In the movie Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, Toronto bank robber Boyd has a flare for the theatrical. “Welcome to the show,” he yells as he flirts with the tellers and his gang fills pillowcases with cash.
Fascinated by the dashing bad boy who robbed at least 11 banks between 1949 and ’52, Nathan Morlando (BA 1992 VIC) started writing a screenplay about him in 1995. Recently, he directed the biopic, starring Scott Speedman, which won Best Canadian First Feature at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Morlando’s wife, Allison Black (BA 1998 NEW), was the film’s producer.
After serving 15 years in prison, Boyd had been paroled on the condition that he leave Ontario and live under a pseudonym. Morlando was able to track him down, and, from 1995 until Boyd’s death in 2002, the filmmaker spent hundreds of hours on the phone with him. “We became good friends,” says Morlando. “I really liked him.”
The film, now on DVD, is not a typical cops and robbers movie. “It’s a tragic love story,” he says. The movie – which chronicles events beginning with Boyd’s return from the Second World War through to his release from prison – uses a pastel palette to reveal how tender the gangster was with his children and how deeply he was in love with his wife. Eventually, Boyd’s criminal lifestyle cost him his family.
When Morlando visited Boyd at his home on Vancouver Island, he realized his sadness hadn’t come through on the phone. “When I met Edwin I could see true regret in his eyes. He had lost everything.”