Hong Kong police are holding a suspected Triad gang member on suspicion of attempting to extort money from the crew on the set of Transformers: Age of Extinction, the second attempt in five days to blackmail the Paramount Pictures crew during filming in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Directors Guild president Derek Yee Tung-sing told the South China Morning Post newspaper that the incident was "ridiculous" and "more unusual than getting a jackpot."
On Thursday (Oct. 17) last week, the director of the fourth installment in the franchise, Michael Bay, and several crewmembers escaped injury after they were assaulted by a man wielding an air-conditioning unit as a weapon. Two brothers were arrested after allegedly demanding $13,000 (HK$100,000) from the crew.
Hong Kong is a famously safe city and there have been no cases of blackmail or extortion on film crews in recent years since a major crackdown on the organized crime tactic decades ago, although in some film productions, security sources say that unofficial "protection money" payments are made.
Police are looking for three alleged racketeers in connection with the latest case, which happened on the roof of a residential block in To Kwa Wan Road in the city at about 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 22), the newspaper reported.
According to police, the four men allegedly approached and demanded money from the crew, who were assessing the site at the time. The crew immediately called police.
Officers arrested a 35-year-old Hong Kong man but the other three men escaped. A police source said the man was a suspected Triad criminal gang member.
The producers have worked hard to push the movie as a China-U.S. co-production, thereby allowing it to sidestep the Chinese import quota and also take a bigger share of box office earnings in what is now the second-biggest source of box office revenue in the world.
The 2011 smash hit Transformers: Dark of the Moon took $165 million of its $1.1 billion worldwide take in China.
Transformers: Age of Extinction stars Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Li Bingbing and Han Geng and is due in theaters on June 27, 2014.
Four young Chinese actors were chosen to play supporting roles in Transformers: Age of Extinction in a reality TV show aired on state broadcaster CCTV's Movie Channel on Aug. 31.
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