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Natalie Portman’s ‘Lady in the Lake’ Stops Baltimore Production After Gun Violence Threats, Extortion Attempt

Locals reportedly set out to extort $50,000 from producers during filming.

Natalie Portman, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 23: Natalie Portman attends Marvel Studios "Thor: Love and Thunder" Los Angeles Premiere at El Capitan Theatre on June 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Natalie Portman

FilmMagic

Updated, August 31, 2:23 p.m. ET: The Baltimore Police Department has now released more information disputing initial extortion reports. Per the Baltimore Banner, the BPD located the 43-year-old street vendor who said he talked to the “Lady in the Lake” production team at approximately 6 a.m. ET on August 26 to appeal for compensation due to his business being blocked. His official statement does not mention a gun or threat of gun violence.

The location supervisor for “Lady in the Lake” who submitted the initial report has since “retracted his original statement of seeing the gun and advised he did not see a gun but that one of the drivers [had] seen the gun,” but adding that he did witness “a large amount of marijuana” on the street vendor. The vendor was later arrested on a drug charge. The police were called to the set later that afternoon at 4:45 p.m. ET in response to a separate report of people causing disruption. An officer spoke to a man who “was being argumentative” but denied threatening the production crew.

A supervisor for a security firm working on set claimed people were asking first for $4,000, and later then $50,000 for the crew to film and had threatened to shoot in the air. However, per the report, “She did not have any knowledge of who made the threats or request for money.”

IndieWire has reached out to Apple for comment.

Updated, August 30, 1:36 p.m. ET: The Baltimore Police Department confirmed that local street vendor Keith L. Brown was arrested on a narcotics charge and is believed to be behind the extortion threats. Brown was “upset that he had not been compensated by the production for lost business, since he could not operate his clothing business while the crew was filming at that location,” as reported by Entertainment Weekly.

Brown told police officers that he was in touch with a “Lady in the Lake” crew member and a security manager and was awaiting paperwork to receive compensation. The investigation is still ongoing.

Updated, 2:08 p.m. ET: “Lady in the Lake” creator Alma Har’el tweeted an update on increased safety precautions for the Baltimore-based production after an extortion attempt and threat of violence occurred.

“The safety and security of our crew, cast, vendors, production partners are of paramount importance,” the “Honey Boy” director wrote. “Production will resume with an increased security procedures going forward.”

She captioned a series of set photos, “I wanted to post this to say it has been a privilege shooting ‘Lady in the Lake’ in Baltimore. Let me celebrate the beautiful people of Baltimore who come to set and sit with me by the monitor. Our thanks and appreciation to Mayor Brandon M. Scott, the Baltimore Film Office, Maryland Film Office, and the Baltimore Police Department for their incredible support as we continue production in the great Baltimore and surrounding areas.”

Production has 40 days left to complete.

Originally published August 29, 11:24 a.m. ET: Upcoming AppleTV+ series “Lady in the Lake” has been bogged down with production challenges.

First, the Natalie Portman-starring series was set to co-star Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, before the “Black Panther” actress backed out due to unknown circumstances. “Obi-Wan Kenobi” breakout Moses Ingram was cast as Nyong’o’s replacement.

Now, the production has been hit with threats of extortion and gun violence, forcing the series to halt production. Deadline first reported that “Lady in the Lake,” which has been filming in Baltimore for several months, stopped production on Friday, August 26 after several locals threatened producers and tried to extort money from them. Portman and her producing partner Sophie Mas serve as executive producers on the series.

A spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department said the “Lady in the Lake” crew was filming around 4 p.m. ET in the downtown area when the producers were approached by several people. The group claimed if they didn’t stop filming they would come back and shoot someone; however, no violence would occur if producers paid them an undisclosed amount.

The Baltimore Banner (via Deadline) reported that the extortionists were drug dealers who were seeking $50,000 from production.

Producers stopped filming and sought a new location for production.

“Friday afternoon, on the Baltimore set of our production ‘Lady in the Lake,’ prior to the arrival of the cast and crew, per their call time, a driver on our production crew was confronted by two men, one of whom brandished a gun directed at our driver, and then they fled the location,” a spokesperson for Endeavor Content, the studio behind the AppleTV+ series, stated. “We are working with the Baltimore Police Department as the investigation is ongoing. The safety and security of our crew, cast and all who work across our productions is our highest priority, and we are thankful no one was injured. Production will resume with increased security measures going forward.”

The statement continued, “It has been a privilege filming ‘Lady in the Lake’ in Baltimore, working with its vibrant community across many areas. Our thanks and appreciation to the City of Baltimore, Mayor Brandon M. Scott, the Baltimore Film Office, Maryland Film Office and the Baltimore Police Department for their incredible support as we continue production in the great City of Baltimore and surrounding communities.”

“Lady in the Lake” is based on a novel by former Baltimore Sun reporter and author Laura Lippman. The series is set in 1960s Baltimore, where “an unsolved murder pushes a housewife and mother to reinvent herself as an investigative journalist. That sets her on a collision course with a hard-working woman juggling motherhood, many jobs, and a passionate commitment to advancing Baltimore’s Black progressive agenda,” per an official description.

Ingram stars as Cleo Sherwood, a Black Civil Rights activist whose body is found in a city park lake. Portman plays Jewish housewife Maddie Schwartz, who is determined to discover what really happened.

“Honey Boy” director Alma Har’el wrote the pilot and will co-write the rest of the series with Dre Ryan (“The Man in the High Castle”). Har’el also directs and executive produces.

Lead star Portman previously told Variety that Nyong’o dropping out of the series following a few weeks of filming was “super devastating.”

“I’m a huge fan of hers and was really looking forward to working with her,” Oscar winner Portman shared. “But these things happen.”

Portman added that the “Lady in the Lake” production team has “the best crew I’ve ever worked with, and while it is so much more representative than any other set I’ve worked on, we still have a lot of work to do if we want to truly reflect society.”

Production was slated to conclude this month in August 2022.

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