Martin Ivanov is a rally driver who became world famous stunt driver. He is well known for his stunts in James Bond films, as well as for doubling Matt Damon in Jason Bourne series and great performances in many action blcockbusters.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): Before you became stunt driver you were rally driver. You also drove a Formula 1 car. It was impressive how you drove under jumping truck (video).
Martin Ivanov: When I had a call from my client about this job I thought that it was once in a life time chance to drive a Formula 1 car. We went to former military air base. The first day in was raining all the time and it was really wet, so it was quite dangerous. On the next day it was dry, but still cold. The tires were cold, so there was not much grip. I had a few runs in Formula 1 car to get the filling, to get used to the clutch and steering wheel. It was quite easy because of all the systems in the car. I was driving up and down just for fun to try Formula 1 car for about 40 minutes or 1 hour. I was trying to make left turn as close as possible to the ramp. Then we went for a jump. I was supposed to cross in the middle of the truck. When the time of filming was coming closer and closer everyone in the team was getting more and more nervous. The director and the producer said that I could cross in front of the truck and thanks to special camera settings it would look like I was crossing under the truck. I said that we should do it for real, without any camera tricks. I had backup plan for safety. When I was driving I was watching if the truck was on the ramp and if the ramp was still in one piece. Everything was fine so I turned left. If anything would be wrong I would just go straight. After turning left I went on a small road on aside. It was covered with mud. The car spun, but I went back. Tires were ice cold and it was like 5 degrees celcius so I had no grip, especially in mud and in the puddle in Formula 1 car.
That was in 2014 when you were already known as James Bond stunt double. Your first 007 movie was ‘Quantum of Solace’. You were driving Aston Martin in the opening car chase sequence together with Ben Collins.
The sequence was mostly done by me. Ben did just a few fast straight runs. He did a little bit of the tunnel sequence at Lake Garda and a little bit of straight driving near Carrara. I did all of the action scenes like drifting or spinning in the tunnel and the whole part in Carrara quarry.
A few years ago I was in Carrara quarry. The road was rather bumpy like for off-road rallies. Did you have to repair Aston Martin quite often because of that?
Aston was surviving quite well. We had more problems with Alfa Romeo cars. There was a problem with engine, we had to cut tires for better grip.
Did you have special suspension and tires in Aston Martin for filming in Carrara?
We put spacers so it was a bit higher. We had winter tires, which were softer, better for loose gravel. That was it.
How long were you filming the whole car chase sequence?
We had a couple of weeks of testing and preparation. Then we were filming for over a month. At first at Garda Lake for a few weeks and then in Carrara for two or three weeks.
How did you film the part in the tunnel?
Everything was at first rehearsed and tested. It was mostly the scene with the truck that had a blown tire and pushed me into the wall. These were stunts with special effect rigs. There was not much space for improvising. They first shot me going through the traffic. Then we’ve spent a lot of time with going around the truck. It required probably three takes. It was quite difficult to spin 360 degrees in the narrow tunnel. We did it two times. When I was doing it the gearbox cable was snapping from the impact probably. I did 360 spin, I lost the door and I wanted to accelerate but I couldn’t change the gear because the cable was gone. It happened both times. After this spin there was another truck coming towards me but it was shot separately. In one take, which was actually in the movie, it was very close. I had no driver’s door and truck’s bumper was really close, so I could feel the wind from that.
Was Daniel Craig present on location? Did you film any scenes with him in a car at Garda Lake or in Carrara?
Mostly he was filmed in front of green screen in the studio, but he came few times on location. We had a car that we called Go Mobile. It was a platform with engine on which any car body could be placed. The stuntman was a driver and actor could play.
Did you drive this platform?
No. There was a driver sent from the company that rented that Go Mobile from USA.
How many Aston Martin cars did you have on set?
We had six or seven. Some of them were clean, some of them were damaged i.e. without driver’s doors. Some cars had special effects rigs to help in doing stunts.
Did you also play in other scenes except car chase?
All of the drivers played in the sequence with horse race in Siena. We were dressed like Italian horse race spectators. Daniel Craig was chasing Glen Foster. They were running and pushing people back. We were just those people who were standing on their way.
In ‘Skyfall’ you were fruit seller in the opening sequence in Istambul.
Yes. We were selling oranges with Ben Collins. We were running away when Audi was sliding and crashed into the table with oranges.
