Cruise’s made-in-Canada movie ‘Cocktail’ celebrates 25 years

Tom Cruise stars in 'Cocktail,' which was filmed in Toronto 25 years ago. Handout

TORONTO – Cocktail, the movie that cemented Tom Cruise’s leading man status in Hollywood and made audiences dream of a place called Kokomo, celebrates its 25th birthday on Monday.

The simple tale of a bartender who tossed bottles and landed a wife – which opened in theatres on July 29, 1988 – was largely filmed in Toronto.

“Everybody was in awe of Tom Cruise because he was just ascending and he was definitely in control of the movie,” recalls Stuart Aikins, the movie’s Toronto casting director, from his home in B.C.

“But it wasn’t a movie that stood out for me.”

Written by Heywood Gould (previously a writer and producer of TV’s The Equalizer) and directed by Roger Donaldson (who had just made No Way Out starring Kevin Costner ), Cocktail was Cruise’s tenth movie and came hot on the heels of Risky Business, Top Gun and The Color of Money.

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The movie earned $11.8 million on its opening weekend and remained in the No. 1 spot at the box office in the U.S. and Canada for two weeks before being bumped by Young Guns.

It gave Cruise his best opening weekend — beating Top Gun by $3.6 million – and went on to earn $172 million worldwide.

In today’s dollars, Cocktail was a $300 million blockbuster.

Cruise was Brian Flanagan, an American soldier returning to civilian life in New York City who meets a veteran bartender (Bryan Brown) and balances college studies and a job behind the bar.

With dreams of opening his own bar, Brian takes a job at a beach resort in Jamaica and falls for Jordan Mooney, a girl from a wealthy family (Elisabeth Shue).

A quarter-century after Cocktail opened in theatres, its director explains why it still resonates with audiences.

“It’s a movie that speaks to young people and their lives. What are you going to do with your career? What are you going to do with your love life? How are you going to handle your parents? All of those issues are explored in that movie,” Donaldson said in an interview last year with Movie Fanatic.

“All of those things are themes that young people are concerned with and definitely identify with… and still do.”

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Here are some fun facts about Cocktail and a look at how some of its Toronto locations appear today:

– The fancy bottle tricks – known as “flair bartending” – demonstrated in Cocktail by Cruise and Brown were choreographed by John Bandy. He recently said he’s not sure which actor broke the most bottles but recalled that Cruise was a quick learner because “he’s ambidextrous.”

– At the 1989 Razzies – which “honour” the worst in cinema –Cocktail won Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. Cruise and Donaldson had been nominated for Worst Actor and Worst Director respectively.

– One of the soldiers in the car with Cruise’s character during the movie’s opening sequence is Justin Louis, the Toronto actor who has since starred in numerous series and currently plays Det. Oscar Vega on Motive.

Toronto actor Justin Louis appears in an early scene with Tom Cruise.

Also in the car is Toronto actor Chris Owens, who went on to appear in a long list of made-in-Canada shows (including 13 episodes of The X-Files) and was a featured dancer in 2008’s High School Musical III: Senior Year.

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– The Cocktail soundtrack was a huge hit, reaching No. 1 in Australia and #2 in the U.S. (and making it into the Top 10 in Canada). It included tracks by Ry Cooder, John Cougar Mellencamp, Starship and The Beach Boys. A number of songs that appeared in the movie were not on the soundtrack album – notably Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.”

– “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys – without Brian Wilson – was the first single off the Cocktail soundtrack. Released two weeks before the movie, the song went to No. 1 in the U.S. and Australia (it made the Top 10 in Canada) and earned Grammy and Golden Globe nominations. The video for the song was shot in about two hours on a fake beach at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort prior to its opening to the public. Full House star John Stamos can be seen playing percussion.

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– Donaldson, who was born in Australia, has worked steadily as a director since Cocktail, making such films as Species and Dante’s Peak. Donaldson returned to Toronto to make 2003’s The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino.

Cocktail is the only movie Cruise ever made in Toronto – but it wasn’t the last time he was in the city. While his then-wife Nicole Kidman was making 1995’s To Die For in Toronto, Cruise spent time in the city learning learning to fly and earned his pilot’s license.

He returned in 1998 to attend the Toronto International Film Festival as producer of Without Limits and popped into the city briefly in the summer of 2010 to visit daughter Suri while his then-wife Katie Holmes was shooting The Kennedys.

– Making Cocktail in Canada was a bit of a homecoming for Cruise. When he was eight years old, Tom Cruise Mapother moved into a home on Monson Crescent in Ottawa with his parents and sisters and spent Grades 4 and 5 at nearby Robert Hopkins Public School and part of Grade 6 at Henry Munro Middle School.

