TORONTO — For days — nights, really — Toronto’s iconic Yonge Street was lined by mobs of giddy gawkers who felt like they’d wandered into the panels of a comic book.
Passersby clogged sidewalks for blocks — sometimes in the dead of night — to marvel at the tail of a downed plane, a crashed helicopter and other wreckage.
And the whole world took notice late last week when video emerged of a spectacular car chase that ripped through the city’s streets. A green-haired maniac was spotted blazing down Yonge in a hot pink sports car while being pursued by a caped crusader.
The secretive film shoot for the star-studded supervillain movie “Suicide Squad” had brazenly moved out into the open and was practically begging Toronto’s notoriously film-obsessed populace to go out and witness it.
It appears that thousands have, with many of the most enthusiastic flooding social media with images and videos from the set, which have been picked up by entertainment outlets around the world.
Film fan Leonardo Dell’anno, who lives near the various film shoots, says there’s been an exciting energy in the area.
“People are going out, there are little kids out really late at night,” says Dell’anno.
“I talked to a few people who were there all day long. They are taking days off to see a glimpse of a star or glimpse of what’s going on because it’s kind of crazy that it’s been so accessible. You would think they would try to keep more secrets.”
You can’t buy this kind of publicity, PR and security expert Adrianne Fekete-Romanick says of the online leaks that have resulted.
“Any type of free press is welcome,” says Fekete-Romanick of the flood of content that’s come out of the film shoots, even if some might consider them spoilers.
“It adds to the hype … and it draws a lot more eyeballs.”
Warner Bros. may disagree — requests for comment were not answered — but there’s no doubt the studio’s DC Comics-based outing has set much of the city buzzing.
Not that it needed much help.
The sprawling cast includes Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman. It centres on a group of supervillains tasked with completing top secret government missions in exchange for reduced prison sentences.
Terence Yip didn’t even have to leave his home to capture video of the scene that had the web buzzing: the Batmobile in hot pursuit of the Joker. Yip shot footage of the high-octane chase from his condo balcony and believes his uploaded photos and video were among the first to hit the web and confirm to the world that Batman would feature in “Suicide Squad.”
He quickly saw his Instagram followers nearly triple to more than 1,000 and was encouraged to go out the following night to get more video.
“Now I feel kind of obligated to do it,” says Yip.
“Now I have (hundreds) more people that are interested in seeing what I have to post.”
Former police officer and security expert Matthew Romanick says Warner Bros. almost certainly expected this kind of mania, noting it’s impossible to keep a massive shoot like this quiet.
“Even before shooting begins, to shut down a major street you’re looking at permits through the city, you’re looking at police officers and police agencies being contacted for pay duties to have them work and shut everything down,” says Romanick, who runs the security firm Star Quality Enterprises with Fekete-Romanick.
“The amount of people outside of the actual film shoot that have knowledge of this is probably in the hundreds to thousands.”
And with social media being so pervasive today, word spread like wildfire, driving even more curious onlookers to the scene, says blogger Will Wong.
Some details have been successfully kept from the public, Wong adds, noting that Affleck shot his scene in a tucked-away alleyway and was only seen entering and exiting wearing “a big black drape,” presumably over a Batman costume.
He says risking the attention of camera-wielding bystanders is a necessary trade-off for directors keen on shooting in a real, urban setting.
And at the end of the day, as long as onlookers respect the perimeter and stay on public property, there’s nothing police can do to stop a fan from shooting photos or video, says Romanick.
“Of course, a police officer can ask them to step back or to put their video away but if they deny his request there’s nothing legal he can do about it.”
Wong says it’s unlikely anyone could piece together much about the film from outdoor shoots anyway.
“You’re only getting little small snippets and pieces — you can’t really hear what the lines are if you’re standing outside watching. The majority of the production is taking place inside at Pinewood Studios, that’s the stuff you need to be concerned about leaking.”
Even if they could suss out the storyline, fervent fans say that won’t deter them from seeing the film, set to hit theatres in August 2016.
“I’m actually pretty excited to see it,” says Yip. “I feel like I’m kind of part of it now.”
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press