Next month, a colossal $150-million remake of the ’90s alien flick Total Recall is set to start filming at the new Pinewood Toronto Studios on Commissioners Street, near the waterfront. When a movie shoots in Toronto, about half its budget is funnelled into the city. That means $75 million from this sci-fi behemoth—starring Colin Farrell in Arnie’s stead—will trickle down, not just to local cast and crew, but hotels, makeup artists, carpenters, visual effects studios, limo drivers, caterers, and on and on. Toronto’s annual film production figures peaked in 2001, reaching over $900 million. Then came SARS, the rising loonie and the recession, and Hollywood fled. Our future as a film capital looked bleak, but now there are signs of the industry’s emergence from its oughties nadir: the stars of MTV’s controversial Skins have been working our streets; Doug Liman, producer of the Bourne franchise, is filming the TV spy show Covert Affairs here; and Twilight pin-up Robert Pattinson will start shooting David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis in the spring. Meanwhile, Pinewood’s 250,000-square-foot studio recently housed Jim Sheridan’s Dream House and Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz. Long-term plans include a mixed-use neighbourhood in the area for outdoor location shoots, with real condos built behind set façades. Living in a faux Notting Hill or East Village might not be everyone’s picket fence dream, but watching a former industrial wasteland morph into a hive of stardust-sprinkled industry is a happy sight indeed.
Insider intel on the politics and personalities shaping the city. Sign up for Preview newsletter for weekly updates