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‘Barney’s Version’ top Canadian box office earner of 2011

Paul Giamatti and Minnie Driver in a scene from "Barney's Version."

Takashi Seida/AP

Rookie screenwriter Michael Konyves jokes he can retire early now that he's won Telefilm Canada's coveted Golden Box Office Award.

The Montreal-based scribe claimed a $20,000 cheque at an awards ceremony this morning that saluted Barney's Version for being the top Canadian money-maker at the box office in 2011.

The so-called Golden Box Office Award, nicknamed the Goldie, comes with a $20,000 cheque for Konyves and a $20,000 cheque for director Richard J. Lewis.

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Telefilm Canada presented them with the prize this morning at a Toronto deli known for serving Montreal-style smoked meat.

Barney's Version is based on the Mordecai Richler novel of the same name, and starred Paul Giamatti as a cigar-chomping, hockey-crazed Montrealer whose cantankerous personality costs him the love of his life.

Telefilm says the romantic dramedy, which earned an Oscar nomination for best makeup and a Golden Globe for Giamatti, grossed $3.2 million at the Canadian box office in 2011.

Producer Robert Lantos has said it took 12 years to find the right team who could wrestle Richler's acclaimed novel into a workable film.

Konyves says it took him a year to come up with the feature film script, which became his first project to hit the big screen.

Giamatti stars as the titular Barney Panofsky while Dustin Hoffman plays his foul-mouthed cop father, Minnie Driver is his high-strung second wife, Rosamund Pike plays Barney's true love and Scott Speedman portrays his best friend.

Lewis says audience acclaim is the most a filmmaker can hope for.

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"A lot of filmmakers will tell you that as long as they love the film then they're OK with that, but that's a load of crap," Lewis said to chuckles from a crowd of industry players including TIFF programmers and Genie Award organizers.

"Because when we see people watch the film and the box office numbers come in, we know that people have been talking about the movie and that's really the vindication, that's really what we want to hear. And this was a gift from the get-go, from the time I read the novel, it was a gift so to get another one is such an overwhelming (thing), such a treat."

Last year's Goldie award went to the director and writers of the sci-fi thriller Splice, while the director and writers of Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day earned the previous prize.

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