It's been one of the worst-kept secrets in Dubai. We've known Jackie Chan was heading to the city to shoot his latest movie, Kung Fu Yoga, for more a month, and on Sunday Dubai Film and TV Commission finally confirmed it.
The 61-year-old martial arts star arrived in the country about a week ago but there was no word on the locations that would be used. Dubai Film and Television Commission vaguely alluded to some "landmarks” featuring in key scenes, while insiders hinted at a car chase on The Boulevard.
Other than that, details have been kept tightly under wraps – unless you are staying at the Atlantis The Palm Resort. A letter distributed to guests at the weekend said: "We are very excited to be taking part in the filming of an epic new Kung Fu movie set for release in 2016. We would therefore like to warn you that filming will take place throughout the resort from September 28 to October 2015.
"Whilst the majority of the resort will be unaffected, we have put in place a number of temporary measures in order to minimise the disruption to your Atlantis experience. We thank you for your patience and we invite you to take this opportunity to watch filming take place.”
The letter ended with: "Please do not be alarmed during the Kung Fu fight scenes as this is part of the production.”
Perhaps management were reminded of the immortal words of Carl Douglas, who famously noted in his song Kung Fu Fighting: "Those kicks were fast as lightning. In fact, it was a little bit frightening.”
On Monday afternoon, Chan and the movie's cast and crew, armed with an array of boom mics, lights and cameras, were in Atlantis filming in a roped-off, heavily secured area in front of the hotel's iconic East Tower aquarium.
The crew was clearly trying to operate in as subtle a manner as a full-scale film production with an international superstar can – which isn't very. About 30-40 technical crew members, a mix of Chinese workers and others from the UAE industry, mingled while wardrobe assistants wheeled rails of clothes (mostly shirts and suits) around the set.
A group of seven extras sat by a wall waiting for their moment in the limelight, while Chan, chatted amiably with cast and crew in a manner befitting a man who has steadfastly refused to play villains throughout his career.
It's a common tactic for big movies to use pseudonyms or aliases to fool the public, and on this occasion notices advised passers-by of a promotional shoot for [Atlantis parent company] Kerzner International, avoiding any mention of Chan, the movie or even local producers Alkatraz Productions.
Rarely have so many "no photography” signs been seen in one place. They were on walls, on crowd barriers, on T-shirts and on high-visibility vests. Some of the crew even had sheets of A4 paper with the words "no camera” printed on them pinned them to their clothes, and the abundant security personnel were taking the rule very seriously indeed.
It seems the part of the memo about guests being welcome to watch filming hadn't been shared with the guards – passers-by who dawdled too long were ushered into a lift in an adjacent corridor, or back in the direction from whence they had come, even though much of the filming took place behind a screen. Even without the screen getting a decent view through the massed ranks of film crew, security and equipment was no easy task.
We spent two days keeping tabs on the filming, and while the far from ideal conditions didn't allow us to gather too much in the way of plot spoilers, here's what we do know.
There will be a major fight in front of the aquarium, featuring Chan, his adversaries and a small briefcase that seems to be the cause of the dispute. The complex scene took hours to film and resulted in a spontaneous round of applause on the set when it finally wrapped.
Chan ends up with the briefcase, and attempts to pass it on to an unknown female co-star. Katrina Kaif, who was rumoured to have a role in the movie, has been removed from its IMDB listing and is filming Baar Baar Dekho in Glasgow, Scotland.
The characters then make their way down the East Tower corridor to the lobby, where a second crew had set up a huge camera jib, so expect some sweeping aerial shots of the fountain and cast.
As for the resort guests caught up in the filming, few seemed to be overawed by the star in their midst or impressed that a major film was being made in the vicinity.
Filipina Jennifer was more annoyed that she couldn't get through a security cordon to meet her friend.
And a British guest told us: "It doesn't really look like my sort of film. But my son-in-law's a huge Jackie Chan fan so he'll be pleased when we get home.”
Although a few youngsters had heard that Chan was around and tried – unsuccessfully – to snap shots of their hero, the response of most people was best described as mild intrigue.
Source: The National