All the Toronto locations that show up in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

All the Toronto locations that show up in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro has been shooting movies in Toronto since 1997, when he filmed his first English-language feature, Mimic, on our streets. His latest locally shot opus, The Shape of Water, is one of his best yet. The film, about an unlikely romance between a research-facility janitor and an amphibious fish-man known as The Asset, premiered at TIFF this past September, earned more Golden Globe nominations than any other film and took home two statuettes, one for Alexandre Desplat’s score and the other for del Toro’s direction. Through his eyes, the city never looks quite like itself. To help, here’s a guide to the local haunts that show up onscreen.

The film’s most important location is the OCCAM Institute, where custodian Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works and where The Asset is kept. The film’s team built the interiors inside Cinespace:

The exterior, however, is the brutalist humanities wing at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus:

Elisa lives in a cluttered apartment above a theatre. The interior is a set:

But when the camera drifts down into the theatre below, we find ourselves in the gold-and-red Elgin Theatre. The film had its world premiere in this very space during TIFF:

When Elisa climbs down the theatre’s fire escape, we can see its entrance: the dolled-up, marquee-augmented façade of Massey Hall, recognizable by its distinctive red doors. Thanks to Hollywood green-screen magic, the Eaton Centre is nowhere to be seen down the street, though you can see the sign for Fran’s, on the north side of Shuter, in some shots:

Richard Jenkins’s lovestruck character makes frequent trips to a local diner to buy slices of pie and chat with the server. The diner is Dundas West’s Lakeview Restaurant, which also had a starring role in Tom Cruise’s bartending epic Cocktail:

The Dundas and Ossington area also provides some fine period streetscape:

Del Toro loves shooting down the QEW in Hamilton; he staged much of 2015’s Crimson Peak in the area. (He has habit of tweeting out his favourite local restaurants while shooting.) In The Shape of Water, Hamilton provides the exterior of Octavia Spencer’s apartment, on MacNab Street; the site of an advertising firm, at city hall; and the industrial site where the Russian spy played by Michael Stuhlbarg goes to meet his handlers:

The Port Lands’ Keating Channel, where the Don River flows into Lake Ontario, appears several times, including the film’s rain-drenched climax. The distinctive buttresses of the Gardiner Expressway run along the side of the frame, though the distinctive Toronto skyline has been digitally erased: