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.
When Hollywood folk began coming up to Toronto in droves in the late 1980s, they made a series of largely forgotten movies that, even to our trained eyes, could barely be picked out as local products. Take 1989’s The Dream Team and The January Man, for example. Both are fun enough, but neither is particularly remembered. It’s especially surprising given the strong casts: Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd, and Lorraine Bracco in the former; Kevin Kline, Alan Rickman, Harvey Keitel, and Susan Sarandon in the latter.
It looks like, in both cases, they shot 90 per cent of the flick in New York and then came up here to pick up some odds and ends and save a few bucks. Maybe we should just feel lucky to be included?
The Dream Team is actually a fairly fun little 80s movie in which a doctor’s plan to take his psychiatric patients to a Yankees game goes awry. Soon our comedic ensemble is forced to find their way through the wackiness that is New York City. Then they each discover something about themselves and blah blah blah. The important thing to note is that, unlike much of what we watch for this column, we really wouldn’t have noticed Toronto in this movie if we didn’t know what to look for.
One location that was relatively easy to spot, though, was in this shot of Peter Boyle outside the advertising agency building where he used to work. It’s actually the Manulife Centre.
Slightly trickier is this hospital that Lorraine Bracco is entering. It’s been hugely renovated since the 80s, but it’s actually Toronto General. You can see Sick Kids just in the back there.
This is the old emergency room entrance…
…and while it’s impossible to be sure, this parking lot chase that follows looks like it could have been shot outside the lots behind Princess Margaret and Mount Sinai, on Murray Street.
Sea of Love is among the other movies that took advantage of the classic interior look of the old 53 Division station. Last time we encountered the building, we weren’t entirely sure where it was, but a reader got in touch with us after doing his own research. It turns out it’s the building at 2398 Yonge Street that now houses the Anne Johnston Health Station.
This shot almost got past us, until we spotted what sure looks like a CIBC branch (complete with its old, unwieldy name; these days we like our banks monikers to have three to four letters, tops). With more than 20 years between then and now, it’s hard to be sure, but it looks like the branch at Queen and Spadina, doesn’t it? That would make that grocer the exterior of the Horseshoe. Hmmm.
Apparently they also shot something on Polson Street (perhaps in a studio?) and something at “King’s College” (Circle?) at U of T, but neither is obvious. So credit where it’s due: you could easily watch The Dream Team and have no clue they shot even a frame here.
The same could be said for The January Man, sort of a lightly comedic jaunt in which Kevin Klein is an unconventional cop tracking a serial killer. That’s right: a serial killer comedy, sort of.
Without prior knowledge, for example, you’d never know this was shot at the McLaughlin Planetarium. It could be anywhere, eh?
Similarly, this funeral could totally be at a New York City church, but as you can kind of see in the reverse shot…
…it’s actually Metropolitan United, at Queen and Church streets.
Apparently they shot something on Eastern Avenue, which is hardly one of our city’s more architecturally distinctive thoroughfares. Maybe it was this fire scene? Who knows.
So, if you’re looking for a couple of enjoyable, late-80s flicks that don’t cinematically abuse the city like, say, Short Circuit 2, you could do a lot worse than these two.