This close to the Batmobile(s)!

Cary Ashby
Mar 29, 2010


Editor's note: This is the third of four blogs about reporter Cary Ashby’s “Batman Chicago Vacation” June 20-24 about the making of the 2008 film “The Dark Knight” (TDK).


Morning of June 22 (parking deck) — When I returned to the West Randolph Street area, I chatted with a very friendly security named Joe. I stressed that with the exception of the overly zealous guard from last night (Joe knew who he was), everyone had been extremely nice and talkative.


That's when he laid a bombshell on me. "The Batmobiles are still up there," Joe said, referring to the parking deck level where filming was taking place. "You can't go up there. It's tight security."


Mmmmm. I might not be able to get up there, but it would be worth a try.


But Joe wasn't finished with sharing some goodies, one of which was TDK was going to be filming in the West Randolph Street area for three weeks. (They started June 20, after a one-day set-up.)


"Batman is supposed to scale this building," Joe said about the 20- to 30-story building behind a parking lot with the cast's trailers.


First, I scoped out the parking lot of about 18 cast and crew trailers ("Mobile Movies") caddy-corner to the parking deck. This was "crew base."


Two of the trailers on North Franklin Street were for the stuntmen and acting doubles. One door was labeled "B double" and two each were marked "Faux Batman." Two trailers on Washington Street had five doors labeled "Chech tugs," which Joe said meant "stunt men."


In the back corner of the "crew base" was a trailer marked "Assistant DA/Gentleman @ Party." Immediately to the right was the "hair" trailer.


[SPOILER ALERT] There has been quite a bit of speculation about the Scarecrow returning to TDK. After all, the villain was last seen in "Batman Begins" riding a horse through Gotham City (not unlike the Headless Horseman) after being Tazered by assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes. Actor Cillian Murphy repeatedly has had little to say about his character's possible return. Makes you wonder …


Chris, one of the guys from the previous night, shared a juicy scene he witnessed. He said an actor dressed as the Scarecrow gassed Batman. This makes sense since I saw a trailer door labeled "Scarecrow dbl." and four doors marked "Scarecrow gang." (Were those the well dressed gangsters I saw last night? Or are they The Joker's henchmen?)


I also discovered the YouTube video of a similar scene near the now infamous white van when I returned from my "Batman vacation." The video is from the same perspective I watched several scenes. It doesn't show much and I didn't listen to the audio. [END SPOILER]


Having my fill of getting any tidbits from Joe and the trailer door labels, off I went to the parking deck.


On the way, I saw a pickup truck with a tall, wooden-gated bed containing the passenger doors to eight black SUVs parked across the street from the deck. The sign on the gate read: "This vehicle has pyrotechnic charges in the back panel. No cell phones." Some of the gawkers said they had heard an explosion from the parking deck in the middle of the night.


[SPOILER ALERT] There has been speculation that the Batmobile might go boom in TDK. [END SPOILER]


I decided to use the parking deck elevator to go to the fifth level, one below filming. There were lots of vehicles there (no Gotham City license plates — darn!), but what made my jaw hit the floor were the four vehicles parked back to front along the far wall, all covered in black tarps.


Hidden Batmobiles.


The tarps covered every inch of the vehicles and didn't even drape onto the asphalt. But you could see where a couple of the tarps outlined the unique free-standing front wheel assembly and back fins/"wings" of the Batmobiles.


I knelt down in an empty parking space, about 10 feet from the driver's side front bumper of the first Batmobile. I had my camera out when I heard a firm voice politely say, "I can't let you do that."


Oops. I didn't even bother to look for that security guard!


He shrugged his shoulders when I asked if I could hang around. I didn't go any closer and I didn't want to push my luck. Away went my camera into my briefcase (I considered taking a shot near the elevator entrance as I left, but I didn't do it).


Next stop: the parallel parking deck. Luck was with me again. A crew member, the only person on the skydeck besides another guard, was kneeling by the uncovered Batsignal in the middle of the rooftop set. He was using a large brush to paint the side of the Batsignal.


Keep working, bud. Don't smile. You're on Cary's camera.


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