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Acting like a pro: Rich Clune tackles new roles

From ESPN - September 11, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Clune sees his older brother, Rich Clune, a forward for the AHL's Toronto Marlies, as more than just a hockey player.

Matt says that Rich is a "performer" who has natural charisma that lends itself to the screen, where an actor needs a presence to engage an audience. The way Matt sees it, Rich's decision to start taking acting classes three years ago -- and to put those skills to use onscreen this summer -- was more natural evolution than novelty.

"Whether he's playing hockey or in a room with people, he's an alpha. He wants to be the leader and the loudest in the room and the most noticeable," said Matt, a screenwriter in Los Angeles. "As far as him making the plunge and saying, 'I want to study this craft,' I think he always had that alpha energy you need."

Rich, 30, has played 139 NHL games since he was selected by the Dallas Stars in the third round of the 2005 NHL draft. This offseason, he tackled roles in two short films. One was "Hypostasis," an experimental short, filmed over four days during July in Toronto that explores mental health. Rich played the protagonist, Matthew Robinson. According to the film's fundraising website, Rich's character "attempts to control his bipolar condition over the course of an eventful day." Rich, who has worked with organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Renascent Treatment Centre, has been open about his own struggles with addiction and mental health.

His other foray into acting was a dark comedy titled "The Marvin Family Tortoise." It was filmed in Joshua Tree, California, and Rich -- who played a supporting role as a 1950s bureaucrat -- shot his scenes during one day in August.

"I know a lot of hockey players who are doing internships at a lot of companies, so it's not like it's anything out of the ordinary to apply yourself to another craft," Rich said. "But I have also never been afraid to be myself. It's what I want to do."

Growing up in Toronto, all three Clune brothers were into sports. Matt and Rich played hockey, and Ben, the youngest, played baseball. But they were also entranced by film. The brothers often discussed and dissected a wide variety of movies, including "The Godfather," the "Rocky" films, as well Martin Scorsese's and Stanley Kubrick's respective oevres. This exposure gave them an appreciation for film and broader sense of cinema.

Ben is also a screenwriter based in Los Angeles, and he and Matt have co-written several scripts, including one about well-known drug trafficker Rick Ross and another about legendary boxer Joe Louis that have each been bought by production companies.

"I think stuff like that just gave us an opportunity to play together but also just enjoy movies together," Matt said.

As Rich's hockey career progressed, he mostly suppressed his desire to act because he was afraid to show his jock teammates that he was into the arts and wanted to act.

"It's an easy way to start a fight, if you tell your teammates you want to go to a theater class or be in a play or a movie or something," Rich said. "It was all in my own head. I am sure it would happen, but it's nothing I could not deal with at the time. But when you are young, you do not know."

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