Many movies have been shot on location in Toronto, including 'True Lies', 'Good Will Hunting', 'The Incredible Hulk' and all of the 'Police Academy' movies, but very few actually take place there. Like many Canadian cities with bustling film industries, Toronto is often the stand-in for recognizable American cities like New York or Boston.
This is what's unique about 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World': It's one of only a handful of films, not funded by the National Film Board of Canada, shot entirely in Toronto that also unabashedly takes place there. The city's landmarks are well-utilized for what they actually are.
None more so than Toronto's legendary alternative music venue Lee's Palace, where, in Bryan Lee O'Malley's original graphic novels, Scott and his Sex Bob-omb bandmates show up to witness a performance by rival band Clash at Demonhead, lead by Scott's own ex-girlfriend Envy Adams on vocals and featuring Ramona's third evil ex-boyfriend Todd Ingram on bass. With this in mind, the film christens Lee's Palace as the site where many an evil ex-boyfriend showdown goes down.
Location as Character: The film painstakingly recreates the look of Lee's Palace's bar and stage circa the mid-'90s on the inside, and manages to preserve on celluloid the venue's trademark monster mural on the outside, before it was unceremoniously torn down in November 2009 to make way for a burrito joint that is now sharing the space. It is in this throwback setting that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) and the rest of Sex Bob-omb bare witness to the major label vocal prowess of Envy Adams (Brie Larson). Scott once knew his ex as Natalie, but evidently, with her record contract came rock diva bitchiness of biblical proportions.
Still, the night doesn't spell doom for our hero until he and Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) realize that the Todd Envy is now dating is the same Todd Ramona dated in high school, which makes Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh) evil ex-boyfriend #3. Surrounded by playbills from past shows, the two bands enter into a heated confrontation on Lee's backstage vinyl couches that culminates in Ingram hitting high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) so hard, he knocks the highlights from her hair.
Obviously, Scott can't stand for this, but his romantic rival packs vegan-fueled psionic powers, and after a few well-placed telekinetic blasts it looks like the boy's quest for Ramona's heart is all but over. Not even a bass guitar battle back inside can settle the beef between the two, until Scott realizes the only way to beat a master of the meatless arts is to force him to break his own laws, and when a vegan breaks the law, only the vegan police can deliver swift justice. It's up to Thomas Jane ('Punisher,' 'Hung') and Clifton Collins Jr. ('Traffic.' 'The Event') to deliver the dietary discipline in a memorable cameo.
Historical Significance: The club opened as a concert hall called Allen's Theatre on Bloor as part of the Allen's Theatre chain. It spent time as a movie theater in the '50s and a restaurant in the '60s and '70s before taking the name Lee's Palace in 1985, thus starting its tenure as a compulsory stop for any band wanting to make its name north of the border. Lee's is a divisive place in its use of levels. The "cleaner" upstairs Dance Cave is where the kids shake their troubles away, while the "sleazier" downstairs sees rock reputations forged nightly before a 600-person capacity crowd.
The first act to ever grace the small stage was Handsome Ned, but the establishment soon became the spot where you had to be. That's because Nirvana, Oasis, Blur, The Smashing Pumpkins and the Red Hot Chili Peppers all made their Toronto debut on the small stage, while Canadian offerings like Sloan, Our Lady Peace, The Barenaked Ladies and The Tragically Hip all established their audiences there.
From early 2004 to mid-2005 the club underwent renovations to move its island bar against the wall, so staff and patrons had more room to move. More space meant the '90s-era look preserved in 'Scott Pilgrim' is nothing more than a memory remade on a soundstage. The backstage area is still very much D.I.Y. and Lee's is still hosting performers as diverse as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Juliette Lewis (now minus her "Licks").
Directions: Lee's Palace is located at 529 Bloor St. W. All it takes to get there is a short subway jaunt on the Bloor-Danforth line and a quick exit from Bathurst Station, before heading east on Bloor St. about one and a half blocks.
Visitor Info: The Dance Cave operates four days a week, Thursday to Saturday and Monday, while the stage is open Wednesday to Saturday and for mid-week concerts. Both floors are licensed, so those under 19 (Canadian drinking age) need not apply except during occasional all-ages shows. The cover charges range from $4 to $30, with higher-priced tickets being sold in advance through Ticketmaster, Soundscapes, Rotate This and The Shoe.