In 2012 Daniel Craig, who has played James Bond 5 times in: ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ and ‘No Time to Die’, was present in Berlin at the premiere of ‘Skyfall’. I had a chance to photograph him at that event.
In 2012 Daniel Craig, who has played James Bond 5 times in: ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ and ‘No Time to Die’, was present in Berlin at the premiere of ‘Skyfall’. I had a chance to photograph him at that event.
After killing Marco Sciarra in Mexico James Bond (Daniel Craig) arrived to Rome to attend his funeral. From a distance, he was watching the mourners leaving the chapel. In the next scene he was watching them standing at the Sciarra’s grave. After the ceremony he approached the widow Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci) and began a conversation that was interrupted by her bodyguard.
The entire funeral sequence was filmed in the second half of February 2015 at the Museum of the Roman Civilization (Museo della Civiltà Romana) in Rome, Italy. It is located in the south of the city away from the main tourist attractions. Motorsport fans may be interested in the fact that Formula E street circuit is located very close to the museum.
The complex is made up of two buildings with a long portico of travertine columns. Standing on Via dell’Architettura you will see the building with the main entrance to the museum on the left, the building with the Planetario on the right and the portico with „MUSEO DELLA CIVILTA ROMANA” sign on top in front of you.
In the first scene of the funeral Daniel Craig was filmed in front of the main entrance to the museum. He was looking at the entrance to the Planetario. Mourners were walking left towards the portico.
In the next scene Daniel Craig was walking between travertine columns towards mourners. There was Piazza Giovanni Agnelli behind columns and skyscraper at Piazza Guglielmo Marconi in background.
Final scenes of the funeral were filmed between columns of the portico. The tombs were built for the film between columns on the Viale della Scultura side.
After the funeral widow Lucia Sciarra returned home. It was filmed in the first half of March 2015 in Villa di Fiorano. Everyone can rent it for the wedding or elegant party. It is located at Via Appia Antica less than 1,5 km from Rome airport Ciampino.
Go to LOCATIONS GALLERY – ‘SPECTRE’ to see locations photos compared with movie scenes.
Brigitte Millar is an award-winning actress known to James Bond fans as Dr. Vogel in ‘Spectre’ and ‘No Time to Die’ (click here to watch Brigitte Millar in ‘Spectre’). Find more on her website: www.brigittemillar.com.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): Thank you very much that you agreed to meet and talk about your performances in James Bond movies. At first I would like to ask how you became an actress. As far as I know it is rather unusual story.
Brigitte Millar: When I did my A-Levels in Germany I was considering studying fine arts, but my parents didn’t want to hear about that. They thought that I wouldn’t be able to earn a living. I studied languages and then I was working as translator. After a short while, I found that office work was not very interesting. I was actually quite unhappy, because it was so unfulfilling. I eventually retrained and worked in the fitness industry as a fitness instructor at first and then as a fitness manager. Then I was made redundant from my job because the whole company was restructured. My brother said: ‘It is your chance to do something artistic’. I wanted to do a dance course, but it was fully booked. But there were spaces available on an acting course, so my brother said: ‘Why don’t you do this acting course’? At first, I wasn’t keen on it as I didn’t want to do any acting, I wanted the dance. In the end I did the acting and I loved it very much. The rest as they say is history….
It was a long way for you to become an actress. Can you say now that your dream came true?
Coming to acting was a real life saver for me because I had a real midlife crisis and I didn’t know what to do.
I guess that your experience from fitness industry could help you on set of ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ when you had to fly.
Yes, on a broomstick. The broomstick was mounted on a crane. It could move up and down, sideways and swing around. It was quite high up and it was really scary at first. Once I was up there and learned how to fly, it was a lot of fun. There was a tennis ball in front of me as a focal point that I had to follow with my eyes.
You played in the last two Bond films. How did you get the role in ‘Spectre’?
My agent submitted me to Debbie McWilliams, who is the casting director for Bond. I got a little speech in English that I had to learn for the audition. It had nothing to do with Bond. I came to the CDs office and did the speech. Then she said: ‘You are far too beautiful to be a villainess. Go to the bathroom and wipe off all your makeup.’ So I went to the bathroom to wipe off my makeup and did the speech again. I think that I really got into it. I enjoyed it so much and it must have come across, so they offered me the role.
Am I right saying that you are James Bond fan?
I’ve been watching Bond movies since I was a little girl.
Does it mean that as James Bond fan you wanted to be a part of the franchise so you asked your agent to submit you for a role in the movie?
No. He just submitted me for the role, because Dr. Vogel is a German scientist and I am German and speak German obviously. I was suitable for the role. I was also in the right age bracket.
So it was not on your request?
No. He did it by himself before telling me.
So it was nice surprise for you.
Yes, a very nice surprise.
Were you very nervous during that addition because it was for Bond movie?
Yes, I was a little nervous. I felt confident in the speech and I knew what I was going to do. I’m usually much more nervous afterwards, because then comes the waiting.
How long did you have to wait?
I think it was about 10 to 12 days.
Was the audition before they have started filming or was it during filming already?
They were already filming.
How much time has passed between your addition and your appearance on the set?
I think the audition was in January and we were filming in February.
Were you working on the set at Pinewood Studios?
Yes, we were filming a lot at Pinewood Studios, but we were also in Rome for the funeral scene.
How much time did you spend in Rome?
I think it was 4 or 5 days. We were filming for 2 days.
At Pinewood Studios you were filming the sequence in Palazzo Cardenza. I saw photos of the set. It looked amazing.
Yes, it was a hudge set.
You were speaking German. Is it right that it was first written in English?
Yes. I got it in English first. They asked me if I wanted to translate it myself. Of course I wanted to translate it myself. Writing my own nouns. (smiling)
So your speech was based only on what was in the script?
I translated it and changed the sentences a little bit to fit them to the character. There were very long sentences in the script. I just chopped them up a little bit to make them shorter and more precise because Dr. Vogel is a scientist. She is a woman in a room full of men so she wants to make it short to get everybody’s attention and to dominate the whole scene, to show her power. (smiling)
Did you look for an inspiration in old James Bond movies?
Yes, mainly on Rosa Klebb and Irma Bunt. They were my role models. I imagined myself to be the ‘niece’ or the ‘cousin’ of Rosa Klebb and Irma Bunt. A younger and more modern version of those two ladies.
Did you get detailed directions from the film director Sam Mendes how to play Dr. Vogel?
He only gave me one note. He said that when Oberhauser comes in, Dr. Vogel starts to feel really nervous, but then she gets more confident and continues the speech.
How long were you filming the sequence?
I was on set for about 7 days.
How long were the shooting days?
The days were very long. I‘d usually get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and read and rehearse my lines. The driver was to pick me up at about 5-5.30 a.m and I was on set by 6.30-7 a.m. One day, I was in my trailer taking off my costume. It was around 9 p.m. already. Somebody knocked on my door and said: Brigitte, you can’t take off your costume just yet. We need you to come back on set, because we had a technical problem with the camera. We need to do the scene again’. So I had to go back on set and do the speech 3 more times. It took roughly 45 minutes. There were around 100 extras around the table. They also had to be on the set very early and must have been so fed up and so tired. Naturally, they wanted to go home as soon as possible. I’m sure they were all thinking: ‘How long is this gonna take. I hope she’s not gonna fluff her lines and we have to do it over and over again.’ I did the speech flawlessly without any mistakes at all. By 10 o’clock we were all allowed to go home. I was at home about midnight and at 4 a.m. I had to get up again for the next day of filming. I had to do that speech everyday, because Daniel Craig likes to do 12-15 takes per day. I’ve done that speech for 5 days, so I must have done the speech more than 50 times. Eventually it feels like groundhog day, because in your brain nothing moves forward, you do the same thing over and over and over again. (smiling..)
Did you feel the pressure when you were acting in front of so big number of people on set?
Yes, there was a lot of pressure. A lot of attention was focused on me during the speech. Luckily, I was doing it in German so nobody could understand. (smiling) I think I fluffed my line only twice for the whole week of filming.
There was a stunt scene. One of the stuntman fell on the table near the place where you were sitting.
Yes, the stuntman was wearing a harness. At first, they lowered him slowly to try it out and see how it all worked. Then he came down very, very fast. He only had a split of a second to turn his head, or he would have fallen on his face and broken his nose.
Did he fall on the wooden table?
No. There was a mat on the table to absorb the impact of the fall.
Did you have a felling after ‘Spectre’ that you would return on the set of James Bond movie?
Yes, because my character didn’t get killed in ‘Spectre’. I wasn’t sure, but I was thinking that it would make sense for her to come back in the next James Bond movie.
When did you get confirmation that you would be in ‘No Time to Die’?
That was in summer 2019. The casting director, Debbie Mcwilliams e-mailed me asking, if I would like to come back. I said yes, I would love to come back. I think we were supposed to film in July but it was pushed back until October.
The whole Cuba set was built at the backlot of Pinewood Studios. I remember that it was very cold when you were filming there.
It was freezing. The dance hall had stone walls and stone floors and it was very cold. The wardrobe ladies were so kind to us…they gave us big fluffy Ugg boots and thick winter anorak to keep us warm.
In the scene your character died and you had to fall down on the floor.
Yes, it was quite dangerous. The floor was very cold and slippery, because of the mist coming down from the ceiling. I was wearing really high heels and an evening gown and wondering, how I could convincingly fall to the ground. Eventually, I asked for a stunt man. He was standing in front of me and I put my arms around him and when he fell down, he took me with him. Under his suit he was wearing padding to protect him and I fell on top of him, so as not to hurt myself.
You had to fall down but also act as if you were dying. How did you prepare for that?
Cary Fukunaga asked me to think of a fish that has been taken out of the water and can’t breathe and is gasping for air. So that is what I did.
You also had special makeup for that scene.
Yes, the make up artists applied special make up that hardens so that is stays in place. that makeup off because it harden. It was almost like glue that sticks to your face. It makes the face feel very hard and doesn’t allow any facial expressions. You can’t peel it off because you would rip off your skin. We had to wait until the evening when the makeup artist took it off again. They put on a face cloth soaked in a special solution, which softens the makeup, so that it can be taken off safely.
How long did it take to put the makeup on and then take it off?
It was probably an hour to put it on and an hour to take it off.
Was it only one day with makeup?
I think it was 2 or 3 days.
Did anybody forget to take off the makeup before going home?
No, thankfully that didn’t happen. (smiling)
I was wondering how much you knew about the plot of ‘Spectre’ and then ‘No Time to Die’ when you were filming.
I didn’t know anything about the plot as I didn’t get the script. I only got my scene.
So you didn’t know much about your character.
No, I made up my own background story.
Can you tell more about working with two different directors and their attitude to the character?
I think that, for Sam Mendes, Dr. Vogel was actually quite an important character, in the sense that she was one of the key figures in Spectre. He just let me get on with it and gave me only one note. Sam Mendes can look at an actor or actress and know whether they need direction or not. He’ll concentrate only on actors, who need directions. I also got on very well with Cary Fukunaga. My scene in NTTD was completely improvised. It was not in the script. Cary was trying out different things, which I enjoyed very much. He gave me a lot of useful advices and that was fantastic. I love working with both Cary and Sam, although they are very different directors. Sam Mendes is a theatre director and Cary Fukunaga is a film director. Two very different directors with very different approaches, but both really good and strong.
January 12th 2022
Mark Higgins is a triple British Rally Champion. British Rallycross Champion. Awarded five times as ‘National Driver of the Year’. He has also scored points in World Rally Championship and competed in FIA Rallycross Championship. He is the stunt driver since ‘Quantum of Solace’. More on: www.mark-higgins.com
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): You are rally driver who became stunt driver. You have won British Rally Championship three times, you have scored points in the World Rally Championship. You must be the fastest stunt driver in the world !
Mark Higgins: My big passion was always rallying. That is what I always wanted to do. We had the championship wins. Alongside we’ve been rallying in China for around 10 years. I was lucky enough to be team mates to people like Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz on Rally GB for three times. I was test driver for Ford for 8 years and for many other manufactures. We had great career in rallying. If I could do it again I would do it. I still get the oportunity to do it. We were meant to be doing some rallying last year. If things get better in the middle of this year I hope to do a couple of rallies just before I get too old. I am still excited about rallying.
I’ve seen on your Instagram account just a few days ago that you’ve renovated Honda Civic which you won the British Junior Championship in 1994.
