By Michael D. Reid - Times-Colonist staff (1994)
When Duncan Regehr was a young man growing up in Victoria in the ’60s, his parents hoped he’d someday become a professional figure skater.
But despite his hard-earned style and discipline he displayed on and off the ice, young Duncan had other plan, however, and they weren’t limited to a single career.
While the Regehrs’ handsome, now 40-ish son is perhaps best known for his roles in the movies and on television, he has also matured dramatically as a poet, philosopher, writer and painter.
His new book, The Dragon’s Eye: An Artist’s View, has just been published by Journey Editions of Boston, Massachusetts. Regehr will be autographing copies on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Munro’s Books.
Regehr’s lavishly illustrated, 194-page art book beautifully showcases a wide variety of his painting styles. It also features an autobiographical narrative; prose and poetry to accompany his art; and personal insight into his busy, multi-faceted existence.
“I treat it as a life rather than separate careers,” said Regehr during time out from shooting an episode of the TV series Robin’s Hoods with old friend Linda Purl in Vancouver the other day.
“Acting is an extrovert’s profession, but painting and writing are introverted forms of expression. It’s interesting to juggle the two. Sometimes they cross over.”
Regehr’s dashing screen persona might lead some to assume he’s just another vacuous Holly wood pretty boy. The actor/artist – who divides his time with his wife, writer and avid gardener Catherine Regehr, among Los Angeles, Victoria, and Renton, Washington – leaves a different impression during a breezy interview.
Regehr is philosophical and articulate as he expounds on his beliefs and experiences.
The Dragon’s Eye, says the artist, whose richly textured works have been shown in galleries from Toronto and New York to Los Angeles (and soon Hong Kong), heralds the beginning of his venture into a compelling style of painting he terms “poetic imagery.”
“This is imagery of the inner self,” explains Regehr, who studied art and automatism, with Dutch surrealist Henry Poesiat.
“Most of these paintings simply arrive. There’s no active search for subject matter. It’s the same with my writing. The images ‘happen’ rather than being manifested by direct intent. The more I let go of control, the more readily the images present themselves.”
Regehr, who attended Royal Oak elementary and secondary schools and Claremont High after moving here from Alberta, got an early start in creative pursuits.
Inspired by his father, Peter Regehr, a gifted artist who emigrated from Russian in 1926, Duncan established a distinctive style as a youngster, but felt too intimidated to show off his pen and ink drawings and paintings.
Regehr also caught the acting bug on the brink of adolescence, “which didn’t do my grades any good. I was so hot to trot.”
The well-spoken artist says he got his start as an actor – in a production of The Lady’s Not for Burning – at Langham Court Theatre.
“Mary Jane Scott and Helen Smith really helped me at the very beginning,” he recalled.
“It was a very good training ground.”
In 1969, a year after he started to host a half-hour cable TV talk show for teens called Strawberry Land, Regehr made his professional debut at age 16 with Victoria Fair, a repertory theatre formed by Dr. Ralph Allen, who went on to produce Sugar Babies on Broadway.
After studying voice, acting, movement and fencing at Bastion Theatre School, Regehr performed in regional theatres and radio plays in Vancouver and Toronto before heading to the Stratford Festival in 1974 – a period, he says, that inspired his mid- 70s series of Shakespeare paintings.
Regehr, who maintains a daily two-hour workout, has worked steadily in films and television since moving to Los Angeles in 1980 after appearing in the Globe Broadcasting series Matt and Jenny. Other film and TV credit include roles in The Blue and the Grey; The Last Days of Pompeii, My Wicked, Wicked Ways (as Errol Flynn); Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid and Earth Star Voyager.
He also starred in the television series V and played the title role in 88 episodes of Zorro for four seasons on The Family Channel.
“That role was attractive because he’s a dual personality – Zorro and Don Diego. He’s a renaissance man.
“He’s a scientist and an artist and a swordsman,” continues Regehr, who counts running, mountain climbing, and martial arts among his many passions.
Indeed, Regehr has become such an advocate of the “renaissance individual,” that he’s developed an inspirational program for young people on the concept.
“I’d like to encourage people not to pigeonhole yourself but to focus on a number of areas if you think you can handle it. You can be a scientist and a great artist...to tell you the truth there really isn’t any difference between the two.”
Other items on Regehr’s busy schedule include the development of a one-hour drama for Alliance Films; work on another book he’s collaborating on with a photographic artist; and preparations for a solo exhibition of his paintings and poetry set to open at the Sylvia White Gallery in Santa Monica next month.
Regehr also recently completed filming Timemaster, a science-fiction adventure directed by James Glickenhaus that co-stars Joan Pacula and Pat Morita.