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People take photos and gather around the Batmobile from the upcoming Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at Electronic Arts in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday April 17, 2012. (Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press)
People take photos and gather around the Batmobile from the upcoming Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at Electronic Arts in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday April 17, 2012. (Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press)

SUPERHERO

Holy Toledo! It's the Batmobile Add to ...

He is the hero the fight against cancer needs.

Andy Smith, the special effects wizard who built the Batmobile used in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, visited his Vancouver doctor three years ago for a sore throat. What he heard turned his life upside-down.

Mr. Smith had cancer in his throat, tonsils and lymph nodes. He feared he would die. He underwent chemotherapy and the 52-year-old says he’s now in good health.

To thank the medical professionals who took care of him, Mr. Smith arranged for the Batmobile to be driven from Los Angeles to the Electronic Arts complex in Burnaby. Tuesday, the B.C. Cancer Foundation charged 100 people a minimum donation of $50 to see it, with the funds going to research and patient care.

Excited fans posed for photos in front of the six-tire, jet-black vehicle. They peered through its tinted windows and speculated on whether there was an engine inside – a driving demonstration by one of Mr. Smith’s colleagues later answered that question and drew cheers.

Perhaps no fan of Gotham’s Dark Knight was as excited as three-year-old Alex Agostini, who danced in front of the vehicle in his blue-and-yellow Batman shirt. When asked what sound the Batmobile made, he answered, “Vroom vroom.”

“It’s awesome to see him this happy,” said Alex’s mother Tiziana, herself a cancer survivor. “He loves it. I think he wanted to get in it.”

He wasn’t the only one. Mr. Smith said the Batmobile had a little trouble getting across the border because of curious customs agents.

“This was driven up uncovered all the way from L.A. It caused chaos. I don’t think that expedited its transit through customs, either. Everybody wanted a look.”

The Dark Knight Rises, the third film under Mr. Nolan, will be released this summer. Mr. Smith’s official title is special effects workshop supervisor.

“I’m the lucky guy that gets to say I built the car. Well, it wasn’t me. I’m the guy that said we could and put the team together and ran the thing,” he said modestly.

He estimated the cost of the development and production of the Batmobile was in the “millions of dollars.”

“Chris Nolan likes to have realism in his films. So, we told him it would be expensive and they stumped up the money and we built, I think, one of the best Batmobiles ever.”

Mr. Smith would know. He also worked on the Batmobile in the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton. As he did in that movie, Mr. Smith took the vehicle out for a spin on camera.

“It’s in one of the convoys,” he said of his scene. “It looks very different. I’m not really allowed to say too much.”

He laughed when asked how the trilogy, starting Christian Bale, ends. “You think I’m going to tell you that? They’d shoot me for that.”

He said arranging for the Batmobile to be brought up to B.C. was the least he could do to express his gratitude to the B.C. Cancer Agency and its fundraising partner, the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

“It sounds so cliché, but it does change the way you think,” Mr. Smith said of cancer. “Things that were important aren’t important. ... Cherish the little things, the simple things.”

Mr. Smith denies that his charitable efforts make him some kind of superhero.

“I’m just an ordinary guy doing my job.”

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