Yes, I’ve been working on that for a while. It is just a little fun project really. I’ve found the car. It was not a very expensive car, but it was great car and quite important in my career. I’ve also renovated my first factory car. It’s been in a garage for a few years. Great memories from those little front wheel drive cars. They were great fun in those days, 30 years ago.
What are your plans for rallying?
I would like to do some more rallying in Ireland. It is probably one of my favourite places to rally on the tarmac and the Isle of Man. The Donegal International Rally is the rally that got away from me. I was very close to win it a couple of times, we had a really good battle with Sebastian Loeb (9 times World Rally Champion) one year, so I would like to go back there. It would be a modern R5 car I would’ve thought. Depending on the regulations because I was told that modern WRC rally cars may be eligible in Ireland. It is all open in the air. Nobody knows what is happening at the moment with Covid.
Rallying is like a tradition in your family.
When I was kid at school I was asked who I wanted to be and I said: ‘rally driver or fighter pilot’. I wasn’t clever enough to be the fighter pilot, so my passion is rallying. My grandmother and grandfather rallied together in the sixties. My mother was my first co-driver. My dad was a really good driver on the island. My brother won Rally America Championship 8 times, he is British Championship winner as well. It is very much a big part of the family. Then we moved to the rally school, which was very good for us, when we came to the UK in 1993.
Do you continue that motorsport tradition with your kids?
My brother loves karting now. He is doing a lot of that with his son. I do a bit of karting with my son as well. The new generation is carrying it on.
You were born on the Isle of Man, which is famous for motorcycle races. Do you also like to ride motorcycles?
There are lots of accidents during races on the Isle of Man. My dad was very clever. He didn’t allow me to have a motorbike when we were living there. I think that it was a very, very good thing that he did, because I probably would have ended doing something like TT race. I love my bikes. I have race bikes and enduro bikes, but that was good that I got into it later on when I was maybe a bit more sensible. Otherwise I may have gone down that route. Thankfully I stayed with cars which probably kept me alive, but the TT has been a big passion in my life. As you probably know we did that lap in a Subaru (click to watch).
I know that you broke the lap record on the Isle of Man.
The record was not the most special part. It was just good to get right there on one lap and set the time. We only had two goes in that car, so we had very limited time. We could go quite a bit faster, but that was a very special thing to do. It’s been very popular around the world. I think more people know me from my TT lap in the Subary than from anything else.
In Subary you were doing also some ‘crazy’ things like driving down the bobsleigh track.
Yes, that was very good fun, very interesting. Interesting story with that. We literally were running out of time and we had one more day. If we would be probably three hours later going down that bobsleigh run the course would actually be melted. If you see some of the videos the walls are falling away. It was a wacky thing to do but good fun. (click to watch) We also went to Romania over the Transfagarasan. That was also nice trip in Subaru as well. (click to watch)
Both videos reminded me of James Bond films. There were chase sequences in bobsleigh tracks in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Winding road in Romania looked like a bit like the road from ‘Goldfinger’.
I’ve never ever associated them together in any way at all. It’s first time I’ve ever heard that. It is quite inetersting that they are so similar really. My opportunity to be a real James Bond sometimes (smiling).
Your rallying experience was the reason why you got an offer to become stunt driver?
I went to James Bond franchise through Ben Collins who was doubling Daniel Craig on ‘Quantum of Solace’ together with Martin Ivanov. They wanted the rally driver to come down to the gravel section on the quarry. Ben mentioned it to me very loosely one evening: ‘Would you like to be in a James Bond film?’. You can imagine the response. I’ve never worked on a film before, so it was my first ever film. I’ve never ever heard anything more until three or four months later when I got a phone call: ‘Are you free for the next three months to go to Italy?’ That was my first trip over to work on a film.
In ‘Quantum of Solace’ you were driving Alfa Romeo in the opening sequence.
That is correct.
You mentioned the gravel section on the quarry. Were you also involved in filming at Garda Lake?
We did also a chase at Garda Lake. Funny thing is that I’ve spent my life in rallying being told not to crash and I remember our stunt coordinator Gary Powell asking me on the radio to hit Martin (Ivanov) harder at the back of the car. We had some great fun. Me and Martin actually became very good friends. Since that film we work together a lot.
Which Alfa Romeo were you driving?
We all had numbers at the time. I think I was ‘Alfa 1’ for the first part of the scene and then I moved to ‘Alfa 2’ when we got on to the gravel scene. Originally that was gonna be a very long car chase for about 15 minutes. When it came to the final editing they chopped quite a bit out of the film.
One Alfa Romeo disappeared from the film.
The chase was always done with three cars at the beginning. We had an idea how the chase would look like and then we went to a see movie. It was quite different but that’s often the case with most movies.
So you don’t know whey they cut off one car from that sequence?
No, no idea.
Where Alfa Romeo cars modified somehow?
They were quite standard. We had about two weeks testing on an airfield. We’ve played around with settings. We used the rally knowledge to change the tracking of the car. We had hydraulic handbrakes in cars as well. Obviously there were roll cages. They were modified, but not massively modified. I thing we had winter tires on the cars as well so they were better on the gravel.
Martin Ivanov told me that you had some problems with engines and you had to cut additionally the tires for better grip.
Yes, that is correct. There were always little issues here and there. The problem at any modern car now is the electronics. Trying to get them to cut out all the fail safe modes, traction controll etc. is becoming big problem now in our industry. Then often enough we are putting separate engine and gearbox to the car with their own wiring loom because it is nearly impossible to switch off all the electronics in modern cars.
When I drove to the Carrara quarry to visit the location my car was covered with dust. I guess it was also a problem while you were filming there.
You could taste it on your lips. It was like powder and we could taste it every night while taking a shower. What else is interesting about the quarry that you never have the impression how steep it is when you watch the movie. When you actually drive there for real roads are lot more agressive, quite steep.
Your next Bond movie was ‘Skyfall’. You were driving Landrover as Moneypenny in the opening sequence. Andy Lister, who Daniel Craig stunt double on the train, told me that you were driving like ninja between cars falling from the train. Did you see anything in the dust or you just had feeling when to turn.
Sometimes it was a feeling. Thankfully I always had a reference of a big train on the left hand side, so it wasn’t too bad. We had a lot of different work on that film. It wasn’t like a real car chase but it was a nice sequence for the Land Rover, which is not designed for that type of fast work. Trying to slide that around and go as quickly as possible was a good challenge. We all enjoyed working on that. It wasn’t typical Bond car chase because there was only one vehicle really and obviously big bike chase in Istanbul. We did a lot of work there, not so much with the car, more on foot. We were the stunt guys inside the Grand Bazaar.
Martin Ivanov told me that he was selling oranges together with Ben Collins. What was your part?
In the place where they were selling oranges I was driving Land Rover and the POD car all the time. I think that we were shoppers in the Grand Bazaar jumping away from the bikes. That was quite an interesting film for me because I ended up having and operation on my throat when we were in Istanbul. They got me back to work the following day, but I wasn’t allowed to talk for two weeks. I remember that on the very first day I met Daniel (Craig) on set. He was alongside me as Moneypenny so he was in a passenger seat. I couldn’t speak to him so I had to write him a note. I think that note said something like: ‘Don’t worry, I won’t be doing the bedroom scene’, because he looked across at me dressed like Moneypenny. I think he must have wonder what he was looking at (smiling). I couldn’t speak for two weeks and I know that it was very frustrating for stunt coordinator on the radio.
When I was watching the sequence I was wondering if the scene with Moneypenny breaking off a mirror was planned or it just happened accidentally and was used to make the scene more funny.
That was a big gag from the start and that was done in purpose. That was actually Ben Collins who did that. It was done with the POD vehicle driven from the roof. Ben did all POD work in that film, so he was driving when Naomie (Harris) was inside the car. I did all the clean shots with the car.
One more quiestion about the scene with cars falling from the train. How many times did you have to repeat that?
I think there were two or three takes. The problem was that there were no signs where the cars went. Although they were getting taken off at the same time with the same rotation of the excavator arm, because that was electronically controlled, you could never tell where they were gonna bounce. VW Beetles were complete cars without the engine. I think that in the first take we were a bit blocked and we couldn’t push through the gap. In the second or third attempt I just got through, we got the shot and it was great. It was quite interesting to wonder where the cars were gonna go when they landed. I didn’t know if they were going to bounce and come towards me or dive after the right. I just had to pick a path and make it. I think we did three takes. In the first two the cars went exactly the same so I thought: ‘I know where I’m gonna go now’ and then on a third one they went completely different (smiling).
How long did it take to prepare everyting for the next take?
It is normally good two or three hours to clear all the mess, glass and cars around and then go again.
Did you also play in some other scenes in ‘Skyfall’?
Yes. We did some parts in London. We were always involved in scenes with cars in some way if that was even driving a taxi. I did some work with the black Jaguar with Dame Judi Dench who played M. She was amazing. Between us all we just sheared it around. If one person was busy or was doing something else then someone else was driving.
So you were also MI6 driver.
Yes. Between me and Ben (Collins) we were sharing that together. I also did a bit of Aston Martin DB5 work. I was driving when the car exited and drove up towards Scotland. We didn’t do it with Judi Dench but there was a double with me in the car.
In ‘Spectre’ you were driving Aston Martin DB10 as James Bond. I saw you driving that car in Rome in March 2015.
That was good time there. Obviously all was done in the night. It was very strange to see Rome with only a few cars around. Rome is always so busy with cars. We really enjoyed that. The cars were fantastic. I don’t think that many people had an opportunity to slide through the Vatican at 90 mph.
Was Aston Martin DB10 good to drive?
Yes, it was really good. The car was based on Aston Martin V8 Vantage in terms of the chassis. We were surprised how reliable the car was, even going down the steps. We didn’t have any reliability problems with the car. Any car that is rear wheel drive with front engine is always quite good balanced to drift. I did some work with Martin’s car (Martin Ivanov was driving Jaguar C-X75) and that was really difficult car to drive, because it had engine at the back and had a lot of power. It was quite snappy car, quite hard to control so I definitely had the easier car to drive of the two in that chase.
Did you also drive Jaguar C-X75 on the set?
I didn’t drive it on the set, but I did a lot of testing before.
The Jaguar had a steering wheel on the left hand side. Was it more difficult for you?
If I have a choice I prefere left-hand drive car because all my rally cars are left-hand drive. I feel like I’m working in a left-hand drive car and in a right-hand drive car I’m going shopping or driving to work.
I’ve read somewhere that several Aston Martin cars were damaged on the set. Is it true?
I don’t recall any issues with the car on ‘Spectre’. We haven’t damaged any car. Every car survived apart from the one that was meant to be crashed.
What happened to the car that jumped into the river?
They pulled that back out. I think they used that car in the studio, so it was used again. One of them was cut in half so they could put cameras in the studio when Daniel was inside.
You didn’t have to drive that car when it was jumping into the river?
No. I think it was on an air ramp so it was actually fired like from a cannon. So we didn’t get to swimming on that one, but me and Martin had to do some underwater testing in a swimming pool at night. We had breathing apparatuses in the cars all the time just in case they went into the water. Just in case something would brake when we were driving along the river or driving down the stairs towards the water. There were always divers around but me and Martin had to go to a swimming pool in the evening and just practice moving the regulator and things like that.
You were driving very close to the river and also driving up the wall at the river.
Yes, we did the banking. We had to be there at about 80 mph to make it work. Otherwise the cars would fall down. I think you don’t get the impression in the film how steep that was. We had to be at certain speed otherwise it couldn’t stay upon the wall. That was always good fun.
Did you try that with Aston Martin DB10 from the beginning?
We had Aston Martin Vantage which had the same suspension put on as DB10 because it was a bit wider. We used it for most of our testing. That was ideal. Sometimes we had another car to play around with but generally we had Vantage to replicate DB10.
At what speed were you filming the car chase on streets of Rome?
It varied. Some section we were doing getting close to 80-90 mph when we could. A lot of the time we were restricted to what the tracking vehicles filming us could do. Me and Martin definitely could go faster but there was no point as going ahead of camera car. You work to the camera car. It depends on the shot. If you work to the camera car you work to that speed. I know that Gary Powell likes to carry speed so we were doing what we could when it was possible. There was some really good stuff that we did and it was really fast but it didn’t actually make it to the film. You don’t get the impression on that speed on certain cameras.
Did you drive Aston Martin DB10 with POD?
