Hannibal's third and final season gave Toronto a chance to play everywhere from Lithuania to Florence.
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.
Oh, Hannibal, we hardly knew ye. A critical darling (and almost certainly the most graphically violent show ever aired on network TV), Hannibal scratched its way to three seasons on NBC before succumbing to what appears to be a near-certain demise.
Like the “Beasties” or, um, Nikita-ites (?), the Fannibals were a dedicated bunch but not numerous enough to keep the show on the air. Still, that Hannibal lasted three years is an impressive feat. In its third and final season the show continued to make great use of Toronto locations, something all the more impressive given how many of the episodes took place on another continent.
Hannibal‘s final season can be neatly bifurcated into two halves, the first of which takes place in Europe. As we’ll see, they did do a small amount of shooting overseas but most of what you’ll see is local.
Right from the opening shots, we find our beloved serial killer motorcycling through the streets of Paris.
When he pulls up outside this hotel, however…
…he’s actually outside the Esplanade Novotel, with greenscreen in behind.
He goes inside this ballroom but everything is shot in close-up…
…so it’s hard to figure out where it is, despite some distinctive and handsome doors.
This ballroom is easier to spot, however.
The tricked out conservatory at Casa Loma is possibly the most-filmed location in the city.
Much of the European action takes place in Florence, and obviously shots like this…
…and this were really shot there.
One key Italian location is the Capponi library and museum…
…where Hannibal has found work under the guise of one Dr. Fell. This Renaissance-looking joint is actually the very familiar Royal York ballroom.
This amazingly authentic chapel is actually a set.
Apparently the real place didn’t want a (fake!) flayed human body folded into the shape of a heart on the premises.
Nope, not even if the same heart unfolded itself into a freaky, Cronenbergian stag.
This is also amusing. See, on American TV you can show: a flayed body, a post-shotgun head, copious amounts of blood, a therapist sticking her entire arm down a patient’s esophagus, or even a man who cut off his own face killed as his own eel swims into his mouth. But if you’re going to show a Botticelli painting, you CANNOT show bum bums and boobies! They must be blurred, at all costs. Nothing psychologically troubling there at all, America!
It’s also worth mentioning the first three episodes were directed by local boy Vincenzo Natali, who went all-in on the show’s penchant for food porn…
…and slo-mo shots of blood (and other liquids) dripping.
In the third episode we visit the Lecter estate…
…ostensibly in distant Lithuania.
We’re actually rather closer to home, in the Rouge Valley…
…at Valley Halla, which is becoming your go-to place for rural European chateaus in everything from Nikita to Orphan Black. Here, of course, there’s some substantial CGI added to the background.
We see a bit of North America as we visit the estate of Mason Verger. In the film Hannibal they used the Biltmore Estate, which happens to be the single biggest private residence in the United States. This is actually Billy Madison’s house, Oshawa’s Parkwood Estate (with some special effects additions).
Just as X-Men used a mix of Parkwood and Casa Loma to create the X-Mansion, we see the latter’s stables here…
….and later, as this creepy nursery, also allegedly at Verger’s Muskrat Farm.
So, once Hannibal is incarcerated the second half of the season retells Red Dragon which is:
- the first novel to feature Hannibal Lecter, albeit very sparingly.
- the source for Michael Mann’s breakthrough film, Manhunter.
- the source for Brett Ratner’s passable-but-pointless film, Red Dragon.
Finally, eventually, we get to see Hannibal in his cell; very different from the dungeon-like atmosphere we see in Red Dragon, or the sterile white box from Manhunter.
You may recall, the psych hospital’s exterior is the (again, augmented) administration building of Richmond Hill’s David Dunlap Observatory.
So too, the interior office here is recognizable…
…as the building’s lovely library. You’ll note that the set for Hannibal’s cell effectively replicates it.
The serial-killing Red Dragon, Francis Dolarhyde, lives in his old family mansion.
It’s actually the Scottish Rite, in Hamilton.
The same venue’s extremely handsome Cathedral serves as a lecture hall in which Hannibal’s therapist/willing victim Bedelia shares her adventures.
This bus stop is supposed to be outside the photo lab where Dollarhyde works…
…but this shelter, complete with amusing fake advertisement, is (for some reason) on Orwell Street, in Mississauga.
The penultimate episode features our heroes laying a trap in this park….
…actually St. James Park, with the cathedral pretty hard to miss.
Alas, a character meets his untimely end…
…in the park’s fountain.
The finale brings back local comic relief awesomeness, in the form of Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams.
Then there’s a big car chase and ambush…
…and there’s a barn and some hydro towers…
…and the speed limit sign is a giveaway that we’re not actually in Baltimore. It turns out we’re actually in rural Ajax, on Audley Road.
And then final scene is at Hannibal’s secret house, which is probably somewhere in the GTA…
…but the gorgeous cliffs upon which it’s perched are actually way over in Newfoundland.
Barring an increasingly unlikely rescue by a streaming service, or possibly a feature film, that’s it for Hannibal. But they made some fine use of the city while they were here.
CORRECTION (AUGUST 29, 2016): A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Verger Mansion as Casa Loma. Thanks to reader Joseph Flett for pointing this one out. This article has also been updated to identify a bus stop in Mississauga.