TV shoot at the site of the Yonge Street van attack cancelled
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 6, 2019 11:05AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:19PM EST
TORONTO - A TV shoot involving hundreds of people being attacked by a superhero has been cancelled in Toronto after residents complained about the filming location - a street where 10 people were killed in a horrific attack last year.
“The Boys,” a superhero TV show co-produced by Amazon Studios, was set to film Wednesday at Mel Lastman Square, where a troubled man driving a rented van mounted a busy sidewalk in April 2018, mowing down pedestrians indiscriminately.
Cathy Williamson, who works in the area, said she was told in an email that the TV shoot would feature a large crowd of 450 people being attacked - some of them screaming and covered in fake blood.
“It's a little too close to home,” said Williamson, who still remembers the bodies on the road in the aftermath of the van attack on Young Street. “When we hear more than one police car or fire truck going at a time, everybody in the office reacts when they hear it.”
Williamson said many of her co-workers were outside on their lunch break when the van attack happened and helped treat the injured. She said some of them still live with post-traumatic stress disorder and the scene would have “freaked people out.”
Coun. John Filion, who represents the local ward, said he only learned about the film permit on Tuesday.
“There really wasn't much time to notify anybody that it was a fake scene,” he said. “It just wasn't thought through, which is not typical. Mistakes sometimes happen and this one got corrected before it did any harm.”
Mayor John Tory said the he had spoken to the show's producer, who understood the cancellation and regretted that the issue came up at the last minute.
“This is a searing, historic, hopefully once-ever tragedy in the life of our city, there's been nothing like it ever before, and we need to be sensitive to the fact that it was only a year ago,” he said.
There were conflicting reports from city officials over who made the decision to cancel the shoot.
Filion said the city decided to cancel filming for the violent scene, which led to the producer cancelling another shoot that was planned for the area. Brad Ross, the city's top spokesman, said the producer made the decision to cancel the entire shoot themselves.
Amazon Prime Video, the streaming platform that carries “The Boys,” said they would provide comment later on Wednesday.
Ross stressed that Toronto's reputation as a film-friendly city is important, and officials would continue to work with producers to find suitable locations for similar scenes.
“Going forward, we are going to be reviewing our processes to make sure that location permits that are being requested are sensitive to certain spaces like Mel Lastman Square or the Danforth,” Ross said.
A mass shooting on Danforth Avenue in July 2018 left two dead and 13 injured. The shooter killed himself.
“This industry is worth $2 billion a year and 30 thousand jobs rely on the film industry, so we want to make sure we work with production companies, but as well strike a balance,” Ross said.
Alek Minassian, the man accused in the van attack, is facing trial in February 2020 on 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2019.