'Batman' production declares HK too dirty

DARK KNIGHT: In the latest snag for the Warner Brothers picture, the movie's producers decided that the water of Victoria Harbor was too dangerously polluted for actors to film a scene in it


Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 5

Batman may have a body of steel, but the caped crusader is no match for the pollution in Hong Kong's iconic harbor.

The latest installment of the Batman movie series will start filming in the territory this month, but already the movie has hit several snags.

A scene in which Batman was to drop from a plane into the harbor has been axed after the movie's producers found the water quality could pose a potential health risk, the South China Morning post reported yesterday.

"The plan was for Batman to be seen jumping into the water and then climbing up some bamboo, or something similar," the newspaper quoted an unnamed production official as saying.

"But when they checked a water sample, they found all sorts of things; salmonella and tuberculosis, so it was canceled. Now the action will cut to inside a building," the official said.

The movie -- a sequel to the 2005 hit Batman Begins -- stars Christian Bale as the eponymous Batman, Heath Ledger as the Joker and Michael Caine as Batman's long-suffering butler, Alfred. Christopher Nolan returns to direct the film.

Hong Kong's harbor has long been polluted by industrial and residential sewage and swimming is not recommended, World Wildlife Fund conservation director Andy Cornish told the newspaper.

"There is still a horrendous amount of effluent going into the harbor," he said.

The government has launched a project to collect and treat all sewage before it reaches the water, but the harbor is not yet suitable for swimming, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said.

A spokesman for October Pictures, the Hong Kong company handling production of The Dark Night, declined to comment on the report.

It was the latest snag for the Warner Brothers picture, which has already started filming in Chicago and London. Hong Kong government officials had earlier expressed concern over noise pollution and traffic chaos during the nine-day shoot.

Hong Kong's glass and steel skyscrapers, glistening blue harbor and winding streets have proven a popular backdrop for many Hollywood movies including the James Bond hit, Tomorrow Never Dies.