Cody Lightning strikes comedy gold with mockumentary about childhood stardom

It started out as a joke and now Hey Viktor! is nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards.

Writer/director/actor Cody Lightning says the film is 100 per cent getting the reaction he hoped it would.

Hey Viktor! is the story of once-famous child actor Cody Lightning, best know as Little Viktor from the iconic, 1998 film Smoke Signals.

“I didn’t know how important it was at that time,” says Lightning of the award-winning, coming of age film. “I knew it was awesome but I didn’t know how big it was at the time and I didn’t know how it was going to blossom into something even bigger.

And its huge! Smoke Signals quotes, meme’s, everything are so huge in society, especially in Indigenous communities.”

Lightning says the cult classic landed him a nomination for a Young Artist Award when it was released.

“Ever since I acted in Smoke Signals in 1998, every time I went to a pow wow, social gathering, ceremony anything like that it was like ‘hey Viktor, oh you’re the Viktor kid, hey Viktor’ and Simon (Baker) got the same thing, ‘oh your Thomas, little Thomas’ and that lasted well throughout my teenage years, into my 20s and into my 30s,” says Lightning on the latest episode of Face to Face.

“Even though I’ve been in several film projects since Smoke Signals, where I’ve had leading roles in films, great supporting roles in films. That part was so iconic, and it stuck with me until current and now even more that Hey Viktor! is out, but that role really changed my life  as a young child actor.”

While the synopsis of Hey Viktor! sounds like the cliché story of a child star, the film is actually a mockumentary.

In the film, Lightning tries to get the cast of Smoke Signals back together for Smoke Signals 2: Still Smoking.  A documentary crew follows Lightning as he borrows money from an arms dealer to fund the film and everything, falls apart.

It’s a movie within a movie, within a movie.

“When people ask, where does real Cody end and when does fake Cody come into play, if people have to ask that question then we did our job very well. There’s some truth but its sprinkled with fictionalized versions. I’m not Cody from Hey Viktor but I amped up the stakes of the craziness, the vulgarness, the foul language and the substance abuse and the nuttiness of him, for the film,” says Lightning.

The film, which does include “full frontal uncle” is not for everyone says Lightning. Still, the project was a bit of a family affair.

Lightning’s mother Georgina, sister Crystle and brother in law, all have small roles in Hey Viktor!

The family of actors, filmmakers and musicians from the Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, moved to Los Angeles when Cody was a child.

Lightning says the film industry is tough and there are times when you want to throw in the towel but he encourages others to remain resilient and never give up.

As it turns out, 2023 was a big year for the former child actor.

Hey Viktor! played at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival before hitting theatres.

The mockumentary earned him Canadian Screen Award nominations for best performance in a leading role, comedy and best original screenplay.

Lightning also had a role in Marvel’s ECHO series, a project he feels blessed to have been part of.

“We owe it to those who have paved the way for us, to now take it to the next level and now this younger generation is going to take it even further,” says Lightning.

When he sees all of the projects Indigenous peoples are currently involved in, Lightning says he gets emotional.

“I have never in my life of over 30 years in this industry, seen as much exposure, as much recognition, we’ve never had this much, ever,” says Lightning.

Hey Viktor! Is available now to purchase of buy on streaming services.

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