Still Standing

6 famous movies shot in Canadian small towns

From Brokeback Mountain to Superman small towns in Canada have starred in a surprising number of Hollywood films.

From Brokeback Mountain to Superman small towns in Canada have been the location of many Hollywood films.

When it comes to filming big-budget movies, Canada's big cities — most notably Toronto and Vancouver — are famous for their ability to stand in for well-known American metropolises or act as bleak, futuristic dystopias. (We're looking at you, University of Toronto Scarborough.)  But you don't have to be a big city to be the location for a big picture. Hollywood North includes small towns, too. 

Here are a few small towns getting in on the action. (Get it?)

The Snow Walker, Churchill, Man.

In Season 5, Still Standing visited beautiful Churchill, Man., a remote subarctic gem famous for its polar bears and views of the Northern Lights.

Knowing the town's natural beauty, it's probably not shocking to hear that Churchill has been the location for a few notable films, including The Snow Walker, a 2003 Canadian survival drama film based on a work by Canadian author Farley Mowat and starring Barry Pepper. The producers were looking for a location that was austere and remote, but still reachable. That was Churchill. The film won six Leo awards.

Brokeback Mountain, Fort Macleod, Alta.

Brokeback Mountain was an overnight sensation and big winner at the 2006 Academy Awards. The film told the story of a secret gay love affair between a ranch hand and a cowboy in 1960s Wyoming. Several areas of Alberta were used as a stand in for the film's Wyoming setting, including Fort Macleod, a small town west of Lethbridge. The cast and production crew filled the hotels including the Red Coat Inn where Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal stayed. An apartment on 3rd Ave. that was once part of Fort Macleod's Chinatown was the site of the famous kiss between Ennis and Jack. Other scenes were shot at the old courthouse, and the Westwinds baseball park. 

Recently, Fort Macleod was used as the setting for Ghostbusters 2020 and Interstellar. Fort Mcleod, Hollywood just can't quit you.

The Spy Who Loved Me, Pangnirtung, Nunavut

It's been more than 40 years since, what's called "the greatest Bond stunt" was shot, and residents of Pangnirtung still talk about the filming of this scene. The Nunavut community was a buzz of activity for a few days in the summer of 1976 when the opening scene for The Spy Who Loved Me was shot nearby. The cast and crew stayed in Pangnirtung for 10 days for bad weather to pass before attempting the stunt. 

Stuntman Rick Sylvester (who played Bond) was taken by helicopter to nearby Mt. Asgard, deep in Auyuittuq National Park (Pangnirtung is the gateway to the park). In the stunt, Bond is chased down a mountain by KGB assassins and ski jumps off the mountain, escaping with his life thanks to a Union Jack parachute.

It – Part 1: The Losers' Club, Port Hope, Ont.

The small central Ontario town of Port Hope played the utterly terrifying town of Derry, Maine, in the recent film adaptations of Stephen King's It. (XeresNelro/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0)

In 2017, It was released, a film based on Stephen King's 1986 book about seven children — known as the Losers Club — who are tormented by an evil clown called Pennywise. The film is set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. Producers found the perfect place in Port Hope, a scenic community on Lake Ontario, known for its historic architecture. Several changes were made to turn Port Hope into Derry, including turning Port Hope's Municipal building into Derry Public Library and a statue of lumberjack Paul Bunyan being built in a local park.

It: Chapter Two was also shot in Port Hope, that brought in visitors from across North America in 2018 to take in the action.

Superman, Barons, Alta.

It's common knowledge in Barons, Alta, (pop. around 340) that parts of the original Superman movie were shot in their tiny town. Filming started in New York before production moved to Alberta. Barons was one of several locations used as Clark Kent's earthly hometown of Smallville. A local school in this community  north of Lethbridge was used as Kent's high school. A field in front of the school became the practise area for the Smallville High School football team. Many years later after the scene was shot, a principal of the school in Barons commented that the movie was "a must-see for staff and students every year" and "I've spoken across the country and people have come up to me and said, 'The Baron's school, that's the one in the movie, right?'" 

Released in 1978, Superman grossed over $300 million worldwide and won the Special Achievement Award at the 1979 Oscars for Visual Effects.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Tofino, B.C.

According to Twilight series author, Stephenie Meyer, British Columbia was the perfect place to shoot films based on her books.  

"We were able to really put the characters in a place that felt green and kind of private," she told The Huffington Post. "The secrecy of those thick trees, it felt really organic to the story. We got so many beautiful things we wouldn't have had somewhere else."

Released in 2009, The Twilight Saga: New Moon tells the story of a broken-hearted Bella Swan who develops a friendship with werewolf, Jacob Black. When looking to recreate Washington's North Olympic Peninsula, producers discovered Tofino, B.C., the popular surf town on Vancouver Island. Scenes were shot at South Beach inside Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and Incinerator Rock at Long Beach. Local teenagers were delighted when Kristen Stewart  said hello to them during the filming.

The Sweet Hereafter, Merritt, B.C.

Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter. (Alliance)

Merritt, B.C., was the setting for a movie that's considered "one of Canada's greatest films of all time." 

The Sweet Hereafter is an adaptation of the 1991 book by Russell Banks that centres around a fatal school bus accident in a small town. In the film, the town was located in B.C., so Director Atom Egoyan searched for a place that felt similar to the book's Upstate New York setting. Eventually, he discovered Merritt, a small city in the southern interior.According to one film critic, the wintery landscape of this town "highlights the contrast between the immensity of Canadian landscape and the fragility of people."  The Sweet Hereafter won numerous Genie Awards and was also nominated for awards at the 1998 Oscars.

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