Despite the enormity of Leavesden, no James Bond adventure could ever be confined to a studio. GoldenEye's schedule necessitated three, sometimes four, separate film units to shoot concurrently in several far-flung, exotic locations around the globe. The cast and crew traversed oceans and continents, from Puerto Rico to Switzerland and from St. Petersburg to the French Riviera.
Executive producer Tom Pevsner, who had previously worked as an associate producer on five Bond movies, attests, "I think this was the most complicated shoot we've ever accomplished. It involved more than an average amount of relatively short foreign location shoots, and each foreign location is difficult to organize, regardless of the length of time you're there. The sheer number and diversity of the locales made it a very complex operation."
"The problem, organizationally, is keeping straight in your head what everyone else is filming at any one particular time, and knowing how it's going to cut into whatever sequence you're working on," director Martin Campbell agrees. He credits everyone involved for helping everything to run smoothly. "I was lucky because I had a great team: Ian Sharp on second unit and Arthur Wooster on another...and cinematographer Phil Meheux, with whom I've worked a great deal, has done a superb job with the photography--very stylish. It's terrific if you have good people, and we had the best. It makes a tremendous difference."
GoldenEye marks the first time that a James Bond adventure has ever filmed inside the former Soviet Union--a point made all the more interesting by the fact that this is the same country that had banned the general release of all 16 previous Bond films. The story also denotes the first occasion that 007 has openly travelled to Russia. (Details of his more clandestine visits remain top secret.)
If recreating St. Petersburg on the backlot of Leavesden had proved challenging, filming in the actual city also offered some formidable obstacles. Built in the 18th Century and caught behind the Iron Curtain for the better part of the 20th Century, the city was architecturally stunning, but lacked any kind of technical infrastructure. State-of-the-art equipment was virtually non-existent. When the company wanted to run a tank down one of the streets, they learned that the sewers were made of concrete and laid on a bed of sand on top of a swamp. The vibrations from the tank could actually cause the entire sewer system to drop into the swamp.
In order to persuade the Russians to allow the tank into the country in the first place, the filmmakers had to prove that it was deactivated. And then they had to explain about the pyrotechnics and explosive materials needed for special effects sequences.
In addition, the end of Communism had not shortened the miles of "red tape," and almost 150 permits were required from every utility and commission in the city. Even then, filming was forced to come to a complete halt one day when the local media reported that the production was destroying the city. It took almost an entire day to convince the authorities that the only thing being destroyed was the fabricated scenery.
Working on her first large-scale production, Izabella Scorupco could understand the bewilderment of the Russians. "It's just amazing to see how much you can destroy in one second," she marvels.
The Principality of Monaco was the site of a perilous car race down the narrow, twisting mountain roads above the Grand Corniche. It is the first provocative encounter between Bond, driving his classic Aston Martin DB5, and the mysterious Xenia Onatopp in a fiery red Ferrari.
The two meet face-to-face in the elegant Monte Carlo casino, where 007 utters his classic line, "The name is Bond, James Bond."
Brosnan acknowledges, "Of course, you do think about it. I mean, it's one of those lines that are in people's consciousness, like 'to be or not to be.' You find yourself brushing your teeth in the morning going, 'the name is Bond, James Bond.' Ultimately, I had to have the confidence to just stand there and deliver; you look 'em in the eye and keep it simple."
In the harbor of Monte Carlo, scenes were shot on the French Navy's newest warship, Lafayette, named for the famous French hero of the American Revolutionary War. On its deck is the advanced helicopter dubbed the Tiger, the first of five prototypes built by France and Germany and capable of performing a once-impossible vertical loop.
In Switzerland, the Contra Dam near Lugano was chosen for one of the most breathtaking stunts ever achieved on film. It is certain to take a deserving place in the annals of the unforgettable pre-title sequences that set each Bond film in motion. Stunt coordinator Simon Crane and stuntman Wayne Michaels orchestrated an astounding bungee jump off the top of the dam, a world's record for a leap against a fixed object--all 750 concrete feet of it.
Michaels executed the jump--twice--and attests, "It's pushing the limits of what can physically be done. The loading on the ropes is extreme and the body is travelling at such a high rate of speed that it puts a great deal of strain on you. You're trying desperately to hit a pocket of air that will take you away from the wall, and the winds that are whipping around the bowl of the dam toss you like a leaf."
Towards the end of the jump, Michaels had only milliseconds in which to pull a gun out of his pocket to complete the scene. "There was nothing that was gonna stop me from getting that damn gun out, I can tell you," he states.
The film's thrilling climax was partially filmed on the sun-drenched island of Puerto Rico. There, the world's largest spherical radio telescope at Arecibo doubled for Trevelyan's satellite dish aimed at a worldwide cataclysm. It also served as the backdrop for the final life-and-death confrontation between two evenly-matched adversaries: Agent 007 and former Agent 006. Simon Crane worked extensively with Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean to choreograph the suspense-filled battle.
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