BEIJING -- Two Hong Kong brothers accused of attempting to extort about $12,800 from the crew filming Michael Bay's "Transformers: Age of Extinction" last year went on trial Tuesday in the Chinese territory.
Mak Chi-shing, 27, and Mak Chi-hang, 28, were each charged with blackmail and assaulting police officers in the Oct. 17 incident; both pleaded not guilty. The two run a shop, Hang Fat Air Conditioner and Water Electrical Co. Prosecutors said in their opening remarks that the elder Mak threw an air-conditioning unit at Bay after the crew refused to pay the amount the Maks had demanded as compensation for disruption to their business.
However, prosecutors did not bring any charges related to the alleged scuffle with the director.
Paramount Pictures, the U.S. studio behind the film, released a statement at the time describing "a bizarre encounter" between Bay and "a man allegedly under the influence of a narcotic substance."
"The man, who had earlier accosted several other crew members, rushed onto the set ... and swung the air conditioning unit directly at Bay's head," the statement said. "The director ducked and wrested the air conditioner from his attacker, preventing what could have been a serious accident. The company's security team quickly stepped in and subdued the assault."
According to the South China Morning Post newspaper, which sent a reporter to cover the proceedings Tuesday, police said outside the court that Bay would not testify in the case.
The alleged blackmail took place when the crew was about to film a scene in the Quarry Bay neighborhood. According to testimony, a location manager for the movie visited the brothers the night before the incident and offered to pay about $100 as compensation, but one brother asked for $130. When the location manager agreed, the other brother raised the demand to $260.
The next day, when the crew arrived at the filming site about 5 a.m., the brothers were blasting loud music in their shop, the prosecutor said. The location manager approached the brothers to discuss the matter, and Mak Chi-shing asked for $12,800; the demand was refused.
The brothers then made noises by hitting objects and placed bricks outside the shop to block filming, the prosecution said, according to the Post. Police were called and it was then that Mak Chi-hang heaved the air conditioner toward Bay, the court heard. Crew members tackled him, and police officers suffered minor injuries as they restrained the brothers, the prosecution said.
The trial is continue Wednesday. "Transformers: Age of Extinction" stars Mark Wahlberg as a troubled inventor and is set for a U.S. release in June. Paramount Pictures has teamed with state-backed China Movie Channel and U.S./Chinese streaming company Jiaflix on the film. The last "Transformers" movie, "Dark of the Moon," was a hit in China, grossing $165 million.