Why Ontario stood in for P.E.I. in Anne of Green Gables

A P.E.I. reporter asked why only a few exterior scenes were shot in the place everyone knew Anne called home.

A lot of interior scenes meant the choice was clear for 1985 adaptation of L.M. Montgomery's book

Everyone knows her home is P.E.I., but the 1985 TV movie wasn't made there. 3:26

There's only one place for Anne of Green Gables: Prince Edward Island.

"Almost two-thirds of the production are interiors," said producer Kevin Sullivan. "It would be impossible to use real historic buildings." (CBC Archives/The Journal)

So why was the 1985 CBC-TV adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved orphan tale mostly filmed in Ontario? 

'A production decision'

"People don't understand what it is to do a film," producer Kevin Sullivan told reporter Kathy Large. "One has to make a production decision as to where you're going to get the best sequences that will all fit together."

Some exterior scenes were being shot in P.E.I., and every time an actor in costume was spotted they drew a crowd of admirers — especially at Green Gables, a popular tourist attraction in Cavendish.

Megan Follows, the 17-year-old actor playing Anne, knew some Islanders objected to the decision to film largely in Ontario.

An Island story

Megan Follows (right), as Anne, poses with tourists at Green Gables in P.E.I. as the TV special is shot. (CBC Archives/The Journal)

"I know this story is very special to the Island because it is an Island story and it's something this island is very proud of, and rightfully so," she said. "But everyone who is on the production is committed to doing the best job they could ... so I hope we've done some justice."     

Follows was already an experienced actor when she took on the high-profile role of Anne in the two-part series — one she wouldn't soon be forgotten for.

"It's such a classic story," she said, when Midday host Peter Downie suggested it might replay for years to come. "The story itself is one that can be heard forever ... I'm very proud of the work that I did, and that everybody did, and I think we have a lot to show for it." 

Megan Follows tells CBC's Midday about watching the completed Anne of Green Gables in 1985. 2:53