5 Canadian cities with an Oscar connection

Story by Rod Charles Writer

Over the years, Oscar has been a good buddy to Canada, aka Hollywood North.


Scenes from Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting,” starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon, were filmed in Toronto. (Courtesy of Miramax)

When the 84th Academy Awards take place on Sunday, many Canadians will be in the mix, including acting legend Christopher Plummer and composer Howard Shore. Their presence will be keeping up a tradition. From Mary Pickford, one of the first actresses recognized at the Academy Awards for her critically acclaimed work in Coquette to James Cameron and his unforgettable creation, Titanic, Canadians have always been a big part of Oscar night.

The world knows them as successful entertainers. But some of these stars got their starts in places far removed from the bright lights of Hollywood.

What makes Canada cool isn’t just the fact many movies and television shows have such deep homegrown talent in front and behind the camera, but also that many of them are filmed right here. In fact, watch almost any movie based in Chicago, New York, Washington, or even a Russian nuclear submarine and chances are you’re seeing a small slice of Canada.

Here is a breakdown of Canada’s top 5 hometowns with a strong connections to the Academy Awards.

1. Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Oscar Winners

1928-29: Mary Pickford wins the Actress in a Leading Role award for Coquette.

1948: Walter Huston wins the Actor in a Supporting Role award for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

1967: Director Norman Jewison wins Best Picture for In The Heat Of The Night

TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival,

The stunning TIFF building on King Street West is home to the Toronto Film Festival. (Julia Pelish/

Canada’s largest metropolis is also one of the most important cities in the global film industry.

Several well-known actors were born in Toronto, including Christopher Plummer, Rick Moranis, Mike Myers, and Megan Follows.

Toronto is also a major producer of movies, with millions of dollars being spent every year to create blockbuster flicks, including the Saw series, Police Academy, Murder at 1600 and Good Will Hunting.

Cool Event and Location: Toronto is home to The Toronto International Film Festival, one of the most important film festivals in the world. In 2012, the Festival runs September 9-16. This of course makes Toronto the place to be to spot celebrities, especially around Yorkville Street, which runs between Yonge Street and Avenue Road, just north of Bloor.

2. Hometown: Montreal, Quebec

Oscar Winner

1929-30: Norma Shearer wins the Actress in a Leading Role award for The Divorcée.

“Beam me up, Scotty” was spoken by a Montrealer. The Star Trek catchphrase was of course made famous by William Shatner as Captain William Tiberius Kirk. But Shatner is hardly the only Montrealer making a splash in Hollywood. Actors like Emmanuelle Chriqui (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) and Jonathan Cherry (Final Destination 2) also got their start in Montreal.

One of Canada’s most beautiful cities, Montreal has deep film roots. Many famous movies, including Batman & Robin (1997), starring George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, and Uma Thurman, and The Red Violin (1998), starring Samuel L. Jackson and Canadian Colm Feore, have been filmed in Quebec’s largest city.

Cool Event: Check out the Montreal World Film Festival, which takes place August 23 to September 3, 2012.

 3. Hometown: Cobourg, Ontario

Oscar Winner

1930-31: Marie Dressler wins the Actress in a Leading Role award for Min and Bill.

Located just an hour east of Toronto, Cobourg is known mostly as a nice, quiet small-town retreat away from the big city. With a population of about 18,000, Cobourg is a town lined with historic inns, skating rinks, bed and breakfasts, fine restaurants and spas. It isn’t one of those places you would immediately associate with Hollywood.

Well, don’t be fooled — this picturesque town is the home of one of Canada’s favourite daughter’s, actress Marie Dressler. She was one of the great Hollywood movie stars of her time. Her heritage home on King Street now houses a small museum of artifacts about her life in Cobourg and beyond.

Cool Museum: Visit the Marie Dressler House, open weekdays: 8:30 am-5 pm and weekends: 10 am-5 pm during the summer. In winter, it’s open weekdays 9 am-5 pm and closed weekends.

4. Hometown: Victoria, British Columbia

Oscar Winner

1935: Richard Day wins the Best Interior Decoration award for The Dark Angel.

The natural beauty of Victoria makes it a fit for movies that need that rustic, west-coast look. It’s no wonder that this city has been the backdrop for several movies you may have watched, in particular The Core (2006) and the X-Men series.

One cool thing about Victoria is that it has been in the business of making films for a long time, and according to the Royal Roads University website, Victoria has been a major player in the film industry long before Vancouver.

“Few know the first true Hollywood North was here in Victoria, not Vancouver. Thanks to the Hollywood aspirations of a member of the famed Dunsmuir family, producers began showing up in the early 1930s to shoot films all over the southern tip of Vancouver Island.”

Cool Location: Royal Roads University and Hatley Castle were used as the set for the fictional X-Men mansion.

5. Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Oscar Winners

1938: Actress Deanna Durbin wins Juvenile Award

1993: Anna Paquin wins the Best Supporting Actress award for The Piano.

There’s a reason why their licence plate says “Friendly Manitoba.” Winnipeggers have always been quick to share a laugh or smile for strangers.

They’re also not afraid to share their talents on screen. Actress Anna Paquin from The Piano, actor Len Cariou of Blue Bloods, and actor Greg Byrk from History of Violence were all born in Winnipeg and are just a few talented performers to make their marks in Hollywood.

Winnipeg has also been the site of some great movies. Some of the more popular movies filmed in the city were K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), Men with Brooms (2002) and Capote (2005).

Cool Event: Visit the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival until this Sunday. According to the site: “Whether you are a filmmaker, a distributor, or a film enthusiast — we hope our features, shorts and docs will encourage, challenge and inspire us to a greater understanding of the human journey.”

What did we miss? Let us know if your hometown should be on the list. And be sure to share your 2012 Academy Awards picks with us!

Note: Written with support of files from CBC, Northern Stars and IMDb.

Rod has previously worked for and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.

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