New Jack Layton flick stars Rick Roberts

Production has already begun on the movie about the late politician's life.

Jennifer Coxby Jennifer Cox

The film about the late NDP leader Jack Layton called "Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story" began production this week in Winnipeg. It will star Rick Roberts ("Republic of Doyle," "Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story II") and Sook-Yin Lee ("The Art of Woo," "Toronto Stories") as his wife, NDP MP Olivia Chow.

“It’s been a pleasure looking into the life of such a multi-faceted man. I’ve had to learn to speak Cantonese and French, and play the guitar," Roberts said in an official release. "Jack Layton was an incredible athlete, and I like to lie on the couch – so this in itself has been challenging. The most intriguing part has been trying to embody his passion for life, his generosity, and his resolve to follow his vision in spite of overwhelming odds.”

Lee said in the same press release, "I am humbled and honoured to be playing Olivia Chow, in a project that is near and dear to me. Just over a year ago my little sister Deanna was diagnosed with cancer, and I saw firsthand the kind of strength and courage it takes to live with the disease… Jack and Olivia were an amazing team in life, love and politics. They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people. It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well."

Layton passed away after a battle with cancer in 2011. The TV movie will air on the CBC.

Photo: Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press