A shot of aged Canadian whiskey...

tasty, tart, pleasing, with a great finish. Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun

Billy Bishop Now Available on iTunes


about the film

BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR is a feature film inspired by the life of the legendary WWI flying ace from Owen Sound. Canadian acting legend Eric Peterson and award-winning writer/composer John Gray reprise their iconic two-man stage play that has captivated audiences for over three decades.

Nearing the end of his life, an aged Bishop (Peterson) recounts the triumphs and horrors of World War One, “the war to end all wars”. Through raucous stories, haunting memories, and vibrant song, Bishop traces his journey from Royal Military College troublemaker to the top flying ace of the British Empire.

A story of the human cost of war on a scale the world had never seen before, this is an intimate and powerful portrait of a man who continues to capture the imagination.

cast & crew

Eric Peterson – Billy Bishop

Eric is one of Canada’s most accomplished actors, a winner of five Gemini Awards, a Dora Award, and the L.A. Drama Critics Award for Best Performance. He has portrayed a broad range of memorable characters from his lead in Billy Bishop Goes to War to lawyer “Leon Robinovitch” in the CBC series Street Legal and most recently the loveable curmudgeon “Oscar Leroy” in CTV’s hit comedy series Corner Gas.

Eric’s numerous guest star appearances include such wonderful Canadian series as This is Wonderland, Slings and Arrows, DaVinci’s Inquest, Traders and the infamous Puppets Who Kill to name but a few. Mr. Peterson is also highly recognized for his work in Canadian film and movies of the week with such credits as Jerry Ciccoritti’s Trudeau, Deepa Mehta’s Earth, Mario Azzopardi’s The Stork Derby and John Gray’s The King of Friday Night.

Eric’s career has moved effortlessly from screen, to stage, to radio and back again. He is renowned for his work in the theatre both in Canada and abroad. Eric has performed at most of the major theatres across Canada including Soulpepper, Stratford, The National Arts Centre, the Wintergarden and Canadian Stage and also internationally at the Edinburgh Festival, the Morosco Theatre in NY and the International Theatre Festival in Melbourne, Australia with the highly acclaimed production of Half Life. His 20th Anniversary tour of Billy Bishop won the 1999 Dora Awards for Best Play, Best Direction and Best Performance.

Eric’s voice can be heard in countless recordings for CBC radio dramas including Pay Dirt and Faust through to animated series such as Nelvana’s Care Bears. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Eric now lives in Toronto, with his wife, 2 daughters and his beloved dog, Gus.

John Gray – Piano Player

John MacLachlan Gray is a multiple award-winning writer and composer for stage, television, film, radio and print.

In past decades he has been known for his stage musicals, as a satirist on CBC TV’s The Journal, as a radio and TV commentator, a magazine journalist, a screenwriter, a columnist for The Globe and Mail, and in recent years, a novelist.

His latest projects include another novel, and a series of panels for the new Vancouver Convention Centre which add up to an anecdotal history of the workers and innovators of British Columbia.

Awards include the Governor-General’s Medal, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, a Chalmers Award, a silver Hugo, a Golden Globe, a National Magazine Award, 6 Western Magazine Awards, 2 Doras, 1 Nellie, 1 Jessie, 1 CFTA Award, and a Genie.

He holds honorary doctorates at Mount Allison and Dalhousie, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Gray lives in Vancouver with his wife Beverlee. They have two sons, Zach and Ezra.

Barbara Willis-Sweete – Director

A founding partner of Rhombus Media, Barbara Willis-Sweete has produced and directed more than 30 films with Rhombus since the company’s inception in 1979.

Barbara’s films have been screened at major film festivals around the world and have received top awards in Toronto, Montreal, Banff, New York, Chicago, Columbus, Houston, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Paris. Her films have earned dozens of Gemini Awards, three Genie nominations and one Genie win for PERFECT PIE, three International Emmys for CONCERTO!, PICTURES ON THE EDGE and YO-YO MA: INSPIRED BY BACH, as well as three Grammy nominations for DON GIOVANNI UNMASKED, PICTURES ON THE EDGE and THE PLANETS.

Over the past three years Barbara has directed ten live HDTransmissions for the Metropolitan Opera of New York, including Lucia di Lammermoor, Hansel & Gretel, Tristan und Isolde, Salome, Damnation of Faust, Orfeo ed Euridice, La Sonnambula, Der Rosenkavalier and Simon Boccanegra. The Met has engaged her to direct 4 more HDTransmissions in 2011. All of these operas are transmitted live to 1200 cinemas in 42 countries around the world.

In 2007, Barbara worked as an acting coach and staging consultant during rehearsals and on set for the film BLINDNESS, an international co-production produced by Rhombus and directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Constant Gardener).

Barbara’s latest feature length documentary film is THE YOUNG ROMANTIC: A PORTRAIT OF YUNDI LI, which garnered four Geminis in 2009, including Best Director and Best Performing Arts Program.

Recently, Barbara has directed several short films for the National Film Board and for Bravofact, and has also been mentoring emerging filmmakers in both documentary and fiction.


based on the stage play BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR
written and composed by JOHN GRAY with ERIC PETERSON
production designer TERESA PRZYBYLSKI
director of photography MILAN PODSEDLY csc
executive producers ALBERT SCHULTZ and LESLIE LESTER
performed by ERIC PETERSON and JOHN GRAY


about the play

On July 15, 2009 – Albert Schultz, Founding Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Albert Schultz Company announced that the production of the Canadian classic Billy Bishop Goes to War, will run August 8 – 29, 2009, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

Soulpepper gave new life to one of Canadian theatre’s enduring legacies in Billy Bishop Goes to War, a soaring and exhilarating masterpiece. Original creators Eric Eric Peterson and Peterson John Gray returned to the stage in this timeless story of World War One fighter pilot Billy Bishop that has delighted audiences around the world for more than 40 years.

The musical premiered at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 1978, and has toured nationally and internationally many times since, as well as inspired a CBC and BBC co-produced television program. Billy Bishop won the 1981 Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award, the 1982 Chalmers Canadian Play Award, and the 1983 Governor General’s Award for drama, as well as an ACTRA award for best television program. Gray and Peterson revised the show in 1998, adding one new song and presenting events through the eyes of an older Bishop recalling his wartime experiences. Billy Bishop Goes To War continues to be one of the most popular Canadian musicals.

Soulpepper Founding Member Ted Dykstra Ted Dykstra directed Billy Bishop Goes to War with Eric Peterson as Billy Bishop, as well as 17 other characters ranging from King George V to The Lovely Helene, and John Gray returning as the Narrator and Pianist.

Soon after this announcement, the play sold out and Soulpepper decided the play would open the season in September 2010.


about Soulpepper

Soulpepper Theatre Company is an artist-founded, classical repertory theatre company with a three-tiered mandate: to present the world’s greatest stories in vital Canadian interpretations; to train a new generation of theatre artists; and to inspire and enrich youth through mentorship and access programs.


press kit

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Billy Bishop Goes to War