UMD political science major and communication minor David
Lislegard joined the cast of the movie North Country, which
premieres nationwide on October 21.
North Country is directed by Niki Caro and produced
by Nick Wechsler, from a screenplay by Michael Seitzman, inspired by
the book titled “Class Action: The Landmark Case That Changed
Sexual Harassment Law,” by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler.
North Country portrays the life of a woman working in the iron
ore mines on Minnesota’s Iron Range. It’s based on the true
life experiences of Lois Jenson, who first began working at the site
in 1975 and, along with other women, endured a continuous stream of
abhorrent behavior from male employees. Jenson filed a class action
lawsuit against Eveleth Mines.
In the movie, Josie Aimes (Charlize Theron) lives with
her parents. Unable to feed her two children on hairdressing wages,
she looks to the iron mines for work. She joins the labor force of miners,
doing strenuous work and blasting ore from rock in quarries. She quickly
finds herself as an outsider in a male dominated job. The male miners
see her as threat because she is taking a job in an already scarce market.
To their way of thinking, she has no business in the mines because she
is a woman. Aimes eventually speaks out against the harsh treatment
she and other female miners are facing and complications arise.
UMD’s Lislegard, a third generation miner and former
steel worker, plays a miner in the film. He says, “I worked right
alongside women and didn’t see harassment when I worked in the
mines... [The movies shows] a different time. Stuff like that doesn’t
happen now.” The movie shows a time in history before sexual harassment
laws were in place. Without the real class action lawsuit that the movie
portrays, work environments in business and industry might still be
Many of the movie's issues tie in to Lislegard’s
studies in political science. The Iron Range has a long history of union
organizing. “Men died fighting for unions,” Lislegard said,
"They fought for an eight-hour work day and living wages.”
Lislegard is no stranger to politics. He lobbied with U.S. Senator Paul
Wellstone (who died in a plane crash in 2002) and has worked with Minnesota
Senator Roger Moe. Currently Lislegard is on the city council for the
city of Aurora, MN.
Although Lislegard has several lines and two scenes with
Charlize Theron in North Country, he didn’t plan on being
in the movies. While attending Mesabi Range Technical College, Lislegard
had taken theatre classes. His acting teacher told him Warner Bros.
was coming from Los Angeles to screen for a movie and encouraged Lislegard
to audition. “At first I told him no,” Lislegard said. He
finally agreed to go when his teacher volunteered to come along.
After the screening and a call back, he was offered a part as an angry,
rude union member. “I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t
want to play that kind of person. It’s not me,” he said.
The casting director and Minnesota Film Board staff member, Rikki McManus
talked Lislegard into it. “She helped me see that who you are
portraying is not who you are.”
A couple of weeks after they shot Lislegard in a union
hall scene in Hibbing, he was called to Sante Fe, New Mexico. Caro had
written a new bar scene for the movie and wanted Lislegard to be part
“Life on the set is surreal,” said Lislegard.
“We worked 12-hour days, and each time we did a scene, for those
couple of weeks, it felt like a family. And then, just like that, it
was over.” Lislegard’s real family, his wife Lisa and daughters
Haley (12 years old) and Nadia (8 years old) supported him from the
The experience working on the movie reinforces what Lislegard
is learning in the classroom. “Communication is one of the most
important skills in life,” he said. “If you can’t
communicate a message, your chance at being successful is slim to none.”
UMD has another tie to the North Country film.
Keith Hendrickson, 1980 alumnus and Bulldog hockey star, gave actor
Woody Harrelson hockey lessons. Hendrickson is the Virginia/Mountain
The film is playing at Lakes 10 in Hermantown at 12:40,
3:30, 6:40, and 9:10 p.m. It is showing at Superior 7 in Superior at
4:10, 6:45, and 9:25 p.m. and Duluth 10 at 1, 4, 7, and 9:30 p.m."
Photo above: Charlize Theron
and Lislegard. Center: The make-up trailer. Below: The movie poster.
Note the image of Lislegard on the poster's right side.
Written by Cheryl Riana Reitan and Clint Agar. Posted
Oct 21, 2005
Cheryl Reitan, Publications Director, email@example.com
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