Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shaping 'The Shape of Water': Stories from the Shoot in Toronto and Hamilton

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shaping 'The Shape of Water': Stories from the Shoot in Toronto and Hamilton

Article excerpt

Shaping 'The Shape of Water' in Ontario


TORONTO - There were moments on "The Shape of Water" shoot when the team felt like they were in the windswept Sahara desert, as a gale blew through the set and sent dirt from nearby sand piles swirling into the air.

Then there was the time cast member Michael Shannon accidentally crashed his character's car into a pole during filming.

Such challenges arose in Hamilton and Toronto, where director Guillermo del Toro shot the dreamy merman drama that has a leading 13 Oscar nominations, including a best picture nod for himself and Toronto producer J. Miles Dale.

Several other Canadians also have Oscar nominations for their work on the story of a mute janitor, played by Sally Hawkins, who falls for a captive and abused amphibian creature, played by Doug Jones.

Here are some stories about the shoot and the Canadian locations that stood in for 1960s-era Baltimore:


When the team found an area filled with giant sand piles on Hamilton's waterfront, it seemed the perfect spot for a scene in which a group of Russian spies meet up.

But the weather posed a problem.

"The day we were shooting it was a gale," said Toronto-based production designer Paul Austerberry, who got an Oscar nomination for his work on the film.

"We had been there like five times and it's all fine, and then the day we show up to shoot, literally it was like being in the Sahara on a windy day where everyone had to wear goggles and all the sand was getting into the equipment," added Dale.

But Austerberry said it added to the drama. "It was very difficult shooting but it made for a really interesting sequence, because we couldn't really pay for that."


The opulent Toronto venue, which opened in 1913, was used for the interior shots of a movie theatre that Hawkins's character lives above.

Dale said the theatre's red velvet chairs were the perfect colour to convey the film's theme of love.

The Elgin was also where the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"It was this meta moment as you're watching the premiere of the movie and you're sitting in the theatre -- and on the screen comes the theatre that you're sitting in," Dale said. …

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