Atom egoyan

An insider's guide to Toronto with Atom Egoyan

Toronto has been blessed with no end of Canadian filmmakers - David Cronenberg, Denis Villeneuve, Michael Dowse, Denys Arcand, Sarah Polley - who have let our city shine on screen. Few, however, have done so as consistently and lovingly as Atom Egoyan.

For almost three decades, Egoyan - one of Toronto's most celebrated and award-winning directors - has been showing off the city he loves in movies like Speaking Parts, Exotica, Chloe and more. It's clear that the director knows the city inside and out.

I asked Atom Egoyan, whose latest flick is in theatres right now, to talk about what spots he's particularly loved to put on screen, where he goes for inspiration, and - as an Egyptian born Armenian - what Toronto restaurants have the most authentic Middle Eastern eats.

What Toronto places do you love to show off to out-of-towners?

Ronnie's Local 69 on Nassau. I love having a drink on the patio of this bar and ordering a grilled cheese from [The Grilled Cheese] across the street and having someone bring it over. Where else but in Kensington Market could this happen?

Kensington Market is where I first lived after I graduated from U of T, and it's still a place I love to show visitors to Toronto. Then I drive across Queen West and take them all the way to the Harris Water Treatment Plant, one of the most stunning examples of an Art Deco industrial site in the world.

If there was a Toronto tour called "The favourite places where Atom Egoyan has shot a film" where would you take them?

Kensington Market, where I shot my first feature in 1984. Cafe Diplomatico at College and Clinton, where there's an actual Chloe table that Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson had a marital spat. And - of course - the places that only exist in our memory, like the dearly departed Peter Pan Restaurant in Speaking Parts, and the sadly missed Canary Cafe in Adoration. Not to mention the non-existent strip club called Exotica at Queen and Church.

Is there a particular part of Toronto you haven't shot on film yet, but really want to someday?

I'd love to shoot at the Harris Water Treatment Plant.

When you're working on your next project, where do you like to go to gain inspiration?

I always go for a walk from U of T, down through Kensington Market, down to Queen Street, then back up Augusta for a drink at Ronnie's 69.

Is there a film resource you think is absolutely essential for aspiring filmmakers?

The Film Library at TIFF is ground zero for any aspiring filmmaker in the city.

As someone with both an Armenian and Egyptian background, where would you go in Toronto to find the most authentic food experience?

The best Middle Eastern food in this city is actually Lebanese. [My] favourite Lebanese restaurants are Tabßlè on Queen St. East, [and] also Byblos on Duncan Street.


Coffee Shop: Wagamama. Great brew close to my studio. Also, I Deal Coffee in Kensington Market, with a tiny outdoor patio to hang out.

Bar: The Cameron House. It's an epicentre of creative energy.

Bistro:: I love the small two-person booths at The Rivoli for intimate conversations.

Restaurant to take someone from out of town: Buca on King Street West for a high-end night out, but I also love the booths at Swan on Queen. Swan is my absolute mainstay.

Museum or Gallery: AGO

Bookstore: Balfour Books

Movie Theatre: The Royal, where I edit.

New Discovery: The Neuf Cafe. I feel like I'm immediately transported to Europe. Lovely view of the square across the street.

See also: An insider's guide to Toronto with Cameron Bailey

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