For film and TV buffs, it’s no secret that Toronto, Vancouver, and other Canadian cities often stand in for international locales. You might not’ve heard that smaller towns around Kawarthas Northumberland also play host to movie crews, though. Next time you’re watching Netflix, keep your eyes peeled for scenes shot in our backyard — true cinephiles might even want to put together a driving tour to visit some of the most-filmed spots in this region. Read on for five recent examples of times Kawarthas Northumberland took a starring or supporting role in a major production.
Few Canadian artists have achieved the level of success and acclaim that David Cronenberg has. The Toronto-born auteur was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2014 as “Canada’s most celebrated internationally acclaimed filmmaker” and appears on numerous “Greatest Director” lists. Despite his considerable reputation, Cronenberg has chosen to make most of his films in Ontario. In 2005, Kawarthas Northumberland’s Millbrook filled in for Indiana in Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.
A History of Violence stars Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, and Ed Harris in a noirish thriller about a family man with a suspicious past. The charming small town ambiance of Millbrook proved the perfect foil for the movie’s darker aspects. Mortensen said of the film, “If not the best, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever been in.” High praise from one of the biggest stars working today.
IT made a splash — adjusted for inflation, its $700 million-plus box office gross made it the highest grossing horror movie of all time. Maybe Port Hope can take a bit of the credit, because the city played Steven King’s fictional town of Derry, Maine to a tee. Visitors to the city during filming might’ve seen the downtown set decorated in late eighties style. The Capitol Theatre marquee promoted Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 films, storefronts did their best New England impression, and a giant lumberjack statue towered over Memorial Park. Though the city has reset to its contemporary Canadian identity, you can still see iconic locations from the film on the IT Film Walking Tour. Check out the map below:
The long-running TV series Murdoch Mysteries has filmed throughout Ontario, and Peterborough has featured in several scenes from the turn-of-the-20th-century whodunnit. Despite being a period piece, Murdoch Mysteries is the only entry on this list where Ontario usually gets to play itself as opposed to a further-flung locale. Keep an eye out for Hunter Street W and the Mount Community Centre if you’re watching reruns.
Doug Liman, the director who launched the Bourne franchise, brought a little bit of Hollywood to Peterborough with his 2008 film Jumper. Starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson, the film told the story of a young man gifted with supernatural powers to teleport around the planet. Despite the globe-trotting premise, keen-eyed viewers will be able to pick out the Peterborough water tower, the former Peterborough library, and other notable locations.
Fans of the Netflix/CBC coproduction Anne with an E might be surprised to learn that the quintessentially PEI story was shot… largely in Ontario. Logistic considerations made Millbrook the preferred choice to represent historical Charlottetown. The production crew trucked in loads of crushed brick to recreate PEI’s red dirt roads and embellished the exteriors of Millbrook’s downtown to create a remarkably handsome costume drama. Check out a short making-of video here:
These are five examples with some name recognition, but Kawarthas Northumberland has long been fertile ground for filmmakers. Consider Cheaper By The Dozen 2, starring Steve Martin and Eugene Levy, which shot scenes in Burleigh Falls, or Cobourg’s appearance in the 2015 Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels. Millbrook probably deserves an article all of its own, as the 2003 remake of The Music Man, 2005’s Ice Princess, 2010’s The Town Christmas Forgot, and 2012’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town all shot there. Peterborough appeared in 2012’s Foxfire, and keep an eye out for Netflix’s Gina Rodriguez-led sci-fi thriller Awake, which wrapped production in 2019. That’s not even counting all the Kawarthas Northumberland filmmakers who contribute to Peterborough’s annual documentary film festival, ReFrame (more on that here). Happy viewing!