Ah, Toronto – the place to climb the CN Tower, and perhaps film a movie? With its cheaper production rates, Toronto has been quite the tourist, ahem, director attraction to shoot the next Hollywood Blockbuster. In fact, it’s been that way for a while. Check out 10 of the many hits that were shot in Toronto: past and present.
1. Angel Eyes
If JLo’s appearance doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps you’ll recall this 2001 screensaver from its promising plot – and location. The film is about a man who pursues a female police officer and whose bond can be empathized with the other (JLo’s father in the movie physically batters her mother, while Jim Caviezel’s character struggles with his wife and child dying in a vehicle collision). Although the story is based in Chicago, you may recognize obvious takes of the Toronto skyline, as well as the CN Tower, Honest Ed’s storefront and a TTC streetcar. Let’s not forget to mention JLo’s/Sharon’s parents residence, which was actually the Playter Farmhouse – a classic building near Danforth Avenue.
2. American Psycho
The year before, in 2000, a gory torturous thriller was released on the big screen. An abundance of stars – including Reese Witherspoon and Christian Bale – were casted in it; you would’ve expected everything about the movie to be Americanized. Well, it may look like Manhattan, it may smell like Manhattan – but it is actually NOT Manhattan where the lead antagonist Patrick Bateman masquerades as a rich (and seemingly innocent) investment banker. Much like the character’s true colours as a serial murderer, that Manhattan producers want you to believe it is, is actually the TDot! Most likely a narcissist, Christian Bale’s role as a serial killer is as persuasive and enticing as the literal film locations in New York City (for some of it) and Toronto (count: Boston Club, Montana’s Restaurant, and Phoenix Concert Theater as a few of the multiple Toronto spaces American Psycho shot in).
3. Cheaper By The Dozen 2
Scale forward to 2005, and you have a family comedy that boasts the then-popular Hilary Duff starring alongside timeless icons like Steve Martin and (Canadian) Eugene Levy. Let’s not forget to mention a cameo from the always-titillating Carmen Electra. A sequel to the former film about a family with more children than most, this piece follows the Baker family as they endure an awkward vacation to Lake Winnetka. Of course, like all films, there’s a conflict; Baker’s archnemisis family the Murtaugh’s (Eugene Levy plays the father and Carmen Electra as his third wife, who stir up as a hilarious combination). In case you didn’t notice behind all those kids and storylines lies the landscapes of Toronto; more specifically, the Rockwood Conservation Area and the outskirts of the GTA, like Guelph, Burleigh Falls and Aurora, Ontario.
Back in 2002, Hollywood decided to coin their own adaptation of Chicago, the famous stage musical that confronts issues about the spotlight and darkness of Jazz Age Chicago. Who better to shine in an updated version of the classic revolution than Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and – to spice things up – Queen Latifah? The team’s efforts rose above every expectation, and Chicago rightfully earned those six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture. Chicago breaks on Roxie Hart (Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), two killers who become jail buddies anticipating court in 1920s Chicago. While exterior shots were actually filmed in Chicago, the rest of the film was created in Toronto. The courthouse scene was taken in Osgoode Hall. Other scenes were snapped at Queen’s Park, Distillery District, Casa Loma, Elgin Theatre, Union Station, Canada Life Building, Danforth Music Hall and Old City Hall.
5. Good Will Hunting
Dial it back to 1997, and you’ll find a highly acclaimed testament of the real friendship between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Penned by both actors, and with Damon in the lead, Good Will Hunting showcases South Boston laborer Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a undiscovered genius who, abiding by a deferred prosecution agreement after beating up a police officer, converts into a patient of a therapist and learns advanced mathematics with a very advanced professor. Through his therapy, he also learns about the importance of those around him (including Affleck who is also his best friend in the movie) and faces the challenge of making decisions about his future. Good Will Hunting grossed over US$225 million, and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay. Such a phenomenal success was also established in the city of Toronto; particularly around locations like Central Tech High School, University of Toronto, and Upfront Bar & Grill.
