Katrina Debris Part of the Scenery for New Denzel Washington Film

2/2/2006 2:53 PM PST

Katrina Debris Part of the Scenery for New Denzel Washington Film

By STACEY PLAISANCE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

Rather than try to avoid storm-damaged areas of post-Katrina New Orleans, makers of the upcoming film "Deja Vu" said Thursday they will incorporate the city's present-day scenery in their script -- mounds of debris, decimated houses and all.

Filming will begin Monday and continue through April in the devastated 9th Ward neighborhood as well as the relatively unscathed French Quarter, Garden District and surrounding parishes, said producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

"It's great to be able to bring the movie industry back," Bruckheimer said, adding that although he has seen "horrific" devastation, "the city is recovering."

He was joined by director Tony Scott and members of the cast for a news conference Thursday at the House of Blues in New Orleans.

Oscar-winning Denzel Washington, who stars in the thriller as a time traveling FBI agent trying to save the woman he loves from being murdered, said he is honored for the opportunity to work in New Orleans and contribute to the city's recovery effort.

"I'm sensitive to peoples' loss," he said. Sitting beside Washington was Paula Patton, who will play his "Deja Vu" love interest. She previously costarred in the movie "Hitch" with Will Smith.

Also in "Deja Vu" are Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," and Val Kilmer, who most recently played opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the comic crime tale "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang."

Kilmer said "Deja Vu" should give the city a spirit boost.

"Movies always bring a great physical energy," he said. "I was very excited when I got the call."

With much of the city's infrastructure still down and storm debris still piled along city streets, initial concerns for film crews have included housing, availability of cast and crew and access to equipment and supplies.

Bruckheimer mentioned concern about the availability of some city services, including police, but "we've had a good run here." He said he's worked on three film projects in the city, the most recent "Glory Road," which is currently in theaters.

The state's Office of Film and Television has said this is an important project that film industry executives will be following. Though several videos and documentaries have been filmed in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, this is the first major motion picture to do so.

Though New Orleans was the chosen setting before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, director Tony Scott said the script was tweaked to fit the city's current condition.

Set in present day, the film's opening scene will incorporate Mardi Gras, which Scott says will illustrate the resiliency of the city and its people.

"Not even Katrina could stop Mardi Gras," Scott said.

New Orleans had been a popular filming site since the state approved a package of generous tax breaks in 2002. Since Katrina hit, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and other parts of the state farther inland have picked up the slack.