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Bank of England moves to Berlin, in reel life

Berlin, May 11 (Reuters): The scene is outside the Bank of England in the 19th century.

Jackie Chan prepares for another stunt in a new version of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days. But now the British central bank is in Berlin, for modern London has too many new buildings that ruin the skyline for a film maker trying to recreate the past.

The Hong Kong-born actor plays the part of Passepartout, travelling companion to Phileas Fogg, played by the British comic actor Steve Coogan, as he races against the clock to circle the globe and thus win a bet with a London gentlemen’s club.

Producer Bill Badalato said shooting in Berlin made sense.

“There was a tremendous issue of finding a city that had the architecture you were able to work with,” said Badalato, whose credits include Hot Shots and Alien 4.

“London is interspersed with ultra modern buildings and the skylines have all been adulterated. So you have to find cities which are reasonably intact — or have pockets which are intact,” he said.

Key outdoor scenes, such as those in front of the Bank of England and the Royal Academy of Science are being shot in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt, an elegant square laid out in 1688 and home to some of the city’s most monumental architecture.

If Berlin counts as London, the historic town of Goerlitz near the Polish border is old Paris, on a shooting schedule that began in Thailand in March.

No shooting will be done in Britain but post production will be split between Los Angeles and London.

Berlin has become a major destination for international film makers since German reunification in 1990, with its Babelsberg studios offering a cheaper alternative to expensive Hollywood sets.

Germany has a film making tradition dating from 1911. Fritz Lang’s science fiction classic Metropolis (1927) and Marlene Dietrich’s breakthrough The Blue Angel (1930) were made there before actors and directors fled to Hollywood after the Nazis rose to power in 1933.

Since reunification, films as varied as the Roman Polanski Holocaust drama The Pianist, which won best director and best actor awards at this year’s Oscars, and the Milla Jovovich computer game-turned movie Resident Evil have been shot there. Babelsberg is also being used for the new multi-million dollar production of Around the World in 80 Days.

Its director, American Frank Coraci, previously had hits with the Adam Sandler-fronted The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer. The film’s star Coogan, 37, achieved fame in Britain playing the part of chat-show host Alan Partridge.

He said he was initially apprehensive about working with 49-year-old Chan but had great respect for his comic talents.

“I was slightly intimidated at first, not knowing what he was going to be like,” he said. “He’s very generous.”

Manchester-born Coogan compared Chan’s brand of physical comedy to the work of silent film star Buster Keaton, whose 1927 The General is frequently cited by critics as an all-time top 10 favourite.

Other names set to appear in the film, the third cinematic adaptation of the 1873 novel to date, include Monty Python star John Cleese, Oscar winners Jim Broadbent and Kathy Bates, and Johnny Knoxville, famous for Jackass.

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