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culture

Reel Toronto: The Prince and Me

Toronto does a rare turn as America's Dairyland—and, more importantly, kickstarts a rom-com franchise.

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.

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It’s one of the great questions of all time: Can a royal prince and a common-but-beautiful North American gal find true love? (SPOILER ALERT! YES! END SPOILER ALERT!) One of the films that has tackled this great and timeless question is The Prince and Me, starring the otherwise-talented Julia Stiles and Luke Mably, who is handsome and has a British accent.

As Wikipedia ably explains, “Though its title recalls that of The King and I, the film is a loose adaptation of The Student Prince, a 1954 MGM musical, which was in turn an adaptation of the 1924 operetta, The Student Prince, which was in its turn an adaptation of the German play, Alt Heidelberg.” Riiiight. You can probably deduce the entire plot from the shot above (European prince comes to America, finds love, goes back to Europe, blah blah blah), but what you could not possibly have known until this very moment is that they shot in Toronto!

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So, since the prince comes across the pond to go to school, and though it’s supposed to be the University of Wisconsin, it probably won’t surprise you that the University of Toronto makes a lot of appearances. Here, for example, we exit Sidney Smith Hall…

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…and are reminded that a simple U.S. post box can transform St. George Street into Anytown, U.S.A.

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Here, Styles exits “The University Bookstore,” which is actually the Earth Sciences building…

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…and as her prince arrives in his limo, we pan over and you can see the archway that leads out onto Huron Street.

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Then we have an scene where they’re studying at Victoria University’s E.J. Pratt library

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…where they flee the paparazzi…

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…and are forced outside…

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…for a romantic dash in the rain.

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This graduation picture was taken in front of this house

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…which is actually part of the St. Mike’s campus, on Elmsley Place.

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When the camera turns around, you can see the Kelly Library on St. Joseph Street.

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But don’t get all high and mighty, U of T! Probably the film’s most important setting is the student centre/bar where the characters work, talk, fall in love, etc. Those scenes were actually shot up at York University’s student centre, whose distinctive staircase you can see here.

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When they enter the building, you can even see one of the kajillion TTC buses that circle the loop there in the background.

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Then they go downstairs…

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…into this rather lively area, which is actually the usually-not-so-lively Underground at York.

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Interestingly (or not, perhaps!), this scene is supposed to take place outside the student centre, but…

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…it’s actually outside the cafeteria at Sidney Smith Hall.

There are several discomfiting facts about The Prince and Me. The first is that it was somehow the film that lured Martha Coolidge back to the director’s chair. She’s not exactly a household name, but before this she served as president of the Director’s Guild of America and directed one of the great lost classics of ’80s cinema, Real Genius. (Val Kilmer hasn’t done that much comedy, but his work in that movie was right up there with his performance in Top Secret!.)

Also, if you check Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll note that only 28 per cent of critics appreciated the film’s charms, but 65 per cent of audience members begged to differ and begged for more. That love was made manifest in three—count ‘em, THREE—direct-to-video sequels, making The Prince and Me a bona fide franchise. Stiles (and Toronto!) bailed after the first movie, and even Mably had better things to do after the second, but our little contribution is forever preserved on celluloid.

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