Yes, I drove a little bit in some of the opening scenes of the car chase. I drove it in Rome as well. We did a bit of work on that. I’ve never been a fan of PODs. I don’t enjoy them. They don’t feel like real car at all, but they serve a pourpose. I had to be very careful when Daniel Craig was below.
There were some rumors in newspapers that Daniel Craig hit the roof when he was in the car with POD and had to go to a hospital. Was it true?
No, it was just exaggerated. We didn’t really know about that.
During the chase in Rome you jumped throgh the parked car.
The car landed really good. We thought that we may have damaged the suspension but it worked really good. I think we’ve done that shot two or three times. That was a good fun.
Was the car that lost its roof in that scene specially prepared?
There were preperations on the car. There were cuts. Sometimes they use different material for the roof as well because it could potentially come straight through the window. They are very safety conscious and they look at the best ways to make that work.
Then there was a funny scene with Fiat. Was it empty when you were hitting and pushing that small car?
No, there was always somebody in the car. I remember that my stunt coordinator said: ‘hit him harder’ and I did hit him really hard on one occasion. I know it hurt his neck quite a bit. A good friend of ours Dave Ware was driving the Fiat. We had reinforced bumber in the Aston and there was metal in the back of the Fiat so it was definitely quite a hard hit.
Did you also drive Aston Martin at Blenheim Palace in UK, where the sequence began?
Yes, I drove the Aston in Blenheim. It was a very simple shot but those were really difficult few days. Trying to get speed going backwards with the car on that gravel and on a slight hill was difficult. It was hard to get something that looked good. Then we ended up doing quite a lot of work on that POD car in which we never were going backward before. It was very frustrating few days. We were there for about three nights for that opening scene I think. Obviously when you turn back to the normal car it is very straight forward but the POD car is always a challange. It is automatic, the steering doesn’t react like we would like it to. You are very restricted to what you can see because you are in a cage. We had millions and millions of pounds of expensive cars around us that we definitely didn’t wanted to hit.
You jumped when you were going through the gate. Was there a ramp on a road?
No, that was just natural bump there and we got a bit into the air which looked great on the film.
Were you also driving in Austria?
I was there and I drove a POD car a couple of times. I didn’t do an awful lot of driving in Sölden but there were few bits where we just dived into cars. We did quite a lot of testing up there and beforehand. We were playing around and setting all the vehicles. I did more on the rehearsing but I was there for the whole duration of it all. I think we were there in total six or seven weeks.
Did you also play in some other scenes in ‘Spectre’?
As that was most of the driving sequence, there was also sequence with the new discovery from the helicopter.
Can you say anything about ‘No Time to Die’?
I can only discuss what has already been spoken about and on the trailer. Obviously Matera was a big challange in terms of the whole terrain. We had to use Coca Cola for better grip. There was quite a few scenes when we had to clean off the black rubber from the street as the Coke allowed the tyres to stick to road more. The Coca Cola did a better job than I’ve ever imagined it would do. We had certain parts where it gave us too much grip and we had to reduce te Coke spraying. We had one guy going around every morning laying down the Coke. Matera was a great location, very challenging place to drive, very narrow with big curbs everywhere. Then we had a really good scene up in Scotland. We also did some work in Norway. That is probably as much as I can talk about that film for now. I’m very excited how it is going to turn out when it eventually comes to the screen. This movie should be great. I’ve heard some very good reports about it.
Thank you for telling me all that great stories. I hope to talk with you again about ‘No Time to Die’ after the premiere.
January 15th 2021
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
A View to a Kill, Behind the Scenes, Casino Royale, Die Another Day, filming, For Your Eyes Only, interview, Marc Wolff, Octopussy, pilot, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, stuntman, The Living Daylights, The Spy Who Loved Me, The World Is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies
Marc Wolff is a well-known aircrafts stunt pilot who has worked on many action movies including 12 Bond films. Find more on his official website www.marcwolff.net
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): You’ve worked as pilot on 12 Bond films and also on the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony with James Bond.
Marc Wolff: Yes. For the London Olympics we landed in the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace and also at Kensington Palace to shoot some interiors and close ups of the actors on the ground. We had a nice cup of tee in the palace.
Together with the Queen?
Not with the Queen, with her staff.
Your first James Bond movie was ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. 007 was driving a white Lotus and you were chasing him in a Jet Ranger helicopter. How do you prepare for such a sequence? I guess it requires high precision.
Yes, it does but I think it also needs a good level of flying experience, especially of doing unusual types of flying work with helicopters. I was quite young then and although I had some experience and had flown helicopters for a year in Vietnam, I didn’t have a lot of film experience, so it was a new thing for me. I would prepare a bit different today than I did then. I had done a few little films starting in about 1974, we shot ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ in 1976. I suppose I had been flying professionally for about 8 years at that point but nevertheless my film experience was limited. I didn’t really know what they wanted me to do until I got there. The big thing in those kind of situations is just to be careful and don’t make a drama out of something by having an accident. You need a good team of people around you watching what you are doing to make sure that you are doing it is safely. To give you a second opinion. I have a safety engineer, Stephen North, who I’ve worked since 1979. Stephen and I still work together today. He watches what I do and if he’s not happy he shouts at me.
There are many different types of aircrafts. I guess they are different also from the pilot perspective. I was wondering if the aircraft type in each movie is always determined already or you as a pilot have an influence on that decision?
For flying the camera I choose a helicopter with the right performance for the camera system they want to use, the number of people I need to carry and the location where I need to fly. If it is an action aircraft as in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ it is usually the director and the production designer who choose, with some input from me. For example on ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ we looked at lots of different types of helicopters for Tom Cruise and the bad guy to fly. They liked the look of the EC 145 for the villain. In the case of Tom’s aircraft, they wanted to use a different type but I persuaded Tom that the aircraft that he eventually used was more robust and would be better suited for the kind of flying he wanted to do. I flew the bad guy helicopter rather than the camera helicopter for the main sequence although I flew a camera helicopter in the UK and Norway.
How do you prepare for a sequence with the helicopter so close to another object like the car in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’?
You have to look at the locations and the clearance you have between the blades and the cliff, the car. Everyday is a little bit different because the temperature as well as the wind speed and direction are different so you have to judge that each day on its merits. You have to look through the camera once the camera position is set up and see where you need to be in the frame and where the cars are going to be in the frame. You talk to the director and the cameraman about what action they want to see and then work out how to make that story point as exciting as you can.
Your next Bond movie was ‘For Your Eyes Only’. You worked on the opening sequence. I know that there were models and real aircrafts but it was difficult to recognize them.
‘For Your Eyes Only’ was made in the days before CGI. Even today when CGI is used, a lot things always look better if there is a real element somewhere. The viewer can see the weight of the aircraft, the light reflecting off it at different angles, etc. If there are a number of shots at the beginning of the sequence with the real helicopter, then with the shots that are not real become more believable. In that sequence a lot of it was real. We had real man getting out of the back of the helicopter and getting to the front seat outside along the skid.We flew a real man in a wheel chair on the end of the skid. We dropped a real wheel chair down the chimney. We flew a real helicopter in front of a foreground miniature for the scenes to make it look like we were ‘flying in the hangar’. So there were a lot of real elements that made the process shots, and the life-sized mockup, look believable.
In ‘Octopussy’ there were some aircrafts sequences like the opening sequence or final fight in the air. Were you one of the pilots?
In ‘Octopussy’ I flew a camera helicopter for the train sequence. The stuntman, Martin Grace, was very badly injured because he was hanging outside of the train and he hit a post that was alongside the railway track.
To be honest I forgot that it was the sequence that required helicopter. Sometimes while watch the film I didn’t realize that the specific sequence was filmed from the aircraft.
Sometimes that is the beauty of this, not to realise that the camera is in a helicopter. The camera helicopter is just another tool in a cameraman’s bag of tricks to get shots from different angles and different perspectives. Sometimes obviously you are showing an establishing shot like the establishing shot of Shanghai in ‘Skyfall’. It is quite obvious that it is an aerial shot. It sets the scene for 4 or 5 seconds to show you where you are in the world. But a lot of times we use an aerial camera on a helicopter to get an angle that is difficult with a crane, for example. Some other methods may be more time consuming and therefore more expensive so, surprisingly, it can be less expensive to use a helicopter.
In ‘A View to a Kill’ you were working on the opening sequence in Iceland.
I flew the Russian-looking helicopter that was searching for Bond. I flew that helicopter from Southend in Essex in the southeast of England up to the Shetland Islands and across the Atlantic Ocean to the Faroe Islands and then from there on to Iceland. That was quite a trip. And then back again. We painted the helicopter in England before we went to Iceland. It was painted to like a Russian helicopter with a big hammer and sickel logo on the side. Actually it was a German designed helicopter so it looked a little unusual (in other words, not American or French who are the main civil helicopter manufactures in those days). When we were flying across the North Atlandtic we came across some big Russian fishing trawlers in the middle of the ocean between the Faroe Islands and Iceland. We circled around and they all waved to us because they thought we were Russians because of the big Russian flag on the side of the helicopter (smiling). We waved back and wondered if they thought they were being spied on.. While we were in Iceland there was an eruption of a volcano. We got into the local newspapers because we helped to rescue some people that were standed up on a glacier.
How long did it take to fly to Iceland?
It was a long, over-water journey for the helicopter. We had to put an extra fuel tank in the back of the helicopter cabin to be able to make the trip from the Shetland Islands to the Faroe Islands and from the Faroe Islands to the east coast in Iceland. It was a day’s flight (6 flying hours) from northern Scotland but it was long in terms of what that helicopter can do in one hop. We had a point of no return where we couldn’t turn back so our navigation system was important. It was in the days before GPS and we used a navigation system called Omega. We were about 50-100 miles north of the Shetland Islands and the system stopped working. We had a checklist of 10 things to check. My engineer Steve was reading off the checklist. Number 1 didn’t work, number 2 didn’t work and so on, we got to number 10 and it said: ‘change the unit’. (smiling) We had to decide if we could find the Faroe Islands on our own or if we should go back and change the unit. We turned around and went back to change the unit. We had to wait a bit in the Shetlands to get new unit from south of England. It was the safer option.
How do you remember working in Iceland.
There was a frozen lake with lots of icebergs at the bottom of a huge glacier. The icebergs were birthing, breaking off the glacier, and then floating around in this lake for several years until they melted small enough so they could get out of the lake over a sand bar and float out into the sea. We had to film among these icebergs. Every morning we started by flying a recce of the lake with the director Arthur Wooster. He was saying: ‘ This one looks good, we’ll go here, that one looks good too, we’ll go there’. Then we went back and landed and they took boats to go in amongst the to film. One day we were all sitting on an iceberg having lunch. The iceberg started to shift and tilt, becoming unstable; everybody had to get quickly into the boats and move away to a safe distance. It frightened everybody. Then, one day, they were filming close to the wall of the glacier where the icebergs broke off and almost got hit by one birthing. By the end of the film, on the early morning aerial recce, Arthur was saying: ‘I don’t like this one, I don’t like the look of that one’. Everyone had become very cautious.
We were stuck there for a couple of weeks in a fog because it was so cold there, it was like a microclimate. A lot of the area 10-15 miles away was clear and sunny but over the lake where we needed to film it was foggy. We had to wait for 10-14 days for this fog to clear. Everyone got bored standing around in the fog. We had a lot of styrofoam around. It was used as fake ice in the foreground of some shots The grips carved little horses out of these white pieces of styropfoam and we staged horse races. We tied a bit of string from the horse to a pole on a broom handle. There were like four horses and four people with strings on poles attached to the styrofoam horses. We had to wind up the strings with our hands. Whoever could wind up the string fast enough would get their horse across the finish line first. The grips ran a betting book and put odds on each contestant. So you could place a bet on who would win. Betting was illegal in Iceland in those days, so, of course, all the Icelanders loved it because they could bet on who who would win. That is how we kept ourselves sane during sitting in the fog.
In ‘A View to a Kill’ you were flying also around the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
That was quite a funny experience for me. I had a unique permission to fly in the centre of Paris but the permission required me to stay over the river Seine. The director wanted to relate the tower, the river, the city and the parachutist in one shot. The place the parachutist was supposed to land was between the tower and the river. To get a shot of the tower, the river, the parachutist’s landing site and the city of Paris in the background, I needed to be on the opposite side (the south side) of the tower, off the river, so I went around the back side of the tower to get the shot. When I landed back at the Paris heliport at Issy les Moulineaux, the police came and said that I did something called ‘bavarder’. I speak a bit of French and ‘bavarder’ means chatting or gossiping so at first I didn’t understand what they meant. I discovered it was slang and that I had ‘wandered’ off my permitted track when I went around the back side of the tower. He slapped me on the hand and said: ‘Don’t do it again’. Fortunately we didn’t need to do it again.
