Spotted: McGill in the movies

When you’re trying to make it to your 8:30 a.m. lectures on a freezing cold February morning, it’s hard to imagine that McGill resembles the bowels of the Pentagon or a military base during the zombie apocalypse. Yet in the past, Hollywood has managed to transform locations around campus into exotic locations. Here are a few Hollywood films where you can spot McGill in the background. 

Brooklyn (2015) 

Brooklyn was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards. While its plot and action revolve around the New York City borough of its title, the movie was actually filmed in Montreal. Producers chose Montreal because it resembles 1950s Brooklyn more than present-day Brooklyn. The film follows Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish immigrant, to New York in the 1950s. While working as a cashier, Eilis takes night classes at Brooklyn College, whose classrooms and hallways look suspiciously similar to McGill’s—becuase they are. The scenes at Brooklyn College were actually filmed in the McConnell Engineering Building. When Eilis first arrives in New York she stays at a boarding house for young women run by the cranky Mrs. Keogh (Julie Walters). Keogh enforces a conservative lifestyle on the girls, especially when it comes to bringing boys over. The interior of the boarding house was actually filmed at Alpha Delta Phi fraternity on rue Stanley. 

X Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

The seventh movie in the X-men franchise transformed the Arts Building into the 1970s Pentagon. Professor X (James McAvoy), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) take a tour of the Pentagon while hatching their plan to break Magneto out from the maximum security prison cell below. 

While Magneto’s actual prison cell is a sci-fi construction of white hallways and glass, the main floors of the Pentagon are recognizable as the Arts Building’s main and basement hallway. A department of defense seal can be seen on the floor, right outside the main entrance and Moyse Hall theatre.  On his way to steal back his helmet, Magneto marches through the Arts Building’s basement hallway, where the row of seats and outlets will be recognizable, yet seems eerie when devoid of students studying and munching on Subway. 

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies is a new take on Romeo and Juliet for the zombie-obsessed cultural era. Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie who yearns for emotional connection. He finds it in Julie (Teresa Palmer), a human, and daughter of the military commander leading the fight against the zombies. Military vehicles and personnel roam the Y-intersection and the façade and interior of the Redpath Museum have been transformed into a military base and human safe-zone. The scenes take place at night, and the interior of the building has been altered—digitally and physically—so it’s a little difficult to recognize McGill. Warm Bodies does provide us with one piece of useful information: In the event of zombie apocalypse, the Redpath Museum makes for an ideal shelter. 

Get Smart (2008)

Steve Carell plays Max Smart, also known as Agent 86, the bumbling spy of secret agency CONTROL in this 2008 comedy. After being accused of being a double agent for terrorist organization KAOS, Agent 86 is put in a prison cell located in the basement of the Arts Building. The location choices of X-Men and Get Smart raise an important question: Why do movie producers see McGill and immediately think “this would be great as a prison?” After breaking out of his cell, Agent 86 drives a car through the main entrance of CONTROL headquarters, played by the Arts Building’s main entrance. Perhaps this explains the recent construction? He drives them past the Three Bares fountain before his car stalls and he hails a cab at the Y-intersection. As the CONTROL headquarters is supposed to be set in a fictionalized Washington D.C., an American flag flies on the flagpole, and a US mailbox can be spotted on the corner of the Y-intersection. 

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