University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

The Perfect Stand-In

With its three campuses, U of T can look like almost anywhere

For a school with Ivy League looks, the University of Toronto gets cast in an awful lot of Hollywood schlock. Most movies shot on campus fall into three basic genres: crass comedies such as 1994’s PCU, low-budget horror movies such as Ivan Reitman’s 1973 zombie thriller Cannibal Girls or cult sci-fi films. Moviegoers might recall the “freshman dorms” mentioned by a winking Jon Favreau in PCU. The dormitory was, in reality, the Ontario Provincial Legislature, just steps from U of T’s St. George campus.

Others may remember the Ys on the walls of a New Haven university in the 2000 drama The Skulls. The school was modelled after Yale, but members of the secret society were actually lurking at University College, Knox College and Hart House.

And axe murderers don’t generally come to mind when one talks about the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management – unless one happens to be watching the 1998 slasher flick Urban Legend, which includes a cameo by Citytv newscaster Gord Martineau.

U of T has a long history with horror movies. A generation ago, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin spent a night in a creepy diner in Cannibal Girls. Their car bears a U of T sticker, one of the few films shot on campus where the school is actually identified by name.

And UTSC’s retro-futuristic cement columns and arches have attracted a number of sci-fi movie shoots. A command centre for a martial-arts academy was built on campus for the 1995 thriller Expect No Mercy, with fight scenes taking place in cordoned-off classrooms and corridors.

Why don’t good movies with big budgets and larger-than-life stars come to U of T? Blame the lack of high-quality sound stages in Toronto. To shoot blockbusters, Hollywood heads to Vancouver and Montreal, where state-of-the-art studios already exist.

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