When England's Pinewood Studios, the traditional home of the Bond movies, was unable to provide the large scale spatial requirements of GoldenEye, the filmmakers were faced with making alternative arrangements. After looking in Europe, Canada and the United States, the decision was made to find a site in England that could be utilized as a studio.
Executive producer Tom Pevsner and associate producer Anthony Waye were instrumental in finding the solution: an abandoned wartime plane factory and airfield in Leavesden, England, owned by Rolls Royce. After a formal lease was negotiated, Rolls Royce ultimately gave Eon Productions carte blanche in converting the factory into a working studio and the company wasted no time in getting underway.
The production team turned to Delta Doric, the company responsible for rebuilding the original 007 stage in record time after a devastating fire in 1984. Within five months, Leavesden's cavernous space was transformed into Europe's newest film facility with 1.25 million square feet of interior space--enough to cover the whole of Pinewood Studios. Five working soundstages were constructed, as well as a carpenter shop, prop shop, paint shop, model shop, a special effects stage, dressing rooms, office space, and more. In addition, the enormous backlot, with two clear skylines, could support several major productions simultaneously.
Production designer Peter Lamont, a veteran of 15 Bond films, made quick use of the vast space, which soon housed the diverse and expansive GoldenEye sets, including MI6 headquarters, the Severnaya control station, the opulent Monte Carlo casino, the nerve gas plant infiltrated by Agents 007 and 006 in the film's opening, a lavish Turkish bath and spa in St. Petersburg's Grand Hotel Europa, Trevelyan's ultra modern satellite control room, and Valentin's lair where he is confronted by his old nemesis, James Bond.
Without question, the most daunting task faced by Lamont and his team was the re-creation of the streets of St. Petersburg on Leavesden's huge backlot for the film's spectacular tank chase sequence. Though much of the chase would be accomplished on location in St. Petersburg, the level of anticipated destruction made shooting some portions in the historic city impossible.
It took 175 workmen just over six weeks
to complete the St. Petersburg set. Sixty-two miles of
Portions of the set were designed as breakaways with brick-size thermalite blocks, so when the tank bursts through the audience sees rubble and bricks, not plaster. Lamont also mounted one of the huge, removable walls on rollers. This enabled the crew to extend the length of the street or make it an altogether different vista by just rolling the wall away and replacing it with a new background.
Second unit director Ian Sharp had the privilege of overseeing most of the counterfeit St. Petersburg's demolition in the tank chase--much to his delight. "Martin Campbell directed quite a bit of the action, so don't let him tell you that we had all the fun," he laughs. "But we had some great stuff to do--with all the tanks and trucks and such. It's every boy's dream, with life-size toys."
Being the sole project filming at Leavesden was a godsend to the production, given that shooting would also take place at various locations around the world. When the company was filming away from the studio, the extensive sets could remain up and intact, saving substantial time and money.
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