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Real City Matters

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Reel Toronto: Elvis Meets Nixon

A TV movie brought Elvis and Nixon (or, at any rate, c-list actors playing them) to Toronto.

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.

Even though they shoot them here all the time, we haven’t profiled too many TV movies. A high-quality production, like Grey Gardens, is a worthy exception, but so is something as outright weird as 1997′s Elvis Meets Nixon.

It’s a rather lighthearted look at the true-to-life decision by Elvis Presley to get the president to appoint him as a special agent with the predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Given the characters involved it’s not surprising that it’s set largely in Memphis and Washington D.C. But it was shot almost entirely here.

Before getting into the locations, you have to understand the context of the thing. Like, does this guy look like Elvis at all?

Or does Bob Gunton, the obtuse warden from The Shawshank Redemption, look Nixonesque? Not in comparison to Dan Hedeya’s turn in Dick, he doesn’t.

Then we’ve got amusing testimonials from real-life musicians like Graham Nash…

…and Canuck Wayne Newton.

But it’s the amazing roster of Toronto actors that really gives away the location. Here’s comic Dan Redican

…another funny guy, Patrick McKenna

…and fellow Red Green veteran Peter Keleghan ain’t no slouch in the humour category neither…

…and this is Colin Fox whose voice you’d recognize, even if the face doesn’t ring a bell.

The location work is subtle by comparison. Some of those shots are clearly in an airport, so no shocker it’s the old Pearson Airport.

Once Elvis gets to town he gets a hankerin’ for some donuts. So, he stops off at the old Dip ‘n’ Sip

…which we also saw in Kick-Ass.

Elvis stays in a hotel, played by the then-Park Plaza, which is now the Park Hyatt. Yes, that other guy is Booger.

This goes by awful quickly, but it’s a TTC stop on University Avenue.

As you can see by the background, this is supposed to be outside the White House. However, the background is a special effect and the fence is actually the one that goes around Osgoode Hall. Have we been doing this column so long, or are we such nerds that we can recognize the city’s more distinctive fences?

No, you can tell because you can see University Avenue…

…and the historic Campbell House across the street in the background.

The landmark federal building on Front Street plays the exterior of the Department of Justice…

…while the interior is played by the now-defunct old OPP Headquarters at 90 Harbour Street. It used to play similar roles in films like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

The odds are that no one reading this has actually seen Elvis Meets Nixon, but the technological wonder that is YouTube means you still have a chance to right that wrong.

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