Lights, Camera, Action!: Osgoode Hall on the Big Screen

If you have been spending a lot of time watching movies and TV these days, you might have noticed a familiar building in the background of some late 90s and early 2000s movies and TV shows. While filming at Osgoode does not happen anymore, back in the day large film productions took over the grounds, halls, and even the library during evenings and weekends.

Osgoode Hall has been part of many films, ranging in theme from horror to romance. The building has appeared in full length feature films, TV movies, TV series and several commercials. In these productions, Osgoode Hall has been a stand in for universities, hospitals, opera houses, and government buildings.

So, if you are like us and are missing the beautiful architecture and grounds of Osgoode Hall, check out these films to get a glimpse of the courtrooms, fence, Convocation Hall, and Great Library.

Films Featuring the Great Library

Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
Directed by Robert Schewentke and starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. Based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger.

A fantastical romance, this film centres around Chicago librarian, Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), who has a gene that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. You can spot the Main Reading Room of the Great Library in this movie, posing as a Chicago library and Henry’s place of work.

Flash of Genius (2008)
Directed by Marc Abraham and starring Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, and Alan Alda.

Set in the 1960s, Flash of Genius is based on a true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns’ battle with the automobile industry. The Main Reading Room of the Great Library again appears as a library.

Urban Legend (1998)
Directed by Jamie Blanks and starring Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, and Rebecca Gayheart.

A horror film featuring a group of college students attending a remote New England university. The students investigate a series of killings based on urban legends. While much of the movie was filmed at the University of Toronto, the inside of one of the university libraries is actually the Main Reading Room.

Mimic (1997)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, and Alexander Goodwin.

This sci-fi horror film follows an entomologist, Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino), who creates a mutant breed of insects to kill off cockroaches carrying a disease which infects Manhattan children. These insects survive and evolve into monsters who can mimic human form. You may notice the Great Library in the press conference scene.

Films Featuring Osgoode Hall and the grounds

Chicago (2002)
Directed by Rob Marshall and starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

Probably the most recognizable movie filmed at Osgoode, this musical follows two murderesses on death row in 1920s Chicago who fight for publicity, fame, and a sleazy lawyer’s attention. The outside of Osgoode Hall can be seen in this movie masquerading as the outside of a hospital. 

10,000 Black Men Named George (2002)
Directed by Robert Townsend and starring Andre Braugher, Charles S. Dutton, and Mario Van Peebles.

Based on a true story, this film follows union activist Asa Philips Randolph as he attempts to organize the black porters of the Pullman Rail Company in the 1920s. There are quite a few scenes that are filmed around Osgoode Hall, the most notable being a scene in Convocation Hall.

Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000)
TV Mini-series starring Megan Follows, Jonathan Crombie, and Schuyler Grant.

This TV series follows the continuing adventures of Anne Shirley and her fiancé, Gilbert Blythe, in New York and France during WWI. You’ll notice the front of Osgoode Hall in this show posing as an early 20th century building in New York.

While we couldn’t highlight all of the other movies and TV shows that have been shot in and around Osgoode Hall, here is a pretty comprehensive list: Possessed; The Skulls; The Pentagon Papers; The State Within; Dirty Works; Elvis Meets Nixon; Nixon and Kissinger; La Femme Nikita (series); Strange Justice; Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within; The Agency (series); Sinkhole; Bait; Thanks of a Grateful Nation; The Color of Friendship; The Long Island Incident; Earth: Final Conflict (series); CBC’s Images of Canada; Against the Current; The Associates (series); The Company; Exotica; and Firehouse Dog.

In the early 2010s, a decision was made to no longer permit film production at Osgoode Hall, except for projects related to government, law or the judiciary. Commercial production crews can be demanding and need constant supervision. Another issue motivating this decision were the safety standards. Something might be deemed safe by the film production (such as “safe” explosions and special effect fog) but could damage heritage features like portraits, rugs, and furniture.

Even though we won’t see Osgoode Hall on the big screen in the future, it is fun to recall this odd collection of past films and TV series in which our building played so many different parts.