City Witness to Murder Most Foul
Toronto plays itself in upcoming CBC-TV movie Chasing Cain
By Jim Bawden
A young housewife with a bag of groceries is sprawled in a pool of blood, the latest
random victim of violence.
Moments after she's gunned down, police cars are on the scene. A plastic sheet is placed
over the body. Passersby shudder.
But the murder isn't real.
Step back a few paces, and you can spot the fakery. There's a camera crew over to one
side, a director and producer eagerly watching everything on a video monitor and a
craft services aide passing out coffee. The blood comes from a can. And the
passersby? They're extras dressed to perfectly resemble the ethnic stew found at
Roncesville Ave. and Dundas Street W.
It's all part of filming for the CBC-TV movie, Chasing Cain, to air this coming season.
It stars Peter Outerbridge and Alberta Watson as Toronto homicide detectives.
Chasing Cain's producer Bernard Zukerman agrees. It's that, up to now, he has shot his
films everywhere but Toronto. "I used to shoot in Montreal because of my association
with (Montreal-based TV production company) Cinar," he says. And indeed his last TV
flick, Heart, on the saga of Marilyn Bell - due next season on CBC - was shot with
the St. Lawrence rver standing in for Lake Ontario.
With his latest TV movie project, Chasing Cain, funding agency Telefilm Canada advised
him that because of Cinar's ongoing financial problems he should find a new partner,
which turned out to be Salter Street Films.
And so, without Cinar's Montreal connection, Zukerman finds himself in Toronto making a
detective saga shot almost entirely on the city's streets. "And in 18 days," he says.
For most of his TV movies he has had a minimum of 25 days, but here he has to make
ever day count. This morning the company lost precious time when an extra had an
epileptic seizure. A real ambulance had to be called, and the commotion took time
away from filming. (The extra is fine.)
Shooting the murder scene in the busy Roncesville Ave. - Dundas St. W. area is a gamble.
Streetcars and traffic clang by. But most onlookers are respectful. This is Toronto,
after all, and everybody should be used to TV crews by now.
Zukerman hopes Chasing Cain will be the first in an occasional series of TV murder
mysteries for CBC. "Think Prime Suspect," he says. Stories are going to be based on
In the original movie, being shot on this day, Detective Bob Kazlowski (Outerbridge) and
Detective Denise McGoogan (Watson) are called in to investigate the contract slaying
of a young Croatian woman.
Zukerman says the story is an actual case, but came from Vancouver police files: a young
Serbian man living in Vancouver defied his parents to marry a beautiful Croatian girl
who came to live with his family. She quickly discovered she was living with the in-
laws from Hell and demanded a divorce. The family then hired contract killers to bump
her off. There's a subplot about the Croatian woman's work at an abortion clinic, and
a suspect (played by David Hewlett) with ties to the pro-life movement.
Zukerman has become adept at mining drama from true-life stories. He took the Colin
Thatcher murder trial and produced Love and Hate (1990); the saga of the Dionne
quints became Million Dollar Babies (1994), Net Worth (1995) dramatized turmoil in
the hockey world and The Sleeping Rooms (1998), based on government brainwashing
experiments on Canadians, won five Genies.
Chasing Cain will work only if it truly reflects the diversity of Toronto, says
Zukerman. "We were shooting on the roof of St. Joseph's hospital the other evening
and capturing vistas American crews can't film because it would give away (Toronto
as) their location." When the crew staged a murder in Chinatown, it seemed so real
that a news crew from CITYtv showed up.
Outerbridge says he returned from Los Angeles to Toronto because of the story
possibilities of Chasing Cain. He co-starred in the U.S. series Michael Hayes and
didn't find it the most satisfying experience. But in Canada, he's had weird and
wonderful roles: as a macho novelist in Paris, France, as a suicidal young man in
Kissed, as a transvestite in Better Than Chocolate.
He describes his character in Cain as a normal kind of guy. "He's 34, but already has a
lot of experience, so being partnered with a woman from another division is annoying
to him at first. They have to learn to work off each other."
After three seasons as the resident dominatrix on Nikita, Alberta Watson says, "It was
simply time to move on." She plays a woman who has worked her way up from special
crimes to homicide. "Already I like the role and the challenges. How lucky can a girl
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