Reel Toronto: A Few Weird Ones
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Reel Toronto: A Few Weird Ones

Toronto owes a strange cinematic debt to Tommy Lee Jones, Nicolas Cage, and, um, Dennis Rodman.

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For all the big films that get shot here, there are plenty of smaller or quirkier films that make you kind of scratch your head.

Do you remember The Park Is Mine? Of course not. Why would you? It’s a 1986 TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones as a Vietnam veteran who takes over Central Park in order to raise awareness of issues affecting vets. Some of it was actually shot in New York, and the Toronto work is pretty subtle (especially when you’re watching a digital file ripped from a 25-year-old VHS tape).

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Here is Tommy Lee walking back to his apartment…

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…and suddenly, you can see the reflection of a Beckers in a window as he goes in, and that distinctive lintel helps us ID this as 77 Wellesley Street East (meaning that Beckers must have been on the block across the street).

That also helps us locate the previous shot, looking west down Wellesley. That black and yellow joint is now a Rexall.

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Hey, it’s Helen Shaver, who was kind of the premiere Canadian actress of the era!

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Hey, it’s Eric Peterson, who is about to jump off a building!

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Hey, it’s Yaphet Kotto, who, like so many others, came close to killing James Bond—but, like very few others, he moved his family from down in the States up to Richmond Hill around this time. Really.

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Anyway, like the boys in Goin’ Down the Road, Jones takes a stroll down Yonge Street…

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…and for just a split second, passes Sam the Record Man.

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Here, he’s just a bit further north, passing in front of Zanzibar.

As for the Central Park stuff, some of it was definitely filmed there, and while some of it must have been filmed here, there is nothing, alas, to identify the park used.

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Okay, here’s one that’s so weird, we’re going to include it even though it wasn’t shot in Toronto. Whether you’re a fan of nude beaches, rowing, or venturing over to the Toronto Islands, you’ve heard of Ned Hanlan, right? But did you have any clue that Nicolas Cage once played him in a movie?

Yes, back in the late 1800s, rowers were (apparently) the primo athletes of their day, and Hanlan could scull as few had sculled before. So why wouldn’t a young Cage play him, pretty straightforwardly, in The Boy in Blue?

Unfortunately, although it was set around here, it was filmed mostly in Montreal.

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We can at least tell these scenes were shot in Ontario, thanks to the presence of the historic RMS Segwun, which is up in Muskoka.

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But, hey, he hits on Cynthia Dale

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…and defeats the dastardly Christopher Plummer, so it’s got sufficient Toronto bona fides for us!

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As far as the quality—yeah, let’s just say it’s a mid-’80s Canadian movie and leave it there.

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In a totally different vein (no pun intended, but it should have been), there’s Dracula 2000, the title of which is pretty self-explanatory (although, amusingly enough, its international name was apparently Dracula 2001. Okay, then). Produced by Wes Craven, this cult film features a young Gerrard Butler as the eponymous count.

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It doesn’t feature much of the city, but we do see a couple of distinctive locales. Look: it’s Christopher Plummer again! As it has done in films from Ararat to The Man, the Direct Energy Centre plays an airport…

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…apparently in New Orleans. Funny trivia: Plummer “worked” at this same fake airport in Ararat.

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This flashbacky scene sure looks like the Distillery District.

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Of course, every Dracula needs a Carfax to hang out in, and here’s ours—very obviously located in the atrium at Brookfield Place. Carfax is the 1845 Midland Commercial Bank building that’s now used by RBC Dominion Securities.

Finally, we’ve been trying to find this one for years and have to concede that it’s probably lost to history. The best we can muster, alas, is this 30-second YouTube commercial.

That’s right, it’s a TV movie based on Dennis Rodman’s autobiography! From the city’s files, we know they shot at places like Maple Leaf Gardens, Jarvis C.I., Forest Hill Road, SkyDome, and Way Cool Tattoo, but unless and until footage can be produced, we’ll see them starring in Bad As I Wanna Be only in our imaginations.

That’s all we’ve got for now, but if you’ve got the VHS in your basement, you know where to find us.

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