Hollywood is more Canadian than you might expect: some of the films with the most Oscar nominations also have strong Canadian connections.
This year’s top contender, The Shape of Water, for instance has 13 nominations and myriad ties to Canada.
“Other than [director Guillermo del Toro] and the cinematographer and some of the actors, every single person on this film was Canadian… so it absolutely is I think unprecedented, frankly, in terms of the type of recognition,” producer J. Miles Dale said in January.
With the 90th annual Academy Awards taking place on Sunday, we look back on major Oscar finalists filmed in Canada.
A veritable blockbuster, Titanic won 11 trophies from its 14 Oscar nominations in 1998. The fictional love story of Jack and Rose’s forbidden romance was wrapped into the tragic, real-life tale of the RMS Titanic sinking into the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.
Though the ship sank off the coast of Newfoundland, Halifax became the base for recovery of victims. The city’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic houses authentic artifacts from the ship, like the famous staircase that filmmaker James Cameron recreated for the film. By some estimates, one-third of the shots in his Oscar-winner were filmed in Halifax Harbour.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is this year’s most nominated film heading into Sunday’s Oscars. Set in Baltimore in 1962, it tells the story of a lonely cleaning woman at a top-secret research facility who forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature held captive there.
The interiors of the film’s central location — the Occam Aerospace Research Centre — were constructed inside Toronto’s Cinespace Studios, but eagle-eyed viewers might recognize the exterior as the humanities wing of the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. The movie is also peppered with recognizable locations from around Toronto and Hamilton, like the Don River meeting Lake Ontario, The Lakeview Restaurant and Hamilton City Hall.
In 2002, the hit Broadway musical was adapted into a film that picked up 13 Oscar nominations. Set in Jazz Age Chicago, filled with celebrity scandal and corruption, the tale follows two women — Velma and Roxie — arrested, jailed and awaiting trial for murder.
Toronto made waves as a prime filming location for doubling as Chicago. The Elgin Theatre has a shining moment in the film’s finale as Roxie and Velma perform together, while many other notable sites — including Union Station, Osgoode Hall, Queen’s Park and the Danforth Music Hall — also pop up throughout the film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Chronicling the lifespan of the title character, who is mysteriously aging in reverse, the film ultimately won three Oscars from its 13 nominations.
The epic story takes the main character (played by Brad Pitt) on an incredible journey, with one stop being Paris in the 1950s. Old Montreal — specifically Saint-Pierre Street — makes a cameo appearance standing in for the French capital. A set was also created inside the Cité du Cinéma, on the outskirts of Montreal, for the film.
Winning three Oscars from 12 nominations, The Revenant tells the tale of a frontiersman fighting for survival in 19th century Montana and South Dakota after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his hunting team.
The unforgiving landscape of the film, which was inspired by a true story, famously showcases the Canadian West, including areas across British Columbia and Alberta. Derringer Forest, the Badlands of Drumheller, Fortress Mountain Resort, Indian Morley Reserve, Alberta’s Bow Valley and Kananaskis County appear in the movie, with the most iconic and gruesome scene — the bear attack — filmed in Squamish Valley.