Why HBO’s ‘Grey Gardens’ Put the Hamptons in … Toronto?

From left, the Beales; Barrymore and Lange. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Beales); Getty Images

At last night's benefit dinner at Bottino for the Ghetto Film School, Rachael Horovitz, producer of HBO's upcoming film of Grey Gardens (starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore), explained why she and first-time director Michael Sucsy filmed the quintessential Hamptons story in Toronto. "Funnily enough," she quipped, "you can re-create sand dunes, but you can't re-create tax breaks." So how do you re-create sand dunes in Toronto, anyway? "We got extremely lucky," Horovitz confessed. "On our first day of shooting, which was October 22, they were having a heat wave — a one-day heat wave, no joke — in Toronto. And we did the beach exteriors on that one day." The crew built a Hamptons-esque façade in the countryside outside Toronto, and the city itself was used for flashback scenes set in thirties and fifties New York. The production got lots of mileage out of its lead actresses: "Drew played Little Edie from age 16 to age 65," and "Jessica sings her own songs."

New York film commissioner Katherine Oliver, for her part, claimed that the pathetic state of the U.S. dollar and the "sweetened" tax breaks written into law in 2005 ensured that classic New York tales would never again be shot across the border. "Now that [the tax incentive] has been increased to 35 percent, there's no reason anybody would have to go anywhere else," she said. Except maybe to get away from the heat? —Darrell Hartman