Reel Beach: Movies Made in East Toronto

How do you feel about the movie trucks which are often parked on our streets – a nuisance or a boon to the economy? If you’re a Twilight fan, you may be thrilled that heart throb Robert Pattinson was in town filming Cosmopolis for director David Cronenberg. As well, the biggest movie in Toronto’s history is shooting at Pinewood Studios, a Total Recall remake with Colin Farrell. (Arnie won’t ‘be back’.) Blockbusters come and go, but the bread-and-butter of the industry is still television with two dozen series on set.

It’s no mystery why Toronto hosts so much activity: studio space, tax credits, period buildings like the Distillery District and, especially, a pool of talented actors, writers and crew.

On Murdoch Mysteries (Tuesdays at 9 on CITY-TV) watch for local actors playing suspicious characters. Peter Keleghan and Leah Pinsent share a home in the Beach, but appear in different episodes. Self-described nomad, accidental actress, model and cancer graduate, Lisa Ray plays a beautiful ‘Gypsy Queen’ in The Black Hand (Aug. 2). In Voices (Aug. 9), Gail Harvey directs her lovely daughter, Katie Boland, as a mysterious nun.

In June, the CBC series Being Erica filmed a 1969 flashback at Centennial College (Carlaw Avenue), once home to the series Degrassi Junior High (1987). The Kids of Degrassi Street started way back in 1979 and is still going strong! These shows have sold around the world.
Performers have always been nomadic, going where the work is. Actors like Mary Pickford or Jim Carrey headed south to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. In the 1950s, there were equally few opportunities for Canadian filmmakers. Norman Jewison had to leave Canada and his Beach home to become the director he wanted to be.

From Aug. 11 to Sept. 1, TIFF Bell Lightbox presents a retrospective of his work, And Justice For All: The Films of Norman Jewison. On opening night, Canada’s most acclaimed director and producer will share his insights in conversation with actor Olympia Dukakis and writer John Patrick Shanley at a screening of Moonstruck (1987) which was filmed mostly in Toronto. Dukakis and Shanley, as well as Cher, won Oscars for the romantic comedy.
The Toronto film community has come a long way. An energetic 85 years young on July 21, Norman Jewison is back home and sees a renewed spirit in the industry.

“Canada has every reason to celebrate. I look around and see a lush landscape of new film and TV production activity like never before. Big stories and little stories, there’s so much going on here right now.”

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