How do you prepare for such scene when the timing is very important?
The timing is critical. We talk about it in great detail; we discuss where the camera should be, and at what height, at each moment in the shot. So with the jump from the Eiffel Tower, I had to know how long he/she was going to free fall, how quickly the canopy would open and how long he/she would be under canopy. I knew the framing that they wanted for the opening frame so I had to work out the timing required to get from that position to the end-frame position within the timing the director wanted and the parachute gave us. When we have the opportunity to rehearse, we obviously do that. We always film the rehearsals because quite often it can be the best take. In this case we didn’t have such an opportunity. We just had to be in the right place at the right time, which is why they bring in someone like me rather than using a local pilot. I’ve got the experience and skill and the best chance of of getting it right first time. The Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 was a good example of that. We had a two-minute, final run-in to get to the point where the 2 parachutists could jump from the helicopter into the stadium. We had marks that we would try to hit 3 or 4 times during that two minutes; marks for when the television cameras would see us, marks for when the audience would see us, marks for the parachutists which depended on the wind speed and direction. We were not hitting these marks accurately enough. We would finish our rehearsals at around 9:30 at night, land the helicopter back at our base, drive to the Olympic stadium, go up to the conference room and sit around a table with 50 people at until one o’clock in the morning. Everyone had their opinion why the timing wasn’t working. We were using a very sophisticated helicopter that, in theory, could do everything automatically. The Olympic Committee was given the helicopter, an Agusta-Westland 139, free-of-charge, by the manufacturer in turn for the publicity. I was sent to Italy for a month to learn to fly it. We used 2 two pilots for safety. I was assigned to fly with a very experienced test pilot from the factory who knew the aircraft intimately. I spent six months with him, planning, training and testing the jumps from different heights, making sure the special, quick-opening parachute would open safely under the helicopter and insuring that we could hit the target landing area accurately, from different heights, and in varying wind conditions. We did over a hundred test jumps before we actually came to that hero night. In the end, even on the last day at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, a couple of hours before the beginning of the ceremony, we were still rehearsing because we had a new, northerly wind direction, different than any we had had on any of the previous rehearsal days at the stadium which meant we needed a whole new set of marks. The test pilot wanted me to use the computer in the helicopter to get the timing. I tried it this way but it wasn’t accurate enough. At the end of the day it was my responsibility to deliver what Danny Boyle wanted so over a cup of tea in the afternoon I had to say: ‘Look, I’ve got to do this my way, visually’. ‘You have to help; you can’t tell me: I’m going to be early or late to my mark. You’ve got to tell me exactly how many seconds I have left. Tell me I’m 45 seconds away from checkpoint 007 or I’m 30 seconds or 10 seconds. I’ve worked this way all my life, with your help, I’ll hit that mark if I know how much time I have left until I get there and I’ll be more accurate than the computer’. The same applied to our height which was critical for the parachutists. The last week or ten days we were doing live rehearsals at the stadium, sometimes with an audience, sometimes without, but we never did the actual jumps into the stadium with the crowd there so as not to give the game away. In the end I did it visually and the one time we got it perfect was the one that counted, that last jump on the hero night at 9:30 pm on the 29th of July 2012.
But you did it.
We did it, finally. (smiling) It was a team effort and a big relief to have achieved it. Everyone was saying: ‘You must be very high’. I said, ‘no, I was just relieved’. It was big weight off my shoulders.
What about the sequence at the Golden Gate in San Francisco? Did you work on that as well?
I flew the camera helicopter. We filmed background plates in San Francisco. It was great fun to fly around this famous bridge. My father, who was a civil engineer, had worked on the design of the other big bridge there, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Then you worked on ‘The Living Daylights’. There was a fight in a Hercules aircraft. I know that part of that sequence was filmed in the studio.
We also did some live action filming at Quarazate Airport in Morocco and in the air over the desert nearby. I was flying in the Moroccan Air Force Hercules coordinating the aerial stunt sequence. There was a stunt crew at the back of the Hercules performing a fight scene on the open, ramp door and a cargo net which was flapping behind it in the wind. We had a camera airplane flying in formation alongside us filming the fight. The cockpit of the Hercules is like a big office so I could move around, look back into the cargo area at the fight and lean in between the two pilots and look out through the windows at the camera plane and talk to the director and camera crew on the radio. They could cue me when they wanted certain things to happen which I would then relay to the Hercules pilots and the stunt crew. In the sequence Kara Milovy was meant to be flying the airplane and Bond was fighting at the back on the open, cargo-door ramp. Bond was shouting to her to close the ramp door. She was playing with the levers in the cockpit trying to sort out which switch operated the ramp door. Instead of closing the ramp door, first she shut one of the engines down by mistake, then she made the flaps go down, then the landing gear, Bond was getting more and more frustrated, eventually she found the right lever to close the door at the back. It was quite humorous in the cockpit. The Moroccan Air Force were trained in the USA because the Hercules was an American aircraft so they all learned to speak English, they also spoke very good French and obviously Arabic, which was their native tongue. I was standing behind the pilots coordinating on the radio between the camera airplane and the Hercules. The Hercules has 4 engines. The engine that the director wanted to shut down, from the camera point of view, was the engine which powered the main hydraulic pump. The hydraulics control the operation of the the landing gear, the flaps and the ramp door. Because that engine was shut down, they had to use the auxiliary hydraulic motor which was driven by one of the other engines. The auxillary hydraulic pump wasn’t as powerful as the main pump and it began to overheat after several takes of this chaos. The flight engineer, who was sitting behind me, kept complaining to the pilots: ’The pump is getting very hot! It is getting very hot!’. They were all arguing. At first they were speaking in English in a very polite way, then they started arguing a bit and switched to French. I speak French so I could still understand what they were saying. When the conversation heated up and they started to speak in Arabic I knew it was time to shut up, stop asking them to do things, sit down in my seat and put my seat belt on. (smiling) At the weekend on our day off, I was invited to a barbeque with all the Air Force crew and pilots. The engineer was cooking. All the pilots were giving him a hard time saying: ‘No, no, watch out, the fire is getting too hot, you are overheating the meat’. They were getting their revenge and teasing him because he had been giving them a hard time about the over heating hydraulic pump during the filming.
I’ve seen a documentary about your work on ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ called ‘Shoot to Thrill – The Marc Wolff Story’. It was very impressive, especially the opening sequence in the air with the dog fight between 2 jet fighters.
I flew the camera jet and a camera helicopter and coordinated the flying aspects of the sequence. The two jets in the story were Aero L-39 Albatrosses designed and built in the Czech Republic. The camera jet was a French Corvette, business jet. Inside the Corvette we fitted a camera system with a periscope that went down through the belly of the Corvette. It was operated by Adam Dale, the aerial cameraman, and could look 360 degrees in all directions. Flying with us was the 2nd unit director, Vic Armstrong. We shot the sequence in the Pyrenees south of Toulouse. We used a helicopter when we wanted to have a static platform in the air and see the jets whizz by.
How do you prepare for such sequence when you fly so close together. Do you work with your team?
That was probably one of the biggest Bond jobs for me. I can’t remember how many months I worked on that, but it was a long time when you count the prep time to organise the jets and find the flying locations. Unlike ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ when I came out and knew nothing about what I was going to do until I arrived, on ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ I was given a lot of time to prepare for this sequence. This was in part because of my previous relationship with the director, Roger Spottiswood. I chose the airplanes, I cast the stunt pilots who were to fly the L-39s, Mark Hanna and Rolf Meum. I went to the Czech Republic to look at the airplanes and make sure they had the right performance and make sure they could land and take off at that tiny little airstrip at Peyrousoude in the Pyrenees.
How did you manage to use military aircrafts on film set?
Those aircrafts came from the factory in Czech Republic that made them. These were aircrafts that were used by various military forces, but they were civilian aircrafts from the manufacturer. Part of my job was to get permission to bring them into France, to operate them there, to fly them close to the mountains and to get permission for my pilot to fly as a co-pilot. They were two seaters with one seat in front of the other. I had one pilot from the factory and one of my pilots who was used to do a formation flying and worked in films. I flew as a co-pilot in a camera jet which came from the company that was based in Toulouse and did a lot of aerial filming for Airbus, which has big factory near Toulouse. We used their camera system. I did the formation flying and they landed it and took it off from the airport. They were there in case of some emergency because I didn’t know the airplane very well, but I knew how to fly in formation.
How long did it take to film that sequence?
We had several months of preparation and I imagine we were there for a few weeks.
I guess it was difficult to film that sequence. I think it is worth to undestand the whole effort behind such scenes, especially nowadays when viewers got used to CGI and may not see how brilliant it really was.
This was sort of pre-CGI too. Most of it was real. The missiles that fire and explode on the cliff face were CGI obviously but all the flying was real. I remember filming the navy frigate sailing at sea as an establishing shot before they cut inside to the control room. In the storyboard we had a picture with no horizon and a drawing of the ship at sea. The ship was about an eighth of the frame. I was being sent down to Plymouth with my cameraman, Adam Dale, to shoot it. I asked the director, Roger Spottiswoode: ‘Do you want this exact composition from storyboard’? You need to be careful with storyboards. If you’re gonna film for Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott, they will give you the storyboard and you need to come back with that exact framing. They have a very specific idea how the shots should look: the composition and how many seconds the move should be. In this case Roger said: ‘This storyboard is just to show the producers and the studio that we will have a shot of a ship here. Just get me an interesting and exciting establishing shot of the ship’. We were filming in the English channel with the ship sailing southwest into the wind and the big sea, travelling as fast as it could so the big waves crashed over the bow. We were flying downwind, in the opposite direction, straight towards the bow of the ship. We did a take flying as low as we could, and fast, about 3 feet above the sea, trying not to hit the waves. There were big swells and steep waves. The Frigate was going as fast as it could, 20-25 knots, and we were flying at about 100 knots towards it in the opposite direction. We had a gyrosablised camera system mounted on the nose of the helicopter. At the last possible moment we pulled up over the bow of the frigate and continued climbing over the bridge and then the mast, tilting down the camera as the mast came through frame. At that point the were going to cut to a shot inside the control room of the frigate. So that was the shot we gave them and it couldn’t have been more different from the original storyboard. The timing of the move was critical. We were on a wide angle lens to show the scale of where we were at sea but that meant we needed to be really close to the ship to feel its size, weight and power. We did quite a lot of takes of it, getting closer and closer each time. I wanted to keep the ship sailing in the same direction, ploughing into the heavy seas and was wondering how long it would be before they had to turnaround so as not to get too far from Plymouth. I radioed the captain as asked him, ‘How long can you keep going in this direction? Do we have to turn you around and move you back?’ He said: ‘I can keep going until I hit the east coast of America’. (smiling) That was enough for us.
In ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ you were also filming motorbike chase.
They were going to film that in the Republic of Vietnam. At the last minute they changed the location to Thailand. I had worked in Thailand a few times, on Air America and Good Morning Vietnam and my daughter, Lily, was born there in Chaing Mai when we were shooting Air America. We were based in Bangkok on Tomorrow Never Dies and also shot down in the south in the islands near Phuket. In Bangkok the hotel was on the river and the 2 helicopters were based at a heliport that was also on the river. We used to commute to work in a long-tail boat, avoiding the terrible Bangkok traffic. It was great fun. We would meet up on location and walk over the roof tops with Vic Armstrong and the second unit team. He would talk us through the shots, showing us where the ground camera positions would be and where he wanted the action helicopter and the camera helicopter. My camera assistant, John Marzano, ended up being one of the gunners in the helicopter. The gunners had to be careful because the guns fired real blanks and we needed to make sure the spent cartridges didn’t go into the engine intake or hit the rotor blades, especially the ones at the tail. The scene with the motorbike jumping over the top of the helicopter was filmed in the studio. Pinewood was busy, so they built the rooftop set in an old aircraft factory in Radlett, north of London. The helicopter was a life-sized mockup mounted on a hydraulic rig and track. I flew a camera helicopter there.
In ‘The World Is Not Enough’ you were filming the boat chase on the Thames in London.