– The classroom where Cruise’s character attends business classes is Room 3163 of the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Toronto.

– Cruise’s cousin William Mapother is credited as a production assistant on Cocktail. The on-set experience paid off because Mapother became a prolific character actor soon after, appearing in such shows as Lost and Prison Break.

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Cocktail features cameos by two then-unknown actors who went on to become TV stars. One of the customers at the beach bar in Jamaica is James Eckhouse, who only two years after Cocktail was released became Jim Walsh – father of Brenda and Brandon – on the hit series Beverly Hills 90210.

James Eckhouse was a bar patron in ‘Cocktail’ but went on to star on ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’.

In the wedding reception scene near the end of the movie, one of the revelers is Elisabeth Shue’s real-life brother Andrew Shue, who became famous as Billy Campbell on Melrose Place in 1992.

Andrew Shue appears as a wedding reception guest in ‘Cocktail.’.

– Paul Benedict played Cruise’s finance professor in Cocktail. At the time he was best known as Bentley on the hit sitcom The Jeffersons. He returned to Toronto to appear in 1990’s The Freshman.

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– The reggae band featured performing in the Jamaican club scene is Messenjah, which was formed in Kitchener, Ont. in 1980 and became the first Canadian reggae band signed to a major record label. The Juno-winning group performed all over the world and performed for former South African president Nelson Mandela at Toronto’s SkyDome in 1998.

– The Jamaican club scene was filmed inside The Dance Cave on the second level of Toronto’s iconic Bloor Street venue Lee’s Palace.

– When he made Cocktail, Brown was best known for his role on the TV mini-series The Thornbirds. The Australian actor was also the star of the 1986 movie F/X and its 1991 sequel. F/X became a short-lived TV series (made in Toronto) but Brown declined to reprise his role, which was taken over by fellow Aussie Cameron Daddo.

– The New York City bar Cruise’s character walks into to apply for a bartending job was a TGI Friday’s at First Ave. and 63rd St. The interior scenes, however, were shot on a soundstage in Toronto.

– Cruise’s character Brian is twice shown in the elegant lobby of the apartment building in which Jordan’s wealthy father lives. In reality, it’s the lobby of the Canada Life building on Toronto’s University Avenue. There are, in fact, no residences there.

Cocktail was made in a much more carefree time. The movie opens with Cruise’s character Brian and his army buddies driving in a car without wearing seat belts. Throughout the movie, patrons happily smoke inside bars. Brian doesn’t hesitate to drive Kerry (Kelly Lynch) home after a night of drinking. And Elisabeth Shue’s character – who is pregnant – is seen toasting her marriage with a glass of champagne.

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Donaldson told Crave Online last year: “Well, you know, listen, times have changed. People have become more educated. They realize the impact that alcohol has on pregnancies.”

– The brief funeral scene in Cocktail was filmed at St. John’s Norway Cemetery and Crematorium on Kingston Road in Toronto.

– The Cell Block nightclub, where Brian tends bar and gets picked up by a photographer (Gina Gershon), is actually the rotunda of Toronto’s Don Jail.

The Cell Block nightclub in ‘Cocktail’ (inset) was the rotunda of the Don Jail. Courtesy Pearl Vas

– Luther Hansraj, who had one line in Cocktail as an ambulance attendant, is a Dora Mavor Moore Award winner with more than 100 theatre credits. A respected figure on the Canadian arts scene, he won a Harry Jerome Award in 1996 and an African-Canadian Achievement Award in 1997.


Tom Cruise takes an evening stroll in New York and walks past this distinctive door...
The scene was shot on Dundas Street West near Ossington in Toronto. The door remains virtually unchanged. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).
Tom Cruise is seen running on his college campus...
The scene was actually King College Circle at the University of Toronto. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).
Tom Cruise joins the registration line outside his college...
The scene was filmed outside Knox College at the University of Toronto. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).
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Tom Cruise drives Kerry home, turning the car into an underground garage...
The scene was filmed outside 25 Wood Street between Yonge and Church in Toronto. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).
Tom Cruise visits Jerry's diner to see Jordan...
The scene was shot at Toronto's Lakeview Restaurant on Dundas Street West. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).
Tom Cruise arrives at the penthouse apartment of Jordan's wealthy father...
The penthouse was, in fact, a modernized version of Lady Pellatt's suite at Toronto's Casa Loma. (John R. Kennedy / Global News).

Cocktail is available on Blu-ray and can be rented or purchased on iTunes.


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