On Saturday, the online news start-up Baltimore Banner published an article about a bizarre incident around downtown Baltimore. The story involved Lady in the Lake, a limited Apple TV+ series starring Natalie Portman and Moses Ingram that has been shooting around Maryland since April. But over the weekend, the production stopped filming after an alleged extortion threat the day prior. Per the Banner:
Production…abruptly stopped on Friday after drug dealers urging the cast and crew to clear the set on the west side of downtown threatened to shoot someone, Baltimore Police Department spokesperson James Moses said…The dealers also attempted to extort $50,000 from the crew to stand down, he said, but producers declined to pay.
This is somewhat odd framing for an equally odd incident; the article does not cite the reason for characterizing the alleged perpetrators as “drug dealers.” But the shutdown did get picked up in several outlets, many of which don’t seem to agree on the basic facts of what happened. Consider for example, this statement from the show’s production studio, Endeavor Content, in the Hollywood Reporter:
Friday afternoon, on the Baltimore set of our production Lady in the Lake, prior to the arrival of the cast and crew … 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.
Deadline and some others, meanwhile, reported that around 4 p.m., “several people” approached the show’s producers and claimed “if they didn’t stop filming they would come back and shoot someone,” but that “no violence would occur if they were paid an unspecified amount.” In other words, there’s conflicting accounts of the number of perpetrators, who they approached on set, the nature of the alleged gun threat, and the sum requested in the extortion. So, what exactly is going on?
Neither Endeavor Content nor Natalie Portman’s representatives immediately responded to our request for comment. But the Baltimore Police Department did send us their media release and the incident report, which poses as many questions as it answers. The report — which is redacted to shield the names of both suspects and witnesses — includes an incident overview and two barely legible, wildly different narratives from reporting police officers.
According to the report, the alleged altercation began at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning and ended at 4:35 p.m. that afternoon. The report notes that the times are “EXACTLY when the incident occurred,” but has conflicting explanations for the wide window, and makes several contradictory statements.
The first narrative states that an officer was called to the scene at 4:45 p.m, and spoke to the production’s location manager. The manager told the officer that an unspecified number of “individuals” had shown up at 6 a.m. that morning. The individuals “demanded that he pay $50,000 U.S. currency in order to film at the location” and “pulled a gun and brandished it at one of the workers.”
The manager claimed he had seen the gun himself. But when the officer asked what the gun looked like, he “retracted his original statement.” Actually, he hadn’t seen the gun at all — one of his drivers had seen it, but the driver had already left and “was not coming back to the area.” The manager added that he observed “a large amount of marijuana ‘10 hours ago.’”
If the witnesses had been threatened earlier that day, it’s unclear why the production waited several hours to contact police. But the second police narrative offers a different timeline, noting that the manager had been “inconsistent with their reporting of the incident, stating the incident happened at 06:00 hours but also one hour prior to calling police.” This officer also spoke with the production’s security manager, who at first said the men had asked for $4,000, but then “changed the amount to $50,000,” adding that “the group threatened to shoot in the air unless they received the money.”
It seems only one man is a suspect at the moment; per the report, the man claimed to run a business in the area, and he was upset the film shoot had blocked his store. In a media announcement, the BPD said they had arrested him on Aug. 29 for a narcotics charge, but did not say what kind or why it would have been related to the threat accusation. “He was arrested on narcotics charges, because they found narcotics on him,” the spox told Gawker. “I don’t know.”
So did the threat take place at 6 a.m. or 4 p.m.? Did the perpetrators ask for $4,000 or $50,000? Was this a group or was it just one man? Did he or they threaten to shoot someone or shoot in the air or just brandish a gun? Where was Natalie Portman? (Endeavor noted she was not on set). From the police report, it’s unclear. Even the BPD spokesperson seemed confused. “I don’t know if he shot in the air or at a person,” the spokesman told Gawker. “The guy who saw it wasn’t on the scene.”
Police Narrative 1
Police Narrative 2