That was quite fun too. Normally you have to stay 1000 feet above the river. Sometimes you can get permissive on to go down to 500 feet or even a bit lower. We wanted to fly 20 feet above the river. To do that we had to put a number of special safety precautions in place: stop all the traffic on the river, close the bridges that we wanted to fly over, provide a safety boat with divers, and keep 3rd parties and the public well away. We had to make sure that the Parliament wasn’t in session so we wouldn’t disturb their debates. We flew very, very low down the river chasing the boat. The bridges were closed to the public but we had our stunt doubles walking across the bridge and a few cars crossing over so the location looked alive and real. We were flying at the height of lamp posts on the bridge or between lamp posts even.
There was another interesting location in London above which you were flying – Buckingham Palace in ‘Die Another Day’.
That was quite complicated because the height we had to get for the parachutists had to be about 2500 feet. Normally we were not allowed to fly in that area over the palace, and not higher than 1000 feet because of the air traffic going into Heathrow Airport. To give us permission to go to 3000 feet they had to divert the aircrafts, so there was a lot of coordination required to organise and film that sequence.
In this film you were also filming a car chase on a frozen lake in Iceland.
It was the first time I’ve ever seen the northern lights, because we shot that in the winter when the lake was frozen. I think it was in February.
How did you prepare for such sequence to coordinate cars and camera?
In that kind of thing we did a lot of rehearsals to get the camera in the right place, passing between the icebergs. Getting different sizes: big wides to show the beautiful location but also getting close to the car to show its speed and who was in it.
Who decides about the focal length of the camera lens for each scene?
There is the director, a director of photography and then, in the helicopter, an aerial cameraman. We transmit the camera image from the camera down to the ground so that the director can see what we are filming live. This allows him to tweak the shot if he wants. So it is a combination of all of them. Usually in the camera helicopter we have a zoom lens so we can go from 25mm to 250mm or something like that. Sometimes we put doublers on the lens to get closer, but in the sequence like that we can get very close to the car. We can get the lens 5 feet away from the car depending on how much it is manoeuvring. If the car is spinning or weaving about then we need to leave it some space. We can get very close to it because we are not endangering others there, especially members of the public. We only have us and the stunt driver to be careful about, sometimes there are also camera crew on the ice we need to look out for. We rehearsed it and we knew what the cars were going to do and they knew what we were going to do.
From cold Iceland you moved to warm Bahamas where you were filming opening sequence for ‘Casino Royale’?
There were wide shots to show the whole geography and close framing to show them running on the top of cranes. I provided the crew and helicopter equipment but I didn’t fly on this location because I was on another film at the time.
But you were filming the establishing shot of the yacht sailing to Venice.
Yes, I had flown in Venice a number of times. It is prohibited to fly low over the old city but I was over the water that was empty except for some boats so I thought I was fine. I was fying so low that little water taxis had to get out of my way, about 3 feet above the water. This enabled us to see the yacht and the cast while also framing the city in the background. Next morning I was told that I had a call from aviation authority. I had to ring the head of the Italian Civil Aviation Authority at Venice airport. He said: ‘Mr. Wolff, before you say anything, I have a picture of your helicopter filming the yacht on front page of the local newspaper. You were supposed to be 300 meters high but it looks like you were 3 meters high’. Actually I was a little bit lower than 3 meters. (smiling) So I got what we call in Britain, a bollocking. I was told not to do that again.
You were also flying very low over Garda lake when filming establishing shot for the opening scene of ‘Quantum of Solace’.
That was an interesting one. We were flying as low as we could over the water. Second unit director Dan Bradley said: ‘Is that as low as you can go?’ I circled around and said: ‘Look’. You could see that the back end of the skids had left a trail in the water because they were dragging along the surface. When you are flying at the certain speed the nose is a little bit higher. The back end of the two skids had dragged into the water and had left their mark. I said: ‘Dan, I don’t think we can get any lower, unless we become a submarine’. (smiling)
Were you also filming the car chase along the lake?
Yes. Then we did some filming in Italy for the sequence with Daniel Craig coming to Talamone. Establishing shot of the boat. They wanted us to start very close to the boat so we could see Daniel. I’d worked with Daniel a few times by then. I did ‘Layer Cake’ with him. He was always very nice to me. But he got a bit angry there because I put a little bit of spray on him. I was a little bit too close. It is always difficult because you don’t want to see that the helicopter is there and you don’t want to spray the water into the camera or the frame, but sometimes you want to get as close as you can, so you get closer and closer and you may be too close. So I got a message back: ‘Daniel is not very happy, you sprayed him with water’. I said: ‘Sorry. We won’t come so close next time’. (smiling)
You were also working on ‘Skyfall’. How do you remember working with the director?
Sam Mendes is obviously a wonderful director. He had a vision of the shots he wanted but sometimes needed to tweak them once he saw them for real. Another aerial unit had been sent to Scotland to film James Bond driving along the road on his way to the Skyfall house. Sam wasn’t very happy with what he saw. In fact, what he wanted was there but they had shot so much material that he got fed up watching stuff he hadn’t asked for. Usually when you do these things you shoot what the director wants first and then if you have another idea you want him to see, you shoot it later. I had to go to to a big meeting in Istambul in Turkey to make sure that these things wouldn’t happen again. That was because I was going to film on my own, without another director, the shot with the yacht at sea with Bond and the girl going to an island where the villain was located. We filmed the shot the Sam had described that he wanted. The director sometimes visualises these things but he doesn’t know exactly what he likes or if it works, until he sees it. The second unit had to go back end re-shoot some scenes because he didn’t like what he got. Anyway we did the shot of a boat approaching the island. The boat was sailing in the right direction for the light, there was a clear horizon, it was the right time of day for the light, it was the move he asked for, but I was worried that it didn’t feel right and that when Sam saw it he might not like it. We did it 2 or 3 times until we were happy with the take. It was exactly what he’d asked for. I said to Greg Wilson, the executive producer, who was with me: ‘I think we’ve got what Sam asked for Greg. Are you happy?’ Greg said ‘Yes’. I also said: ‘I think we should give Sam a couple of other options in case he might like them better’. After all, we were there, the yacht was there, the weather was good, it would be less expensive to shoot some more versions now than come back the next day if Sam didn’t like what he saw. So we did a couple of these other moves. Greg liked them and thought they were nicer but it was Sam’s choice, obviously. We finished the shooting, the sun went down and then we’ve set up a live link to Sam in Instanbul, show it to him at the end of his day. After seeing the first few takes he was not happy. I said: ‘We did a couple of other things, have a look and see. You might like them better’. He looked at the stuff that we shot later and he was very happy with that. So we wrapped and went home.
Were you filming also the final fight sequence with the helicopter attacking the Skyfall mansion?
Yes, I flew the camera helicopter.
Your last Bond movie so far was ‘Spectre’. Were you involved somehow in filming the opening sequence in Mexico?
I did some consultancy work on that sequence but I didn’t go to Mexico. I filmed the train sequence in Morocco with the camera helicopter.
You also filmed the final sequence with boat chase in London. Similar to ‘The World is not Enough’ you were flying above the Thames.
Yes I did. It was a night shoot. We made a temporary heliport next to Vauxhaull Bridge where we could land the action helicopter because we wanted it to be close to the set. The light was quite critical and we didn’t want to waste time flying back and forth to the refuelling site which was 10 minutes away outside of London. We got a very unusual permission to land on a very small bit of ground right on the edge of the river in a little paved area, the size of a postage stamp. It was close to Vauxhall Bridge and opposite the MI6 building which features in the sequence. Being based here allowed us to be very efficient. We had to close a lot of roads, three bridges and the Thames river to traffic to protect the public. There was a lot of disruption to traffic in the centre of London even though it was in the middle of the night. We wanted to minimise that disturbance and the noise much as possible. Like in ‘The World is Not Enough’ this shoot involved a lot of organization and meetings with the authorities for me. I flew the camera helicopter, I cast the pilot who flew the hero aircraft; a pilot with the right personality and skill level. I found a hero helicopter that had the right look for the production designer and Sam Mendes but one I knew came from a company that would be helpful. A lot of these bigger helicopters are flown by people that don’t do unusual flying. I needed a pilot who would be flexible enough to work the unusual, long hours as we do in filming and to do the flying he had to do in that sequence with a certain amount of panache. I was lucky I found a helicopter that they were happy with and a pilot I was happy with.
You didn’t work on ‘No Time to Die’, but you’ve worked as second unit director on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with Rami Malek who played the villain in the latest Bond movie.
I directed a short sequence on Bohemian on the additional photography unit. After the film was finished, it was audience tested and reviewed. The producers decided that some additional material was needed. Bryan Singer had directed the sequences for the Live Aid concert at Wembley early in the schedule. There was a lot of energy and it was very good. Dexter Fletcher, who finished directing the film after Bryan Singer had left, was doing the additional photography but he was also in prep for ‘Rocketman’. They needed a DGA director to replace him. The DGA is the American directors union. (Directors Guild of America) They couldn’t film the cast on stage without a union director on the set. The production manager knew that I had a DGA ticket and I had worked with Dexter on couple of films before so he new me. They rang me and asked if I could do it. I had just had surgery on my knee, the day before so I was walking with crutches. They called and asked me if I could work for them the next day. I said: ‘yes for sure’. What do you want me to do?’ They said: ‘There isn’t much to do because the cast have been together for months’. At the real Live Aid concert the band hadn’t been together for a couple of years. They needed some scenes of them being a little more tentative and a little bit unsure of themselves at first, before the old magic kicked in. That was half of my day. I also did a pub scene with people siting around drinking and talking, at first not paying much attention to the music until Queen came on stage. By the end of their set everyone in the pub was up dancing and rocking to the music. Queen’s performance at Live Aid is still rated as the best ever gig of that nature.
Do you think that Rami Malek will be good as a villain in ‘No Time to Die’?
He has got that Bond villain face. They always cast people with a special look and I think Rami has it. Woody Allen says: ‘If I cast the film correctly I don’t have to worry about directing the actors.
Thank you very much for telling me so many interesting stories from films sets.
June 1st 2020
Bobby Holland Hanton has been professional stuntman for over a decade. His career began on the set of ‘Quantum of Solace’. Since then he has worked on number of movie hits. Find them all on his website.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): You have started your career as stuntmen in film industry from James Bond film – ‘Quantum of Solace’. How do you remember that time?
Bobby Holland Hanton: To jump into high level and work with such a great team, great stunt coordinator and learn very fast on my feet was a great experience. I’ve kind of used that throughout my career today.
How did you get to ‘Quantum of Solace’?
I went for the audition. I had a couple of meetings with the team. I had some photos taken showing my stunt reel at the time. Then I had a couple of physical auditions. It was a process of about five auditions. I got a call to come in and stunt double for James Bond. I think originally it was for five weeks and ended up being six months. Gary Powell, the stunt coordinator, kept me on for the whole show and I ended up doing a lot more sequences than I was originally supposed to do. I was very lucky in that aspect.
Your first stunt ever on film set was jumping in Panama.
Yes. The Panama jump from balcony to balcony was my first introduction to the film industry and to the stunts especially at that kind of level. I mean the highest level to go in. It was 2 a.m. in a morning. Three storeys up. It was the balcony jump with one to the other of a distance around 7 meters. I was jumping from high to low. It wasn’t massive distance but it was enough to get that distance of 7 meters for the jump. There were no safety cables, no safety mats just due to the fact that camera angle was over my shoulder. Once I left they wanted to follow me as much as they could. They wanted to pan down and see the street. There couldn’t be any safety so it was a hair raising introduction.
Did you do any rehearses in Pinewood Studios before the actual jump?
Yes, this is exactly what we did. In Pinewood Studios we rehearsed on stage at floor level. We had the exact measurements and dimensions of the actual jump and the balcony. We did it at floor level first to make sure that the distance was achievable. Once I’ve done it at that distance Gary Powell said: ‘Listen, you can do it at floor level, that is fine, but make sure that you are prepared to do it at high level and don’t freeze, because the last thing you want is to freeze up there when you’re three storeys up and you’ve got no safety to protect you’. So it was psychological battle. It was a challange I was very much up for doing. I felt like massive point approved being so young at my first job and I was quite lucky that I had background in gymnastics. I did a lot of jumping and springing, a little bit of long jump. I knew that it was a skill of mine that worked well and I did a big jump. We went to rehearse it in Panama. We built a scaffolding and put some safety to make sure that it was durable. So it was all done in a safe process. We wanted to make it as safe as possible, because what we were doing could be very dangerous. I rehearsed that twice with the safety. Once it was done Gary said: ‘OK guys, that is early day, we are done. We come to shoot in the evening’. We executed it twice and we went home. I was very, very happy young man.
