Mordecai Richler, author of St. Urbain’s Horsemen and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, is probably Montreal’s most famous writer. When Barney’s Version, the film adaptation of his most famous and last novel, opens in theatres on December 24, the world will have a chance to revel in the life and locations of Barney Panofsky, Richler’s autobiographical anti-hero.
Oscar-nominated American actor Paul Giamatti, who plays Barney, told us during the Toronto International Film Festival what he thought of Montreal:
“Amazing city. I frickin’ loved it. I really thought, if I was every going to live somewhere else, I would like to live in this city.”
There aren’t any official tours of Richler’s favourite haunts, but he was well-known to enjoy downtown bars such as Ziggy’s, Sir Winston Churchill’s, and Grumpy’s. In the film, several pivotal scenes are filmed at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, a gorgeous old Grand Dame of a hotel on Sherbrooke St. West’s Golden Square Mile. The Ritz has historically been very important in the cultural life of Montrealers, and is currently being renovated to its former glory.
Visit the website for scenes in the hotel’s ballroom and garden, including a wedding, the shoot pulled the original china and furniture out of storage, and consulted wedding planners who had organized events there during that period. Both Richler himself and the fictional Barney Panofsky lived in the imposing Le Chateau apartments across the street from the Ritz.
Producer Robert Lantos has also said that he was intent on using the real streets—Peel, Bishop, Sherbrooke Sts—that Barney frequents in the book, as well as the real locations whenever possible.
Guest blogger: Melora Koepke