In what other scenes in ‘Skyfall’ were you involved?
I was mostly background driver.
You had much more work in ‘Spectre’. You were driving Jaguar C-X75 as Mr. Hinx. I’ve seen you in action in Rome. I was there at the Tiber river when you were filming final part of the car chase with Jaguar in fire and Aston Martin sinking in the river. How did you prepare for that scene?
We put protection on ebonite on Jaguar. There were gas tanks or something like that mounted in the car. When the fire from Aston hit the Jaguar the gas caught fire.
Was there any stunt driver in Aston Martin when it jumped into the river?
No, the car was on a cable. There was no engine in that car. It was filled with foam so it was not sinking fast.
I rember that one Jaguar was with POD system on the roof. Was it also you driving that?
– Jaguar C-X75 with POD system on the roof on the ‘Spectre’ film set in Rome, Italy.
I was driving in POD on Jaguar. I remember that this POD was very strange. We were rehearsing for two or maybe more weeks just driving that POD and trying hand brakes, drifting. It was very hard to drive POD on the Jaguar. It didn’t work as we wanted. The steering was super heavy and not responsive. At the end we used it for maybe three hours one night and that was it. We just drove straight on the street. That was just a few seconds in the movie.
How is a steering wheel in POD connected to the steering system in the car?
There are different types. Usually we use hydraulic system. There is a pump at the steering wheel connected with hydraulic hoses to hydraulic actuator at the steering column. They are very heavy, sometimes they allow to turn more and sometimes less. Those with mechanical connection by shaft with joints between steering wheel in POD and steering column in the car are much easier to drive. You have the same feeling as driving normal car. Special effect engineers built electric one. I drove it. It was very strange. You don’t get the feeling. Sometimes it switches off because of a glitch and you have no steering. The best is POD with mechanical connection.
Did you have any technical problems with cars, especially when you were driving down the stairs? I know that gaps between stpas were filled with concrete, but still it was not smooth road.
On one take when I drove down the stairs I broke rear control arm so the wheel was turning itself. We didn’t have many other problems.
In ‘Spectre’ you were also driving Land Rover in Austria. Bobby Holland Hanton with whom I was talking a few months ago was one of your passenges. He said that it was ‘hair raising experience’ when the airplane hit the roof. Was it also scary from your perspective as a driver?
No. For me it was always too slow. Defenders were not very powerful. It was quite difficult to accelerate uphill. Especially when you are in mountains so there is less oxygen. Power drops down even more. It was difficult to make car chase in that slow car. Range Rover Sport was very powerful and fast, but Defenders were just dying.
I thought that they were specially prepared for the movie.
They were prepared, but the engine hasn’t been changed.
So you would prefere to drive Range Rover Sport.
I was supposed to be driving that car with Dave Bautista, but last night before the beginning of filming director Sam Mendes called stunt coordinator and said: ‘Martin can’t be Dave Bautista’s driver because he looks like an underwear model, not like a gangster’. Evangelos (Grecos) who was in the second Defender went to Range Rover and I was in Defender for the whole chase.
So in ‘Spectre’ you were driving Land Rover in Austria and Jaguar in Rome. Was it also you driving Jaguar at the Blenheim Palace in UK, where the beginning of the car chase was filmed?
No. I was still in Austria. That was someone else driving in UK.
You have also played in ‘No Time to Die’. I know that you are not allowed to reveal anything from the plot, but maybe you could tell something about filming scenes that we have already seen in trailers.
In trailers you could see a car chase that we were shooting in Norway and in Scotland. You could see me many times in trailers how I was doing that flip in Range Rover over Toyota. After that we went to Italy to Matera to shoot another car chase. I was driving black Jaguar there.
I’ve read the story about Coca Cola sprayed on the street to improve traction.
We used Coca Cola first on ‘Skyfall’ when we were shooting in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul on marble tiles that were really slippery for the bikes. We were spraying Coca Cola on those tiles and we got better grip than on normal asphalt. In Matera all roads were made of stones and were very slippery. We had quad bike with big tank full of Coca Cola that was spraying it all over the street. As soon as you put Coca Cola you have so much grip that you can’t even drift.
Did you have to repeat spraying with Coca Cola every day?
It was repeated even during the day because after a few runs it was covered with dust and it was loosing the grip.
Thank you for the meeting and for sharing all the stories from James Bond films sets.
December 14th 2020