It was not your only stunt performance in that movie.
I was at similar height and build to Neil Jackson, the actor that Bond fights in the room with knife, so I was fighting againts Daniel and Ben Cooke. I did that fight. I helped with some of the fights and shot some of the fight sequences there. I was supposed to go home after those six weeks, but Gary turned to me and said: ‘You are going straight to Siena for five weeks and do the rooftop sequence there’. I went there and I did it. After that I went to Pinewood Studios to finish up the movie for a further three or two and a half months. I met some very close friends of mine to this day on that show, on that team and some inspirational people and some people who helped me very much long away learning the craft and learning the skill though.
When I was in Siena I was looking for the balconies but I couldn’t find them. Now I know that they were built on scaffoldings just for the movie.
Lots of the location was practical. It was the actual beautiful architecture that has been there for many years. They’ve added the element of set built to work for the story and added a few little pieces in, so we could make a travel distance longer and more exciting than the actual, original.
When you were jumping from the roofs it looked like you’ve damaged parts of them, but I’m sure that were just some props.
Yes, exactly. It was part of the set really. There was a lot of set built that went into it which would have taken the crew a lot of time to get it to the level it did and make to look as realistic as it did. They did a fantastic job. Gary and the director wanted the tiles to break away in part of the sequence to add that element of danger. Bond sliding down and maybe slipping off the roof had obviously added to that high octaine chase sequence. The adrenaline rush that even the audience will get from being bumped on the edge of seats. What is gonna happen here is very dangerous and obviously adds a hudge element to the sequence. Yes, there were a lot of set builts and a lot of props and broken tiles, but it was stuff set and ready to break on impact. As you can see in the sequence it was done very well.
I’ve seen on some photos from the set that you had special shoes in Siena, not as elegant as 007 usually wears.
I had a couple of sets of shoes. There were the set shoes that were the actual shoes that you would wear with the suit. The actual James Bond costume shoes if the camera was shooting a bit tighter they would have to use them. We also had a pair of completely black lightweight running trainers with grip so we could actually run, jump and use them to be able to perform the stunt to the highest standard that we needed to make the sequence work. As I’ve found throught my career in all the films I worked on, that there are good few pairs of footwear and different kinds and styles of costumes to make things work.
In which sequences you were performing in Pinewood Studios after filming in Siena?
When I went back to Pinewood it was coming to the end of the film. I did some pick up shots of the gallery sequence on the ropes. We did the film credits with silhouettes. I was on rotational harness looking like falling through the credits. It was more of pick up stuff that we had to do to make the scenes linked together as smoothly and simultanously as possible. Big stuff for me was in Panama and in Siena.
Could you tell something about your performances in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’?
For ‘Skyfall’ I was in Turkey for six weeks and a few days back in England. It was more helping up with the stunt team. I did a little bit of driving in Turkey. For ‘Spectre’ I played small part in one of the vehicles that we shot in Austria. We were part of that big chase sequence in the snow when the plane came down and was tapping at the top of the car. That was a great experience and nice to play a small part in that. It is always nice to work on a Bond movie at any capacity.
Can you tell more about the chase sequence in Austria, about the preparations for that sequence?
A lot of time goes into the preparation with that type of thing because it is an action sequence that could potentially be very dangerous. It is dangerous. It needs to be done in a right way, organized and with people not rushing. A lot of time needs to be spent on it. We were heading in Land Rover towards a real plane on cables. It was smashing the top of the roof at some pace. If you imagine traveling at some speed towards it and the plane coming back that way you are actually doubling that speed. I’m not gonna lie but there was a few times we were quite hairy. ‘Wow, that was close’. It was well rehearsed, it was set up very safely by everyone who was invloved and it went well. It adds the element of excitement, danger and adrenaline and that is what they are looking for and they keep raising the bar.
How the scene like the one with the airplane smashing through the building was filmed? I guess that there were not many takes?
Yes. You do dry runs. You basically rehearse it as many times as you need to make you confident that it is going to work on a day. I think we must have done it two times, because they could rebuilt it twice.
How was it to work with Daniel Craig?
He is great, he is great athlete. He has put his heart and soul to James Bond franchise. He is probably the best of all time really. He has changed the franchise as far as the Bond character in that kind of gritty kind of organic and it feels very real which is great. He has definitely done an amazing service for the franchise and he is such a nice guy.
We couldn’t see you in the latest Bond movie: ‘No Time to Die’.
Lee Morrison, very good friend of mine whom I met on ‘Quantum of Solace’ was the stunt coordinator for ‘No Time to Die’ and he actually did call me and asked me to do a sequence, but I couldn’t do it. I had back surgery at the beginning of last year. I was out for good amount of time so timewise it didn’t work. That was unfortunate because I would have loved to be able to work on it, to be able to work on all of them since I’ve started, but I had to put my health and safety first. I wasn’t physically ready to be doing anything of that kind of caliber. Unfortunately it didn’t work out but you never no, hopefully the next one comes around. Who knows. It is always an honour to work on a stunt movies, for Bond.
How can you summarize your Bond experiences?
I obviously remember my first experience in ‘Quantum of Solace’, being so young, 23, my first job and being thrown in the deep. It was huge learning curve for me. It was kind of like a deer in headlights, to be honest, because you kind of learn as you go being on your toes all the time ready to go for anything. It was definitely a way to learn for sure. ‘Skyfall’ was very different for me, I didn’t have as much pressure as being Bond double. I’ve already done a few films by then and I was a little bit relaxed, but not too relaxed as the industry is dangerous. ‘Spectre’ was again different experience for me because I played a small part. It was great to see that side of the film industry. In James Bond films you feel special process of the film making.
Was it something special for you to be involved in Bond franchise?
I’ve been a big fan of Bond growing up and watching them all as a kid and into my early teens and late teens and early adulthood. Being part of that is something that not many people can say they’ve done and done at the highest level with the best people and with the best team. It is an honour.
What is your favourite James Bond stunt?
The crane sequence in ‘Casino Royale’. The parkour sequence on the crane was phenomenal. It was the first one that Daniel did. That was the first one that Gary Powell was in charge of and I think he changed the industry in that kind of aspect. The crane sequence is amazing to watch.
Which of your stunts do you remember as one of your most dangerous in your career? Is it the jump in Panama in ‘Quantum of Solace’?
I think that this particulat stunt is still one of stand out stunts in my career today, 13 years ago, because it was a big jump with no safety, no cables and all the elements that went with that – being my first time, being so young. It is something that is very memorable for me and it will be memorable for the rest of my life. I’m very proud of it, that I could do something of that standard as an opening for my career.
Thank you for telling me all that great stories from your Bond experience.
May 19th 2020
Kai Martin has been professional stuntmen for nearly 2 decades. He has worked on 5 James Bond films – from ‘Casino Royale’ to ‘No Time to Die’. In four of them he was Daniel Craig’s stunt double. Find more on his website.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): You have played in 5 James Bond films – all with Daniel Craig as 007. How you got there?
Kai Martin: I became qualified stuntman in 2001. Then I’ve worked in Madrid for a year in live shows and in Germany for 6 months afterwords. In 2004 I got into films. Next year my grandmother died and left me some money. I always wanted to go to China to train with Shaolin monks. I took that money and went there for 4 months, what was a big thing for me. Amazingly just after return I got a job on ‘Dr. Who’ as one of Shaolin monks. My wage was just more or less about what I’ve spent in Asia. Travel to China really raised the bar of who I was as a man I guess and in terms of my skills and my overall ability. Then I got a call from Gary Powell, which I couldn’t believe, in December 2005. I was then aware that Daniel had been cast. Looking at him I knew I could do it, I could be Bond. I just had this intuition that it could happen to me. Fortunately I had some good friends: Adam Kirley, Lee Morrison, Glenn Foster, Ben Cook already working on the Bond film. I think it was the last minute December 2005. Gary needed an extra stunt double for Daniel and he called me. He spoke with me a little bit about the job and asked me to come to Pinewood Studios on second or third January 2006. It was quite a dizzy period for my mind. I couldn’t belive this potential opportunity was kind of around the corner. There was another guy taking part in audition. We both met Gary and went to meet the director. Martin Campbell was an amazing guy. Then literally as I was walking out he just said: ‘Kai you are going with us tomorrow. Pack the bag, we are going to Prague’. That was pretty much it. If think when Gary called me I was in Spain riding motocross bikes. I returned on January second or third. In the afternoon I was packing to go to Prague. At that time especially after going to China my fitness level, my whole body was of ready. I had no idea what ‘Casino Royale’ was gonna be, none of us really did, but I was so ready. Training in China for 6-8 hours a day, mentally living that kind of lifestyle that preceeded phone call from Gary put me in the right place. I think that without going to China I could not survive (smiling). That it how it initially began for me with Bond.
Was it something special for you to be in James Bond film?
To be honest Bond for stuntmen is like olympics for athletes. It is iconic. Especially for Englishmen. Traditionally James Bond is tall, dark and handsome. I naturally gravitated towards those films and loved them but never trully could imagine myself being a Bond because of hair color, height etc. When Daniel got cast I thought I could do this. That was the shift. Daniel with light hair is quite contrast to previous Bonds. When it did come round I couldn’t believe it. It was incredible.
For the first time we could see you on screen in ‘Casino Royale’ opening scene.
The actual crane to crane jump was done by Ben Cook as James Bond. Adam Kirley was doubling for Sebastien (Foucan). Unfortunately Ben broke his hand. Ninety percent of that sequence still needed to be filmed. That is when I jumped in. So Ben did the main jump and all the rest is myself going up and down the crane. We shot all of that on location. All close ups of Daniel and actors were shot low down but still in the Bahamas. We didn’t go to Pinewood to finish anything there.
It was not the only scene when we could see you in ‘Casino Royale’?
I was also in a sequence with Bond chasing the bad guy through the airport.
You were jumping on a truck with fuel?
Yes. That was really hard. I think it was a week or two in Prague and all the rest was at Dunsfold at night. James Bond runs up the stairs, jumps off. That was pretty tricky to roll off and catch the last minute.
How did you prepare for that stunt?
We didn’t rehearse for the airport sequence. I just pretty much did it which sometimes has to be the case. Sometimes you just have to do it. You can rehearse, rehearse and rehearse, put all the safety factors in place, understand where the cameras are gonna be, but sometimes you just have to go for it. That was pretty much that. I didn’t know what was coming in the airport and I’m glad I didn’t, really. (smiling) I remember that being one particularly hard night. Just getting the timing right, not fall at the back of the truck. I’m glad we didn’t rehearse, just did it. Even if you rehearse things can be different. It is nice to be organic, go for it and see what happens.
In ‘Quantum of Solace’ we could see you in foot chase sequence in Siena in Italy.
In February 2008 we shot all the interior in Pinewood on 007 Stage. That was the fight on the ropes in bell tower. There was Daniel, Glenn Foster and myself as well as Richard Hansen. I’ve done lots of stunt work with Rich. We’ve shot all the fights, coming off the scafolding, unravling, grabbing of the gun etc.
How did you prepare that complex sequence? It looked very spontaneous, very natural, but I am sure it was planned in details?
That was extremely hard work. We’ve started preparation in October 2007 as I remember. Actor Gavin Marshall known for an impressive rope work was brought it. You can’t learn in few months something that someone has done for lifetime. The thing is that the stunt has special skills whatever it is, but it always comes back down to performance. The stunt is a performance at the end of the day. We did rehearse that for a long period of time, but because of the nature of that, it was very tricky with ropes moving all the time. We did have choreography but then things got changed in a moment quite quickly and we had to adapt.
How long did that sequence take from the idea to the final shot?
Months. I would say that for me personally it began early October 2007 and finished at the end of February or maybe beginning of March 2008. That was my life – hanging on ropes. I remember that it was hard work, because main unit was shooting on 007 Stage in a day time and we had to shoot at night. It had nothing to do with actual location etc. but it was just logistics and scheduling thing. At 3 a.m. I was 60 feet up in the air with rope wrapped around me. For me personally that was very hard from start to finish. In ‘Casino Royal’ I had to jump on moving truck that was hard but in one evening it was done. It is a creative process, you are learning all the time. Sometimes it is good to have some preperation and sometimes it is good to do it in one day.
You were also doubling Daniel Craig on location in Siena.