6. The Incredible Hulk
In 2008, Hollywood North met their destiny to film one of the most epic stories for Hollywood South! Based on the circumstances after the Gamma Bomb, The Incredible Hulk focuses on the tales of Dr. Bruce Banner (played by Edward Norton), who searches for the miracle remedy to his rare illness, which propels him to transform into an enormous green monster with envy. Escaping from the military who desires he’d be held hostage, Banner draws near to a cure. But, all his hard work is erased when a new being is introduced; The Abomination. Liv Tyler also plays the part of Bruce’s girlfriend. The prodigy film was primarily shot in Virginia but also various components of Canada, Ontario – and more specifically – Toronto. Well, in broader terms, it was filmed in various areas of Ontario; including Belleville, Hamilton, Trenton and Dundas. Most importantly, the Hulk vs. Abomination confrontation was shot all along Yonge Street – formerly named the longest street on earth by Guinness World Records.
Come 2010, a British–American action comedy by the name of Kick-Ass decided to pave its way into Canadian and American theatres alike. A movie co-produced by Brad Pitt, Kick-Ass reads the events of a typical youth, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who plans on unleashing into a real-life superhero, offering himself the title of Kick-Ass. However, Dave finds trouble while crossing paths with Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), an ex-policeman who, in his mission to triumph over druggie Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), has coached his eleven-year-old daughter to be his Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). DEspite seldom filming locations in the British’s film UK, several Toronto-based locations consist of (but are not limited to) Dip ‘N’ Sip Donuts on Kingston Road, Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, and Yonge Street.
8. Mean Girls
In 2004 – way before Rachel McAdams dated Ryan Gosling and Lindsay Lohan lost her way – they both starred in Mean Girls, a coming-of-age film about social hierarchy and emotional bullying between girls in high school (hence the title “Mean Girls”). Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is a homeschooled 16-year-old girl from Africa, who moves to Evanston, Illinois and attends her first school. There, she meets Regina (Rachel McAdams) and the rest of The Plastics (Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert) – along with the rest of the “real world.” Chances are you know the rest of the infamous movie’s plot; Cady pretends to be friends with The Plastics, blah blah “Omg Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white!”, destroys Regina George (The Queen Bee), steals her boyfriend, blah blah “You go, Glen Co Co!,” becomes the new Queen Bee, accidentally runs Regina over with a bus, apologizes at the dance, reconciles with everyone and lands Regina’s BF. The end. Oh and while it’s set in Evanston, it was really filmed in Toronto. Hello, University of Toronto and Etobicoke Collegiate Institute. Oh yes, and that beautiful mall with the water fountain is indeed Sherway Gardens.
9. Total Recall
The fact that Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel were breathing the same Toronto air as me makes me shiver a little. Most recently, last year, tis’ released was Total Recall – a movie about the near future world with solely two territories: The United Federation of Britain and the Colony. The storyline is wayyy too complicated to spoil, but basically some of it is when Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a man who resides in the UFB and is wed to Lori (Kate Beckinsale), experiences nightmares of him overcoming some obstacle with another woman (Jessica Biel), that concludes with him being kidnapped. When Quaid returns home to approach Lori, Lori attempts to murder him and confesses that she’s not his wife but UFB security. This movie was filmed in multiple areas of Ontario, but Toronto-based locations include Lower Bay (subway) Station and University of Toronto.
Last but not least, the millennial 2000 film X-Men – starring Hugh Jackman, James Marsden and Halle Berry – was also shot in Toronto. The plot is essentially this: it’s based on a world where Mutants and Humans are against each other. Marie (a.k.a Rogue) leaves home and takes a ride with another mutant named Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine). Charles Xavier, who controls a school for young mutants, tells Storm and Cyclops to return back before last call. Magneto, who thinks a war is on the verge, holds ulterior motives, and asks an impressionable Rogue for assistance. X-Men was filmed all over Ontario; including the areas of Ajax, Burlington, Hamilton, Oshawa and Sudbury. But, more specifically, sections of X-Men can be identified by Toronto landmarks; such as Casa Loma, Metro Hall Council Chamber, Roy Thompson Hall and Via Rail Maintenance Centre.