Concordia University

Concordia mourns loss of Kevin Tierney, graduate and Bon Cop, Bad Cop producer

Alumnus takes final curtain call following a three-year struggle with cancer
May 16, 2018
By Ursula Leonowicz

Tributes poured in from around the world on May 12, 2018, when news of the death of Kevin Tierney, BA 71, GrDip 78, was announced on social media by his son. Jacob Tierney posted this simple yet heartfelt message: “My dad, the amazing Kevin Tierney, left us this morning at 4:15. My sister, mom and I were all there.”

Tierney was born on August 27, 1950, in Montreal, and he remained proud of his roots growing up in the working-class Park Extension neighbourhood.

Kevin Tierney Tierney donated $10,000 to Concordia in 2009 to create the Pat and Bill Tierney Communication Studies Graduate Diploma Scholarship. | Photo: Spyros Bourboulis

Tierney earned a BA from Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, in 1971. He also earned a degree in education from McGill University and a graduate diploma from Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies in 1978.

William (Bill) Gilsdorf, a long-time Concordia communication studies professor and a former chair of the department, taught Tierney during his year in the graduate program. “The course Kevin took with me was on politics and the media, and he helped make it one of the best courses I ever taught in my 25 years at Concordia,” says Gilsdorf.

“He was so bright and incredibly quick. It was a very formative year for him; it amounted to a major transition in his work life.”

At that point it seemed as though Tierney was destined for a career in education. He spent several years teaching high school and at John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., and abroad.

He made his debut in the film industry after returning from China in 1982, doing freelance publicity for Montreal film publicist David Novek. That led to more work over the next few years for David Novek and Associates. He later became the publicist for Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990), a Canadian/French/Chinese co-production starring Donald Sutherland, Helen Mirren and Colm Feore.

In the 1990s Tierney moved into producing. His projects included a variety of TV movies such as Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City (1998), P.T. Barnum (1999) and Bonanno: A Godfather’s Story (1999). He was also a producer on the 1994 A&E documentary about former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Park Ex to Bon Cop

Tierney set up his own production company, Park Ex Pictures — a nod to his former hometown neighbourhood — in 2000. His projects included Varian’s War: the Forgotten Hero (2001), the Gemini Award-nominated Choice: The Henry Morgentaler Story (2004) and One Dead Indian, which won a Gemini for best TV movie in 2006.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop poster Tierney produced and co-wrote the hit movie Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which won the Genie Award for best motion picture in 2007.

Then Tierney became involved with the film that ultimately defined his career. Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which Tierney both produced and co-wrote, became the highest-grossing Quebec movie of all time and won the Genie Award for best motion picture in 2007.

Although Tierney didn’t learn French until he started teaching in Africa with his wife, Terry Smiley Tierney, in 1974, Bon Cop, Bad Cop featured dialogue in both languages, with subtitles. The action comedy focused on the relationship between Colm Feore’s straight Ontario Provincial Police detective and Patrick Huard’s rule-bending Sûreté du Québec officer.

Soon after the film was released in late 2006, Tierney was profiled for the cover story of the winter 2007 issue of Concordia University Magazine.

In 2009, Tierney produced the coming-of-age movie The Trotsky, directed by his son Jacob Tierney and starring Jay Baruchel. The film garnered the Canadian Film and Television Production Association’s Producer of the Year Award for Tierney at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The award came with a $10,000 prize. With those funds, Tierney created the Pat and Bill Tierney Communication Studies Graduate Diploma Scholarship at Concordia.

Sheelah O’Neill, BA 74, was communication studies’ long-time department administrator. “Kevin was one of the first alumni we invited to be part of the communication studies Distinguished Alumni Series [in 2009]. He brought his wife and son along for the occasion, and he was great. The students loved him,” she says.

“He had just won the TIFF award and donated his prize money to set up a scholarship for a communication studies diploma student to be awarded each year. He was a generous man with a wicked sense of humour.”

Charles R. Acland, professor and acting chair of the Department of Communication Studies, also praises Tierney’s dedication and generosity. “Kevin Tierney was an extraordinarily accomplished filmmaker, who operated at the top of the Canadian film business for decades,” he says.

“Kevin was a proud alumnus of the Graduate Diploma in Communication Studies program. We will miss this supremely talented individual.”

Later years

Tierney was also active in the local film community. He served as vice-chair of cinema for the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and was also the only anglophone to serve as head of the Cinémathèque québécoise’s board of directors.

He received a Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award in 2013. The award celebrates individuals dedicated to ensuring that the English-speaking Quebec community remains vibrant within Quebec and Canada. 

Most recently, Tierney worked as a columnist for the Montreal Gazette, where he penned passionate pieces about the anglophone and francophone arts world.

Bill Gilsdorf reunited with his former student several years ago, and he and his wife renewed their friendship with the Tierneys. Gilsdorf reports that after Kevin Tierney was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, he and his wife toured the world as much as they could.

“Right up to the last moment they were travelling, as if being on the road could beat back the cancer,” he says. “I wish it had.”

Tierney is also survived by his daughter Brigid Tierney.

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