We went to Siena at the end of March or beginning of April 2008. We’ve spent a good few weeks prepering for exterior scenes. Bond chases Mitchell, he goes up the window and he jumps on the bus – that was me, I rehearsed that. I rehearsed the long jump across. I remember braking a rib and a finger. I got to do that in Siena. That was a good stunt. Bobby (Hanton) did a lot of exterior work in Siena and also Daniel did a lot of it. He did one roof to balcony jump. I think he hurt his shoulder but he did it. I was there watching. That was a big jump and Daniel did that. They were coming off the roofs. Bobby had done some stuff on the exterior. Then it came back to Pinewood and it was me falling down the roof because it was collapsing. Then it was Daniel in Siena. He jumped from the collapsing roof onto the balcony. Then he proceedes across the balconies. I rehearsed it at Pinewood with all the measurements and then we went to replicate it on location. That is also the stuntman’s job. Sometimes in the studios with tape measure you can design the scale of what they want to have on set and check if they can make it. At first the jump would be too big for Daniel so we had to modify that. That was a very elongated process as well. This is making movie and that is why it works. When you do rehearse to get it right then you can replicate it on location.
In ‘Skyfall’ we could also see you drowning as James Bond in title sequence.
Yes. I couldn’t believe it because James Bond title sequence is so iconic. That was the sinking hole.
How was it filmed?
It was amazing. It was filmed at Pinewood studio in 007 Stage – underwater. I was in the underwater tank dressed in Bond suit. There were also two Bond girls and their job was to grab off my body.
How long did you have to stay under water?
In that particular sequence maybe 10-15 seconds. It was just sinking, holding my breath and the girls grabbed me. We also did the underwater fight under the ice. That was Ben Wright and myself. It was specifically hard because it was underwater. You loose the air rapidly and it is very difficult to communicate. That was another part I did in that film.
Did you rehearse that fight without the water at first?
We knew the choreography, we knew the moves but obviously when we added the element of water that could change it. If you want to hold someone very close it is very difficult to do under water. You have to put so much effort to your moves to get that kind of energy that is necessary. That was quite challenging to work on.
‘Spectre’ was your only 007 film so far in which you were not James Bond double.
Yes. That is correct. I was asked to be Bond double, but unfortunately in that particular time I just couldn’t make it. I was very fortunate to get call back to play the helicopter pilot.
In this film we could see your face. Actually Chuck Aaron was your double. I guess that fighting in a helicopter mounted on special rig in Pinewood Studios was not as challenging as your previous stunts.
It was the least challenging as oppose to underwater fight, flying on ropes or being on cranes. But it was on a gimble that changed a lot. We had to be careful because it was easy to get bumped, but it was pretty straight forward in comparison.
You were also in ‘No Time to Die’, but I guess we should not talk about it now, before the premiere.
Yes, that would be best. I’m personally very proud that I’ve done all five of Daniel’s films. I was almost in every opening sequence and every trailer. I’m sure that ‘No Time to Die’ will be a great films. For me personally it is like the end of an era. As it is for lots of people, obviously for Daniel. We’ve done that journey from 2005 to 2020. Even once we’ve done one Bond film we were very aware that there was probably going to be the next. That is why it is even more unique. I was very, very happy that I was in all of them.
May 9th 2020
Jany Temime is awards winning costume designer. She has designed costumes for such blockbusters as 6 films about Harry Potter, ‘Gravity’, ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ and many other.
Piotr Zając (bondlocations): At the beginning I would like to ask about ‘Spectre’ opening sequence. There were so many people involved. What are your memories from working on that sequence?
Jany Temime: There were wonderful people in Mexico. We’ve opened a very big workshop there. Lots of talented people, great artists were making the masks. They were students from the academie, full of energy, creativity. Nothing was stopping them. They loved doing it. Working with those Mexican people was wonderful experience.
There were so many costumes. Did you have to create them all?
I’ve actually spent a week there. I’ve divided costumes into four themes: death, historical, wedding and folklor. After dividing them into four groups I actually had to make around 40 designs; 10 for each theme. Out of these 10 costumes there were different shapes and colors in different combinations. Actually it was more like arithmetics. I had time to organize it in such a way that we had different patterns that were made from different fabrics. My Mexican assistant went to London to buy the fabric, because fabrics were better in London than in Mexico.
007 films are famous for James Bond suits. In ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ Tom Ford was the supplier. How did you work with him?
It was very good collaboration. Tom is film director and he understands exactly the job of costume designer. He was never trying to do more than he was supposed to do, which was making Daniel’s suit. He got me incredible tailors to work with and he completely respected my input. He gave me complete artistic freedom. I told him what I wanted to do and although it was not his style he completely respected it and he did it. We really worked very well together. I keep on seeing them and work with them on another project. They are wonderful.
So you’ve designed the suit and they’ve produced it according to your project?
Yes. I told Tom that I wanted to have dark blue tuxedo. Then I identified shape of jacket and trousers. He just sent me his tailors and they did exactly what I wanted.
How did you do, that Bond’s Walter PPK was not visible under his suit?
It was done by giving a little bit more of fabric where the gun should be. It was just clever tailoring.
How about action scenes? The suit fits very well all the time.
It was so, because suits were made very well and every suit was made for different action. Suits for motorbike had longer arms, longer legs and they had bigger seat. We didn’t make one suit. We made different shapes depending on a stunt. We also made different suits depending on the stuntman, because lots of them didn’t have Daniel’s size. They had to be made specially. Whoever was wearing the suit it was made for him.
It is visible that in ‘Skyfall’ the colors are very important.
It was first approach of Sam Mendes. He had in mind very classical film noir. It was also what I wanted. I remember Jean-Pierre Melville’s film from 1970 (‘Le cercle rouge’). Do you remember Alain Delon? That is how James Bond should look like. I knew that Daniel Craig wanted Steve McQueen, so I always kept Steve McQueen in my head, but in my mind I was thinking of Alain Delon. I wanted a sort of bad boy, but beautiful, sexy bad boy and we got that. I must say that big part of the aesthetics was coming from the director. It always comes from the director. I like a lot this sort of aesthetics, so I thought I could bring a lot in the film. Sam Mendes had it already in his mind from the beginning.
Did you also had in mind how colors were important, especially in ‘Skyfall’, while designing costumes?
I’ve designed costumes for the colors of scenes. It was intentional because ‘Skyfall’, even the name, was a sad film. ‘Spectre’ was different. It opened in Mexico in colors, so it was very difficult after that to catch it back. ‘Skyfall’ was first introspection of James Bond. It was reflective film, very different from ‘Spectre’. Colors in ‘Skyfall’ match completely with the sort of film that Sam Mendes wanted to make.
In James Bond films there are not only suits for 007, but also beautifull dresses. I’ve read that creating the dress for Severine, played by Berenice Marlohe in ‘Spectre’, took 6 months.
Yes, but it was not so much that we were designing it for half a year, but it took so long to have it made. Berenice Marlohe was training and her body was changing slightly, but enough for such a dress. I think that she was becoming more and more Bond girl, Severine, therefore it had to be adapted. It is very difficult when a girl who is sort of new actress has to become Bond girl. You can not just put a dress on her, you have to let it grow on her and that is why it took such a long time. I’ve also designed sort of tatoo on the back that Swarovski made with the technique of ironing it on tulle. It was time consuming because it was new process. It was very complicated dress. It took time to make it perfect. And then to produce it, because we needed to make 10 of them.
What about costumes for all other characters. Did you design all of them?
Yes. Sometimes it goes very quickly and you have it straight away. Sometimes it takes time. I remember in ‘Skyfall’ costume for Javier Bardem was very time consuming. We really didn’t know which way to go and neither did he. He wanted to be different sort of villain. He had in his mind that slightly homosexual scene therefore he wanted to be desirable. He thought that the scene would just work if he would be as sexy as Daniel Craig. I completely understood that. I thought that it was very strong point. We had to accept complexity of what was happening between those two men. It was very interesting. We could have gone different ways. I had in my mind even something Japanese at certain moment and then we went for sort of Nouveau riche, not really, but ostentatious. It was completely different image than Bond. Slightly Latino, slightly ostentatious. The guy anyway doesn’t get it. There was something completely wrong about him. It was hard to find a balance with his face and makeup and visual effects and to give him a costume which was as strong as that. It was difficult and it took a long time. I thought it was my most difficult costume.
How do you start the process of designing costumes?
At first I discuss with director. When I know what the director wants I start sketching. When I have different sketches I show them to the director. He gives me first ideas what appeals to him. Then I have time with actors. After that we have selection, fitting, looking alike and little by little we get to the costume. It is like a circle. You go round and round and round and finally you reach the middle.
Where did you look for inspirations for Bond suits?
Everywhere. For ‘Skyfall’ French director Jean-Pierre Melville and Sam Mendes inspired me. For ‘Spectre’ I thought about 1930’s, romanticism, Humphrey Bogart. I wanted white tuxedo. Then I started thinking about Sean Connery. I always look at Sean Connery. What would Sean wear? I wanted ‘Spectre’ to be completely different. I was thinking about Bogart, the train, the Tangier. That is why I put Lea (Seydoux) in 1930 dress. The light was also very different with Hoyte (van Hoytema), more romantic. He also explored different filters.
What is the experience from film set that you have still in your mind?
When Sam Mendes saw the dress he said: ‘I am going to start filming with her back to the camera’. He understood how he could use that. It was wonderful to work with director who new how to use what I gave him. ‘Skyfall’ was incredible cinematographic experience for me. Everybody has different feeling for each film. I thought that ‘Spectre’ was wonderful film to design and to make, but for me ‘Skyfall’ was cinematographic experience that really touched me.
What is your favourite scene from James Bond film so far?
The death of M in ‘Skyfall’.
Do you have any plans to work again on Bond film?
No, I am finished with Bond. I did two Bond films that were wonderful and took two years of my life. Now I am ready for new challange.
May 4th 2020
Andy Lister is a stuntman who has doubled Daniel Craig in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’. There is a number of blockbusters full of action in his filmography: ‘X-Men: First Class’, ’47 Ronin’, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ to name just a few. Andy Lister on Instagram: listersbox
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): James Bond fans could see you in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ as Daniel Craig stunt double. It was amazing what you’ve done in these films. I’m always fascinated with great stunts. Not many people know when they see stuntman and when actor in a film. I would like to talk with you about your and other stuntmen performances, so more people would see how great is your work. That it is not just CGI, but real stunts.– Andy Lister and Piotr Zajac during the interview
You have been a stuntman for nearly 10 years?
Andy Lister: Yes, that is right. It was September 17th 2010 when I proudly graduated on to the British Stunt Register!
How did you become a stuntman?
I’ve studied a martial art called Wushu since I was young and was fortunate enough to earn a place on the British wushu team and represent my country in various martial arts competitions. Then in 2004, there was a production company asking around different martial art schools for people to audition for a film. My wushu coach Jon Staples put me forward for the audition. I found out that it was for ‘Batman Begins’ and they needed extras for the League of Shadows team. I was so excited!! Even though I was just in the background it was an amazing experience! Seeing the professional stunt men rehearsing and performing on set made me hungry to chase my dream to be a stuntman!! I had always wanted to be a stuntman from watching Jackie Chan movies, and now here I was experiencing it!! Blew my mind!! So when I was on that job I started talking to the stunt performers and they explained to me the process of how to become a stuntman in the UK. You have to complete 6 different sports from a specific selection, have days in front of camera as an extra, to teach you set etiquette and how the industry works and lastly a 5 minute video of you performing your skills to prove you can actually do them! The 6 sports that I chose were martial arts (wushu), Gymnastics, Trampolining, High diving, Scuba Diving and Rock Climbing. Each sport has a different level that needs to be achieved, for example scuba diving is dive master level or above, rock climbing was the Single pitch award and martial arts was brown belt or above etc. You then gather all your sport certificates, receipts from the extra days and 5 minute video off to the British Stunt Register, where they have a meeting a few times a year. They look through your case and if you meet their standard then you’re in! If not, they tell you what needs to be amended and you try again in the next meeting. That’s how I got onto the register back in 2010! It was hard training for sure, but it gives you the right mentality for the industry! It can be tough, but if you work hard it’ll be the best thing ever!
How did you get to do all these movies from your filmography? Did you have to go for auditions or someone was asking you to perform in them?
