'Dark Knight Rises' filming continues in Oakland

Nearly 200 spectators gathered Saturday to watch

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Filming the Dark Knight means fussing with a whole lot of lights.

Nearly 200 spectators, many with cameras, learned that in Oakland Saturday as they stood behind a barricade in rows five deep, hoping to hear an explosion or see fireworks.

"The Dark Knight Rises," the third installment of the Batman series starring Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, is shooting scenes here for four weeks. The crew returns to Oakland today and Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

From their vantage point outside St. Paul Cathedral Rectory on North Dithridge Street, movie fans could see heavy equipment moving large light panels into position. The Tumbler, a version of the Batmobile with a camouflage paint job, was parked at Dithridge and Fifth Avenue.

Gun-toting soldiers dressed in army uniforms stood in a row beside the pillars of Mellon Institute on Fifth Avenue on the side of the building that faces South Dithridge. Crew members on the roof of the Software Engineering Institute, located on Fifth on the other side of Dithridge, dropped black fabric below to cover part of the institute's mirrored exterior.

The movie's villain, Bane, stood atop the Tumbler, made a speech, then tore up his manifesto. From the distance of a block away, it was impossible to tell if the bad guy was the actor Tom Hardy or a stand-in.

That did not matter to Dan Auchey and Carol Victain, who drove in from the North Hills to watch the action -- or mostly, the lack of it.

"He's a huuuuuge Batman fan," said Ms. Victain, who likes the movie's costumes.

As the hot sun beat down, Mr. Auchey remarked, "We'd settle for a good speech from the bad guy."


Mr. Auchey, who works for a construction company, likes the way director Christopher Nolan has stylized the Batman story.

"He gave it a more realistic approach rather than a cartoon approach," Mr. Auchey said, adding that he thinks the gritty films are far more faithful to the original story.

Ms. Victain, a kindergarten teacher for Propel Montour in Kennedy, will show her pupils pictures she took of the filming. With other classes of kindergartners, she's used the Caped Crusader to teach the alphabet: B is for Batman, C is for Catwoman, and so on.

"We made little bats. They loved it," she said.

The day in the city's student quarter was full of odd juxtapositions. Backpack-wearing students strolled on Craig Street and skateboarders glided past, while nearby on Bellefield Avenue, men wearing orange jumpsuits that said Gotham DOC (Department of Corrections) milled around outside a long van. On the other side of the street, a white van pulled up near Heinz Memorial Chapel. Out stepped bridesmaids in long, black ruffled gowns, followed by a bride in white, carefully lifting her dress as she stepped down to the street.

Around lunchtime, Thomas Kraynak, who just arrived here from Cleveland to take a job at a neuro-imaging lab at Carnegie Mellon University, did his best to catch a glimpse of the Batmobile.

He said that he'd heard a young girl screaming, "Oh my God, I just saw Anne Hathaway!" on Friday evening when he was walking in Squirrel Hill.

When he figured out that the actress was in town for the Batman film, he couldn't wait to tell his Cleveland friends who live in an area where a film starring Chelsea Handler is being shot.

"We're shooting Batman here. I think that's pretty cool. That beats Chelsea Handler," said Mr. Kraynak.

Johnny Laurina, a letter carrier, paused briefly during his rounds where a crowd was gathered in the lawn and rose garden outside the St. Paul Rectory to watch the movie crew at work. He recalled that "Hoffa" also used the exterior of the Mellon Institute, while a scene from "The Silence of the Lambs" was shot at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial.

Then another wedding party arrived, this one with nine bridesmaids in long pink gowns. Rich Walsh, WPXI sports reporter, wed Michelle Fiorina at 2 p.m. in St. Paul Cathedral.

"Maybe they'll put the wedding in the movie," joked Florence Bailey Walsh, the groom's maternal grandmother, as she entered the cathedral with her daughter, Sondra Walsh, and a 3-year-old flower girl, Bailey Walsh, who was already mugging for the camera with her hands on her hips.

Marylynne Pitz can be reached at mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648. Work on the film is planned today on Dithridge in Oakland if filming was not completed Saturday. That could include closure of Fifth Avenue between Bellefield and Dithridge. Filming is planned inside the Mellon Institute Wednesday and Thursday, with a few exterior scenes. Fifth Avenue will be open but could be subject to intermittent traffic stops during filming.


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