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After Hollywood production ground to a halt in Toronto in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, local restaurateur Fadi Hakim decided not to wait out the summer until A-list talent possibly returned to his popular old-school diner to shoot their Hollywood movies.
Hakim — co-founder of The Lakeview on Dundas Street West, which played itself in Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, starring Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams, and stood in as a New York coffee shop in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis — instead invited budding Toronto filmmakers with a skeleton cast and crew to shoot their first or fourth short film inside his eatery.
“We’re a 24-hour restaurant. So lots of amateur filmmakers get in touch with us for a location, but we’re expensive to shut down, and only do so for high-profile movies, and they have to pay,” Hakim told The Hollywood Reporter. The Lakeview, which opened in 1932, is accustomed to film crews, having, in better times, hosted shoots every couple months for a movie, TV or commercial.
In the Willem Dafoe starrer The Boondock Saints, the eatery doubled as a Boston greasy spoon where the character Rocco kills fellow mobsters who set him up, and The Lakeview stood in as a Baltimore pie shop in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
Del Toro’s fantasy drama featured the characters Elisa and Giles, played by Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins, taking home two slices of key lime pie from Dixie Doug’s Pies. That quickly had The Shape of Water fans, after its Oscar best picture win, asking for, and soon being served key lime pie when visiting The Lakeview.
“We anted up pretty quickly,” Hakim recounts. But the pandemic shutting down Toronto restaurants, and local soundstages where Hollywood studios and streamers routinely shoot films and TV originals going dark, has now opened the way for local filmmakers to get through Hakim’s front door to shoot their own dream worlds.
Toronto cinematographer Hayden Currie used an Osmo Pocket camera to roam The Lakeview one night to shoot a found-footage short horror film, Stay Home. The genre pic portrays a young man, faced with his girlfriend having early symptoms of the coronavirus, forced to self-isolate elsewhere on his own.
That lands him in The Lakeview, with its vintage bar and tiny tables on one side and larger booths on the other, for a fright-filled night. “Usually when you’re shooting movies, there’s a whole department. It was fun to shoot without a crew,” Currie recalled, especially in the eatery’s basement.
Hakim, who executive produces Stay Home, says he’s sifting through around 60 applications from indie filmmakers to shoot in his restaurant for up to 10 hours, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays, as local Toronto city quarantine restrictions allow.
And if Canada’s next David Cronenberg or Sarah Polley launches their own Hollywood career shooting GoPro-style in The Lakeview, Hakim will cheer them on. “I would be one happy sailor. I’d be very happy if that was the case. We’re just happy to be a cog in the wheel,” he said.
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