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culture

Reel Toronto: The Pentagon Papers

A factually inaccurate movie about Daniel Ellsberg tries to make Toronto look like Boston.

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.

2013 07 02pentagonpapers

It wasn’t a conscious thing, but a few weeks ago we profiled a political-thriller mini-series, and then found ourselves looking at another, and now we have The Pentagon Papers, a TV movie from 2003, in much the same vein.

It’s timely, because long before there was Edward Snowden, or Bradley Manning, or even Deep Throat, there was Daniel Ellsberg. Played here by James Spader, Ellsberg was a military analyst who handed the media documents that made clear the breadth, depth, and severity of the then-raging Vietnam War.

Sounds like juicy stuff for a movie! But, yeah, then it took them 30 years to get around to it. And while they got a decent cast together and put together a fair production, it doesn’t quite cut the cake. Ellsberg himself said it was bascially a pretty good movie about the importance of whistleblowing, albeit one that bore almost no resemblance to his own story.

The money quote from that review:

Every bit of dialogue is completely fictional…nothing happened very closely to the way it is portrayed, and there are errors in almost every minute of the film. In fact, the script often has me saying things that I not only didn’t say, but I never would have said; in many cases they are the opposite of what I believed…You could say that everything is wrong, in some degree: and yet, the overall story is true to the underlying feeling of the events.

Sounds like it’s right up our alley!

2013 07 02nope osgoode

Most of the movie takes place in Boston, and we love it when a title like this one is just straight-up deceptive. Of course, this building is actually Osgoode Hall.

2013 07 02osgoode int actuallyoldcityhall

However, the interior, which you can see here…

2013 07 02oldcityhall hallway

…and here, is actually Old City Hall.

2013 07 02fergusonblock

This is the second-floor hallway of the Mowat Block offices at Queen’s Park. The building is such standard fare for government-themed flicks that we saw it in each of the last two movies we looked at.

2013 07 02canary window

You gotta eat, so here’s our hero at the counter of the Canary Restaurant…

2013 07 02giamatti canary

…and he’s quickly joined by a groovy looking Paul Giamatti.

2013 07 02distillery lookslike

This scary looking wall is nearby, on the periphery of the Distillery District.

2013 07 02notharvardquare bikepost

Here’s Spader coming out of a print shop, allegedly at Harvard Square. (Even the fine folks behind Good Will Hunting knew that area is a bit too distinctive to replicate, so they shot at the real Boston location.) Our bike posts are a dead giveaway.

2013 07 02haravardquare wider fronttswinners

When you see the street a bit wider, here, you may notice it’s actually the stretch of heritage buildings on Front Street. This one is now a Winners.

2013 07 02berczyfountain reverse

When Spader takes his newspaper out of the box, you can see Berczy Park behind him.

2013 07 0290harbourprobably

Lots of movies shot here during the ’90s and early 2000s made use of the generic, institutional hallways of the old OPP headquarters at 90 Harbour Street, now safely on the road to condoification. Anyway, we think this is probably there, and even if it’s not, hey, Alan Arkin!

2013 07 02spader uc

Here’s a gimme. It’s Spader…

2013 07 02spacer giamatti uc

…meeting Groovy Paul Giamatti, again, outside University College.

2013 07 02lectureroom wallberg

They also shot at the University of Toronto’s Wallberg Building, which isn’t as architecturally distinguished. We suspect this lecture hall is there.

2013 07 02welsh

Unfortunately, we don’t track actors as much as we do locations, but we have a feeling that Kenneth Welsh holds the record for most Reel Toronto appearances. He’s been in everything from quality fare, like The Freshman, to less-distinguished work, like Death Wish V.

2013 07 022wellesley

Finally, this handsome, wood-paneled interior is a location that pops up every now and then. It’s the historic Rupert Simpson House, at 2 Wellesley Place.

Comments

  • Mark Moore

    Well the last photo may be somewhere else. I have filmed in 2 Wellesley Place a few times and the wood throughout the house is wainscoting. Maybe it’s 519 Jarvis St., which has some beautiful wood paneling.

  • Cassandra Pollack

    I can confirm the 90 Harbour St. location! I worked in the Art Department on that film. We located a teletype machine and had a heck of a time getting it to work – not really work, just enough so that we could fake it, because of course no one sent telexes anymore in 2003. I was also responsible for creating MOUNTAINS of photocopies.