Chloe stars steamy Toronto as itself

Atom Egoyan's Chloe takes on themes of sex and obsession in a city not usually associated with the erotic — Toronto.

Atom Egoyan's Chloe takes on themes of sex and obsession in a city not usually associated with the erotic — Toronto.

The film, in cinemas Friday, puts Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in a bizarre triangle that involves suspicion, deceit and some steamy landscapes, including College Street, Yorkville and the Allan Gardens greenhouse.

The filmmaker said he saw the film as a rare chance for Toronto, which is often a stand-in for New York or Chicago, to play itself.

"It's a complex drama of all these different characters and I got to set it in this city that I love so much," Egoyan said in an interview with CBC News on Thursday.

The director of Exotica and Where the Truth Lies, says the original script for Chloe was set in San Francisco and he had to do some swift talking to get the producers to agree to a Toronto setting.

"Even though I love San Francisco and some of my favourite films have been shot there, I couldn't imagine it in any way that I hadn't seen before. I thought that Toronto has never been allowed to play itself in a foreign-financed film," Egoyan said.

Part of the filmmaker's art is to enhance the settings, he said, describing how an arch in Yorkville became a romantic backdrop.

"The archway is not something you notice normally, but if you put a long lens on it and you light it a certain way, it becomes like the Arc de Triomphe," he said.

"It's a question of looking at what it is in the energy of these places that you find attractive and amplifying it."

In the film, Moore plays a woman who has suspicions about her husband's fidelity and her own importance in his life. 

"She decides to test this out in a very peculiar way. She hires a young prostitute to flirt with him and report back to her as to how open he is," Egoyan said.

"That's not what most people do. I think it really says something about how she needs to feel, which is a connection to this man who she still loves but she believes she's not a partner to."

The story turns as the two women get locked in a strange relationship, Chloe, craving Moore's attention.

"Chloe begins to think that Catherine, who is her client, is listening to her story…. Chloe becomes obsessed with Catherine and it veers into this other territory and becomes loaded and dangerous," Egoyan said.

Egoyan said he wanted to explore the issue of how people negotiate a long marriage, but also the fantasy worlds that people create for themselves.

Toronto is seen as a new and interesting setting by U.S. audiences who've seen the film, he said. But Chloe also has buzz because Neeson was on the set when his wife Natasha Richardson died suddenly last year.

"That day was the most horrifying and incomprehensible day of my life. That's never going to leave me," Egoyan said.

He said he had to revamp the film schedule and consider whether to close down the project. But Neeson had the strength to return to work.

"He was incredible because he came back and finished the film," Egoyan said. "At a time like that, you just do the work."