Ottawa is not considered a hotspot for celebrity sightings. Our local star machine is politics, sometimes called show business for ugly people, and still most cabinet ministers can go about their business here completely unrecognized. There are no operatives of TMZ, no masses of autograph hunters, paparazzi or gossip bloggers.
Most of the time, we seem fairly at home with our less-than-glamorous image, though sometimes you’ll hear someone make a slightly desperate reach for reflected glory, like claiming Tom Cruise as a native son because he briefly attended high school here. The attempted proclamation of Shannon Tweed Day last summer also falls into this category.
The appearance of country singer Carrie Underwood at the occasional Senators game (she’s engaged to centre Mike Fisher) was more than enough to create excitement among those who are excited by such things.
It’s understandable, then, that there’s been some local curiosity about the filming of Sacrifice, a $6.8-million production starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Christian Slater.
My neighbours were, if not abuzz, at least somewhat interested to hear that Slater was filming a scene on my street earlier this week. (I used to live in Vancouver, where the film business was synonymous for locals with traffic disruption, so my first instinct was to avoid the area entirely.)
Sacrifice is not the sort of movie that’s likely to have filmgoers flocking to Ottawa to experience first-hand the scenery they glimpsed on the screen. While our city is utterly lovely from certain angles, we also have plenty of anonymous, generic territory that could easily be anywhere else in North America. In Sacrifice, we’re doubling as L.A. and, oddly, Toronto, a city that makes a decent living pretending to be other cities on film and TV.
The high Canadian dollar has erased some of our competitive advantage in attracting budget-minded productions recently. But Toronto and Vancouver’s film offices still figure that movie and TV production contribute $800 million and $1 billion, respectively, to their local economies annually.
We’re a long, long way from doing that kind of business in Ottawa, and perhaps in need of a little more practice in sealing the deal. Source Code, a $35-million science fiction flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal, would have injected an estimated $200,000 to Ottawa, but filmmakers and Via Rail couldn’t come to terms on the use of the Ottawa train station this spring. Money was a sticking point, and they decided to film the scenes in Montreal instead.
Better luck next time. For now, Ottawa’s star quality remains largely undiscovered by Hollywood, and by many Canadians for that matter.
Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; email@example.com.