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Batman's Architect

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THINK OF THE MOVIE BATMAN, AND A Grand Guignol of futuristic imagery crowds into your mind: the Batmobile, the Flugelheim Museum, the surreal, stylized spires and streets of Gotham. All of them sprang from the imagination of one man, production designer Anton Furst. But while Batman was brooding (and won an Oscar (or Best Ail Direction), Furst, friends say, was not. “We were always laughing,” says Keith Barish, co-owner of Planet Hollywood, an extravagant, movie-theme restaurant, designed by Furst, that opened in Manhattan in October. “If there was another side to him, I certainly didn’t know about it.”

Clearly there was another side. On Nov. 24 Furst, 47, leapt to his death from an L.A. parking garage about eight floors up. Police say a witness saw him jump. Furst reportedly had alcohol problems, and on Sunday he admitted himself to a hospital. Less than an hour later he inexplicably left, and soon after plunged off an adjacent garage. “It’s just a shock,” says Barish. “The last time I talked to him, three weeks ago, he was very enthused.” Furst had a deal with Columbia Pictures for several projects, including a Michael Jackson movie. He was not working on the Batman sequel.

Furst, divorced, is survived by children Vanessa King, 26, and Nicholas, 20. Though good-humored, he could also be intense. “The moment you don’t enter fully into something,” he said of making Batman, “that’s the time to give up.”