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Wednesday July 17th 2024

Naked Lunch | 1991

If anyone could film William Burroughs’ 'unfilmable' novel it's David Cronenberg, who hybridises the book with episodes from Burroughs' life.

Set in a reimagined 'Tangiers', the film is largely studio-bound, much of the movie was shot inside a General Electric plant in Toronto after the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1990 scuppered the idea of location filming in Morocco.

Toronto seems to change fast and most of the film’s real locations are now gone. The Backstage Cinema, which stood at 31 Balmuto Street at Bloor Street West, behind the larger first-run Uptown Cinema, was demolished in 2003 to be replaced by, surprise, condos.

Even the places still standing have changed dramatically.

The house full of bric-à-brac belonged to explorer, exotic animal owner, author, artist and Olympic equestrian Norman Elder. In fact, it became known as the Norman Elder Museum but after the eccentric owner sadly hanged himself in 2003, the unique collection was removed and the house totally renovated. It stood at 140 Bedford Road off Davenport Road, in the Annex.

The El Toro Steakhouse is now PJ O'Brien Irish Pub and Restaurant, 39 Colborne Street at Leader Lane in the Old Toronto district, while the Dunlan Restaurant has become Yummy Pizza, 1745 Dundas Street West at Lansdowne Street in Brockton Village, west of Downtown.

'V Denkovsky', the pawn shop, where Burroughs stand-in Bill Lee (Peter Weller) gets the gun for the fatal William Tell game, was Youri’s Jewellery, which is now leather goods store Call And Response, 702 Queen Street West.

For William Burroughs aficionados, he wrote the book in Room 9 of the Hotel el Muniria, 1 rue Magellan in Tangier, Morocco, which is still in business.