It depends. Usually when you first get on to register you make a personal page in the Spotlight British stunt register book. It’ll have your headshot, full body shot, action shot, height, weight, measurements etc and some of the skills you can do.The Stunt Register book gets passed between stunt coordinators, producers and directors. They look through the book and they say: ‘I need a guy who is 5’10” – oh, this one looks OK; similar size, can do the physical action we need, let’s bring him in’. They call him up:’ Hey, are you free? You are? Brilliant’. Then they come in for an audition to see their skills and also how they interact with the team. That’s usually how it goes. Or it can be word of mouth when performers recommend you to coordinators, or coordinators to other coordinators.
How did you get into the James Bond films?
My first ever movie was ‘X-Men: First Class’. On that movie I met Lee Morrison. He was doubling a badass character called Azazel. Whilst working with him, he recommended me to Gary Powell (Bond stunt coordinator). I met with Gary and auditioned for the movie he was working on at the time called ’47 Ronin’. I was lucky to get onto the movie and learned so much from everyone on that film! It really started my career off to an amazing start!! After filming had finished, Garys next job was ‘Skyfall’! He pushed production for me to come onto Skyfall with him and be Bond double! It was crazy! It was a dream come true!! It was also only my 3rd movie, I still had a lot to learn and by the end I had learned so much! Really made me the person I am today!! That was an amazing experience! It was tough, no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!!
We could see you in ‘Skyfall’ jumping on train, fighting on train and falling from the bridge. In ‘Spectre’ you were fighting in helicopter and jumping in Blenheim Palace. Did I miss anything?
From memory on camera I did the silhouette fight in Shanghai, Casino fight, some of the ending scenes in the fields and various other bits and bobs.
How many stuntmen double Daniel Craig?
There are quite a few! Lee Morrison, Jean-Pierre Goy and Robbie Maddison on motorbike. Mark Higgins, Ben Collins, Rob Hunt and Martin Ivanov were driving a car. Physical doubles were Ben Cooke, Bobby Hanton, James Embree, Gordon Alexander, Jean-Charles Rousseau, David Grant, Kai Martin and myself.
It depends on the scene really. If it’s a motorcycle stunt, car stunt or a fight, that will usually determine who will perform it. Different units will also sometimes have different doubles so two doubles may be filming on the same day.
You mentioned body shape. Do you have the same suits as Daniel Craig or maybe different with some inserts or something like that?
It is usually pretty similar. We have differently shaped heads but widthwise we are pretty similar. My frame is wider, but he has bigger muscles haha, so it usually evens out under the suit. But I think out of all of us I’m the one with the least similar body haha!
On a film set there is a director and a stunt coordinator. Is there also someone responsible for choreography of the stunt?
Yes that’s right, it was Roger Yuan on ‘Skyfall’ and Olivier Schneider on ‘Spectre’.
Do you perform stunts that they’ve created or do you discuss with them and co-create choreography of stunt fight?
Usually the fight coordinator has the idea of the overall fight and they work out the skeleton of it. If they need an extra move or something that will help, we add it. If they have the idea of crazy stunt that the person can’t do, they will adjust it. We try to bring their ideas to the performance on camera.
How long does it take to get ready to such big scenes like your fights in opening sequences in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’? Do you train it before in the studio?
Yeah, for example on ‘Spectre’ the whole helicopter scene was choreographed and rehearsed a lot! We rehearsed countless, countless times with Olivier Schneider, his team (Yves & Patrick) and Rob Cooper with whom I did the fight. We started rehearsals in Pinewood studios in a steel frame simulating the helicopter. The fight team came up with the fight and Olivier filmed us performing it for the Pre-Viz. Pre-Viz is a previsualisation of the scene. It’s shot like the final shot in the movie so the stunt & fight coordinator can put their ideas across to the director. The director would have changes so we would add, change or take out various aspects of the choreography to fit with their plan for the scene. This process can take a long time, up to even the day of filming sometimes haha! Then from the studio rehearsals we flew out to Mexico! We went to rehearse in the actual helicopter we would be using on the day. The size was slightly different with the seat configuration, so we altered the fight a bit and rehearsed until we were all comfortable with it. Rob and I also tested out the rigging safety lines that would be attached to us while we were fighting on the outside of the helicopter, making sure we wouldn’t fly up into the rotor blades! Huge thanks to the riggers Marc Mailley, Tolga Keenan, Sam Trimming and Kev Lyons for keeping us safe up there!!! Then the next stage was testing up in the air! We did various tests to see how the helicopter reacted to us rolling around in it, us jumping on and off it, fighting on the side and making sure everything was safe! Gary Powell, Craig Silva and Olivier Schneider did such an awesome job in bringing that scene to life!!!
Were you doing those stunts in the helicopter over a group of extras?
The people directly underneath were created with CGI. There were people in the square just not under the helicopter… Just in case something would happen and the helicopter went down.
What did it feel like fighting in the air?
I loved it so much!! It was awesome! Total dream come true! Fighting on the outside of a helicopter!! It was one of the best moments in my career for sure!!!!!
You must have trusted the helicopter pilot a lot.
Oh yeah!! Chuck Aaron was awesome!! To fly a helicopter normally is difficult. To do it with two guys hanging on outside of it jumping up and down and a camera helicopter flying super close is next level difficult!!! Then on top of that add a few 360’s and barrel rolls and you got a dude with superhuman skill as a pilot!! Out of all the people in the world I trusted him with my life! In the movie there are actually two people playing the pilot. In the exterior shots Chuck Aaron was doing it. Back in Pinewood studios they filmed the interior on a gimble rig. We had a stunt guy (and also Bond double himself) Kai Martin play the part of the pilot for the movie. The Studio Gimble rig was the body of the helicopter put onto a special effects rig that rotated. We could then put Daniel and Alessandro Cremona inside safely and let them perform parts of the fight while the helicopter spun 360 degrees!
How are the dots for CGI placed on your face?
Usually they have an image where they should roughly place them, usually parts of the face that don’t move too much. They just put them on with either a brush, makeup pencil or small stickers that are glued on. For face replacement they use either dots, a rubber mask or facial prosthetics where they stick rubber segments onto the performers face so they look more like Daniel.
How long did it take to shoot the whole fight?
It took quite a while. We had a few days in Mexico and then I think it was a couple of weeks in Pinewood. I don’t remember exactly, but it was huge operation!
How was it with ‘Skyfall’ opening sequence? Did you also have preparations in Pinewood Studios?
That was another long prep! We started at Pinewood Studios in a rehearsal space and trained on mats with taped out sections to mimic the exact measurements of the top of the train. We went through several, several different versions with me fighting Damien Walters who was doubling Patrice. That went for a couple of months or so. Then we went out to Turkey and rehearsed on a stationary train. The top of the train was prepped specially for the fight with added grip and some sections with matting too. We then tested out the wire rigs that head rigger Diz Sharpe put in place to keep both us and the actors safe while the train was travelling at speed.
In ‘Skyfall’, before the fight, you jumped on the train. Was it also you on a motorbike?
No, that was the bike genius Lee Morrison. He did the motorbike stunt when he hit the bridge and then there was a cut. I then ran and jumped off the bridge with a special effects rig releasing the bike next to me. Timing was quite crucial as the train was speeding underneath, I had to time it so I landed on the right carriage and not end up missing it completely!
Did you have to jump few times?
I rehearsed it a few times for timing and camera, then they shot a few takes then that was it! I was on the train and the fight was on!!
I was always wondering how many times you had to repeat the scene with VW Beetles falling down from the train. I am sure it was not easy to get it ready for next shot.
There wasn’t that many from what I remember. I think it was only a couple of times. That was a pretty hectic sequence. I was in the excavator’s cabin and Mark Higgins was driving the Land Rover. I could see the arm smashing off all these cars in his direction and he was like a total driving ninja! Dodging each and everyone of them!! Then all the dust swallowed everything. I don’t know how he did it! Legend!
Was it you controlling the excavator?
Hahaha thankfully not! None of the levers I was pulling worked. The special effects guys did a great job controlling it all!!
Then you were climbing on the excavator?
No, that was Ben Cooke. I rehearsed it, but Ben did the shot on the day jumping into the train and then Daniel took over. Turned out great!!
When you were fighting on a roof of the train was it really so close to the tunnel?
On the rehearsals we got very close. We developed a good system. I was strangling Damien Walters who was doubling Ola Rapace and at some point he would his head slightly and could see the tunnel coming towards us. When he started to move to get out I knew that it was time to turn and duck! It looked close and it was pretty close haha! We also had people with horns in case we were getting too close though! As soon as we ducked, the roof of the tunnel was flying past us! So much fun!!
I can only imagine that, but for sure I wouldn’t be so brave. (both laughing) I’ve seen a documentry about Jackie Chan and how he was using different sounds during the fight to know where to expect kick or punch.
Yeah we use the same system! Let’s say there is one person fighting few people. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly when they are coming in to attack if you can’t see them. However if they give a noise you know they are going to be right there in time for your next move. It is a great tool for timing! I have been lucky that I’ve been able to fight a lot of great performers! They’ve done it for years, so fighting them is easy, because they know about distancing and rhythm .
After the fight on the train you were falling down from the bridge. How did you film it?
he first day they shot that part of the scene was with a fake train carriage. It was only the top and then boxes all around. Daniel did a great reaction of getting shot and fell off the set and into boxes. The next day they shot the full fall with me. In the movie there is water under the bridge. However under the real bridge there are just rocks and trees 300ft below; not something that you would really want to fall into. The train was parked in the middle of the bridge and next to the ‘jump carriage’ there was a crane that stretched over the gap with wires attached. I remember in the morning of the shoot day, one of the extending stabilisers of the crane wasn’t working. So they spent some time trying to fix it and ended up having to secure it with scaffolding. It didn’t help my nerves haha! Then I got up on top of the train and my wires were attached. The day before when they were shooting Daniel it was full sunshine, but of course the day we were shooting the fall, it was cloudy, so we had to wait until the clouds would pass and there was full sun. I remember standing up there waiting for a break in the clouds, then finally it came!! Full sun! I got ready and Terry Madden started to count down from 6! We started from 6 so the helicopter could be timed in. I heard ‘Ready and 6, 5, 4, no, no, no, stop, stop, stop!!!’ clouds had come back over!! I think it that happened three or four times. Then Terry got down to ‘2’ and then ‘1, ACTION!’ and I jumped. I have to thank Diz Sharpe, Sam Trimming, Kevin Lyons and Peter Miles! They were the rigging team that kept me alive!!!
Was it only one take?
No, there were three takes. First time I jumped but I moved my arm. I remember Gary saying: ‘Don’t move your arm. You are supposed to be dead!’. Then I jumped a second time and that was fine. The third time was for luck, just in case and I think that was the one they’ve used.
Did you also have to wait between takes for the sun?
After the first take we had to wait a little bit. The second and third were pretty much straight away.
Was it like bungee jumping?
It was kind of like bungee jumping. I free fell for 70/80ft and then a goldtail device was used to slow my fall and bring me to a stop. The full height of the bridge was around 300ft. That was the first big fall I had done in my career and I think the biggest so far to this day.
Did you repeat it later?
I went bungee jumping on holiday. (laughs)
Did you have a chance to see how other scenes for Bond moves were filmed?
Not usually, when they film drama scenes we are rehearsing. We rehearse every day, usually from 8a.m. to 6p.m. We are on set during the drama scenes if the actor needs us there for stunt pads or a mat. Or if the crew are at height, sometimes we are there to help with safety.
How do you prepare for a stunt. Do you have your own warm-up, stetching routine?
I try and keep pretty flexible so it doesn’t take too long to warm up before a scene. If an actor is about to do something physical we will sometimes be called in to warm them up, fit a harness and answer any questions they have regarding the action. The warm up comprises of basic stretches to get the blood flowing and prepare them for the next shot. For example if they are doing a lot of kicks or low stances, leg stretching would focused on more etc. And the same can be said for myself. I like to get nice and warm and stretched out as much as I can before a take. Although sometimes that’s not always possible. An action scene can really take it’s toll on the body! They can last days, weeks or even months!! The fight on the train in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ took many many months! Constantly warming up and cooling down between shots can cause injury! So I try and stay as warm as possible.
‘Spectre’ was your second and also the last Bond film you were in so far. You didn’t take part in ‘No Time to Die’?
No sadly I was busy on another movie ‘The King’s Man’ with Brad Allen. It was another great movie to work on and a great take on the spy genre!
Do you have any plans to return as Bond?
Haha It depends on who the actor is and the stunt coordinator but I would love to do another Bond in the future!
Who should be the next James Bond in your opinion?
Somebody who is 5’10”. (laughs)
Thank you for great stories and good luck with becoming James Bond again.