Alberta,” he said. “To me it’s like, ‘wow,’ I grew up in a town that I watched so many times in movies and now I live there, it’s just amazing.”

Now, Hoshowatiuk manages the service centre at a bike shop in Calgary, and has followed his love of cycling into adulthood.

“Getting into bikes, watching movies like RAD, it just sucks you in. You immerse yourself into it, you start working at it, you want to ride, you want to race,” he said. “For me it turned into a career.”

The movie still creates waves across the biking world, even 35 years later, Hoshowatiuk said.

“Last year they had an outdoor screening of the movie RAD in Calgary, it was really awesome to go to that are really see the type of cult following the movie still has,” he said. “It’s a super cool thing. It’s a badge of honour, when you travel racing BMX, and you say ‘I’m from Cochrane,’ and everyone knows where that is. If you went to a race anywhere in the world and mentioned that movie, they would know it’s in Cochrnane.”

The movie may have put Cochrane on the map as a community for cyclists, but what keeps it there is the environment, Hoshowatiuk said.

“It’s just such a cool place to live in Cochrane, where we have so many facets of cycling that are available to us, it’s just an extension. If you think about it, there’s not too many places where you could have mountain bikers, BMXers, triathetes, road riders, gravel riders, even trials, all live in the same town, get along, share the same facilities, roads,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool symbiotic thing we’ve got going on there.”

Much of the surroundings in Cochrane remind Hoshowatiuk of scenes in the film, he said, including an iconic sequence where the main character, Cru Jones, rides his bike through Spray Lake Sawmills.

The only part of the film not shot in Cochrane was the climax, which takes place on a fictional track that was constructed for the film in Bowness Park in Calgary.

“The actual track and the race was held in Bowness, but the parade, the home scenes, main street Cochrane, it’s all our town,” he said. “Everything else was filmed around town, it had lots of extras from town, you know, lots of local people were in it.”

One of those locals used an extra is now the mayor of Cochrane, Jeff Genung, who became involved when the high school put out a call for extras for the film.

“There was a call put out over the intercom at school in those days, anybody wishing to be an extra in a movie should come down to the office and put your name in, so a few of my friends and I did,” he said. “It turned out to be really interesting to watch but also, at times, super boring because we would just stand around and take the same shot over and over again.”

Although it was exciting to see behind the scenes of a major production, he said, the opportunity to miss a bit of school was the most appealing aspect for Genung.

“I think, to be frank, I was looking to get out of class,” he said with a chuckle. “A lot of the filming happened during school hours, so it was a way to cut class with permission, and at the same time be in a movie which was pretty cool.”

The filming, which took place all across Cochrane, created a buzz in the community. People were intrigued by the production, and many flocked to the theatres to see their community up on the big screen upon its release.

“The community was not very big at that time,” he said. “It was pretty obvious, in our small community, what was going on— Everybody knew about it, so it was pretty impactful. Then when it came out, in those days you had to rent the VHS or Betamax tape to see it again after it was released, and I did that quite a few times.”

Genung said he remembers the events fondly, but unfortunately for him, his foray into acting was over as quickly as it began.

In the beginning, his role served as an opportunity to miss school and have fun, but that was not always the case. Many of the days spent shooting RAD ended up going quite late, and Genung and his friends often stayed at the school well into the evening filming dozens of takes of the same scene.

“One particular time, we were filming outside of the school, and it was about the big dance that was going to happen inside the gym. The stars of the movie were supposed to come in and we were all outside watching them, for take after take after take after take,” he said. “It was getting to be around six o’clock in the evening and we were getting hungry and tired, so I slipped out and ordered a pizza.”

The pizza delivery person, it turned out, had terrible timing.

“It was ‘OK, quiet on the set,’ and then someone walks in and goes ‘who ordered a pizza?’ I had to put my hand up in front of the director, who was Hal Needham, and he ripped a strip off me,” Genung recalled, laughing.

Needless to say, that was the end of his brief career as a movie extra.

“I never did get the callback, I think I ruined my career in filmmaking,” he joked. “I think I’ve probably immortalized myself as the worst cast member ever.”

Genung added that he hopes to see more films made in the province, and filmmaking becomes a prominent industry here, as Alberta has such a diverse, picturesque collection of settings and landscapes.