Reel Toronto: Life
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Reel Toronto: Life

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.


Toronto has been a big part of Robert Pattinson making the shift from dreamy-eyed vampiric hunk to bona fide actor. He shot two movies here with David Cronenberg—Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars—before returning with Anton Corbijn to shoot last year’s Life. It came and went without too much fuss, but the story, about Life Magazine photographer Dennis Stock and his relationship with James Dean, isn’t so bad.

If nothing else, it’s a cool opportunity for us to see our city portray mid-century New York City.


Toronto is pretty invisible in this film, and this shot is a prime example. It looks like it’s New York for realsies, but we’re actually on Bay Street, with a seamless CGI background.


In this reverse shot, you can see the National Club across the street, making that the doorway of the Canada Permanent Trust Building (and making the Chrysler Building more or less Old City Hall).


In a similar vein, this purported exterior of the Time Life Building…


…is down on Victoria Street.


Always good for a vintage look is the Lakeview Diner…


…which appears…


…in a couple of scenes. And hey, it’s local actor Kristian Bruun! Coincidentally, Pattinson was in the same eatery for Cosmopoplis.


We also have Dean walking down this street…


…which has a great period look…


…but it’s actually this stretch of Queen Street East, and that Barber Shop is really the Parker Gallery.


This courtyard sure looks like the same location…


…where Russell Crowe and his family lived in Cinderella Man. That would make it this spot, off of St. Clair Avenue, near Dufferin Street.

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It’s a bit of dumb luck we got this dark, nighttime scene, but you can tell Pattinson is outside this building at Yonge and College, thanks to the Fran’s marquee in the back.

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A little easier to spot is this theatre, where everyone waits for Dean to show up at his own premier. It’s the long corridor connecting the Mirvish Theatre to its Yonge Street entrance.


One key sequence has Dean and Stock returning to Dean’s hometown of Fairmount, Indiana. We’re not sure where they shot this farm, but we can totally confirm that it’s “outside Toronto, Canada,” and that Pattinson was “very happy,” “laughing and playing around,” and taking pictures with cows.


…but this train station is the historic Uxbridge Station, now part of the York-Durham Heritage Railway. It’s appeared in a few other movies, including the HBO Grey Gardens film.


The town itself, and this main street, are lovely Millbrook, Ontario


…which Pattinson’s pal Cronenberg used to portray another Mid-American town in A History of Violence.

Apparently, they also shot some interiors on Maitland Street and Gloucester Street, the latter at an apartment building also used in The F Word. Apparently Jay Baruchel, who we stole from Montreal, shot a movie there just a few days later.