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culture

Reel Toronto: The Fly

Because everyone needs a break now and then, Reel Toronto is going on temporary hiatus. Here is one of our favourite instalments, which originally ran on February 9, 2011.

David Cronenberg’s [amazon asin=B000MMLO10&text=The Fly] is one of the ickiest, freakiest movies ever made—but with all the crappy horror movies made every year (here and elsewhere) it’s also a welcome reminder that you can make something scary that has some brains, too.

The movie is fairly ambiguous about its setting, which is to say: there are plenty of exterior shots, you never hear anyone imply it’s set somewhere else, and you even get to see the CN Tower, eventually. Apparently Cronenberg reveals on the DVD commentary track that it does take place in Toronto, as far as he’s concerned. Consider us proud…but also a bit disgusted.

Jeff Goldblum’s scientist character, Seth Brundle, works out of an abandoned loft in a derelict industrial district. Things sure have changed because while the actual building is now gone, this is in Liberty Village. That’s the back side of the E.W. Gillet building on the right and what remains of the left-side building is now The Roastery.

Geena Davis works at Monolith Publishing, whose offices are actually part of the Manulife complex just off Bloor Street East.

As you can see, however, the interiors are much further south, with a lovely, dead-on view of the Flatiron Building.

The film’s opening shot is in the AGO’s Walker Court, minus the stairway put there during the Gehry redesign.

Some of the most visible Toronto stuff includes shots of Jeff Goldblum walking through the seedy Yonge-Dundas area, including the old flea market…

Zanzibar

…and the long-gone Cheapie’s Records.

He buys Geena Davis a pretty necklace during a stroll through Kensington Market.

Local eateries also get a shout out with Goldblum putting way too much sugar in his espresso at John’s Italian Caffe, on Baldwin Street…

…and chowing down on burgers at John Anderson. The original North York location is gone, but they’ve since relocated to just outside Finch Station.

When Geena Davis suspects she’s pregnant with Goldblum’s certain-to-be-a-horrible-larva fetus, she goes to Toronto General Hospital.

Yup, you’re not imagining it: that’s the CN Tower! On purpose!

Over the years, Cronenberg’s films have used Toronto as itself, as other cities (such as Philly in A History of Violence), and as faceless everywheres. Overall, he’s certainly done his hometown proud, and Reel Toronto might not be done with him yet.


Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.


CORRECTION: OCTOBER 3, 2013: We originally wrote that Jeff Goldblum’s lab was shot in The Distillery District but it’s actually in Liberty Village, as several commenters have pointed out; we’ve corrected our error above.

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