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.
It’s not scientific, but we suspect the average Rotten Tomatoes rating for a Reel Toronto film is likely no better than a six out of 10. That’s just the way it is.
But it’s about time we acknowledged that there have been some quality films shot here. Heck, some of them are bona fide classics with an Oscar or two on the shelf. Okay, they were shot a long time ago, but films like Network, Moonstruck, and The Paper Chase were shot here, though there isn’t much to spot.
Take 1976’s Network, considered one of the seminal films of cinema’s seminal decade. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar the same year as Taxi Driver and Rocky and many still think it should have won. It’s set in New York and uses a bunch of New York locations, but it was actually largely shot here. It’s about a TV station, so the studio they used, the one where Peter Finch does his “I’m mad as hell” rant? That’s CFTO’s Scarborough offices.
Norman Jewison is a master of using alternate locations. To avoid an obviously unpleasant atmosphere, he famously shot In the Heat of the Night in Illinois rather than the southern U.S. and he’s shot several films here (including The Hurricane). One of them is the otherwise-apparently-steeped-in-New York Moonstruck. Virtually all the set interiors were shot here at the old Leslie Street Studios.
We also know they shot at the Keg Mansion, and we’re guessing it’s this restaurant, but it’s hard to tell.
Just look how confused people are about the New York exterior!
We stared and stared at this shot, where Cher emerges from a beauty salon and goes shopping, knowing it just had to be here. See where it says “Genesis” reflected in the window? That’s the giveaway that she’s shopping here, on St. Clair’s Corso Italia, west of Dufferin Street.
You can see a bit more of the exterior, including these brown tiles that still adorn the store entrances on that block today.
This cheese shop was shot in another area, on College Street.
It’s the former Il Centro Del Formaggio, which appears to have been right beside the Orbit Room.
Late in the film, Cher and Nic Cage go to the opera at Lincoln Center. They shot the exterior there, as well as the interior of the auditorium but the actual shots of La Bohème being performed were shot separately, at the Markham Theatre, with the help of then–COC artistic director Lotfi Mansouri.
(A side note: We suspect we could learn even more if we had the time to go through the amazing and extensive Norman Jewison Archive at Victoria University. Just looking at the catalogue is an education. We knew he was going to shoot Malcolm X before passing it off to Spike Lee, but did you know he also nearly directed future Oscar winners Dreamgirls and The Aviator?)
Speaking of Oscar-winners, there’s also 1973’s The Paper Chase. While set at Harvard, the university is notorious for not allowing on-campus filming (something David Fincher dealt with when making The Social Network. He managed to avoid shooting a single frame within Harvard).
Toronto locations are next to impossible to spot, but there’s one scene where a couple of the law students lock themselves in a hotel room to cram for finals. It was shot at the Windsor Arms, which you can see in this hallway shot…
…and this one…
…and this one of the room itself. How did we ever figure out it was the Windsor Arms?
Um, educated guess…
Apparently they also shot around Gravehurst, but if you think we can locate 1972 Gravenhurst locations you give us more credit than we deserve.