ShortList on location with James Bond
Spectre isn’t just the biggest Bond film to date, it’s the most international. ShortList’s Andrew Dickens trails the new 007 juggernaut to Rome, Mexico and beyond.
“We’re causing a lot of disruption here, but they seem to enjoy it,” says producer Barbara Broccoli, looking over the crowds on the streets. “It’s a beautiful festival and I think they appreciate us putting it on film.”
It’s now March and I’m standing on a terrace at the Gran Hotel de Mexico (which also appeared in The Living Daylights, fact fans). Below me is Mexico City’s Zócalo Square. You simply don’t ever film there; it’s a major square in a city of 21 million people. Imagine closing that on a Friday daytime just to make a movie. This is something else.
Spread across the square are 1,520 extras in full Day Of The Dead costume, while a helicopter – piloted by Chuck Aaron, the only man on Earth insured to loop the loop in a chopper – flies overhead and Daniel Craig runs around the carnival, chasing a bad guy. This is the film’s opening scene and news crews are welcome; local citizens are invited to watch. Some things, not even Bond can hide.
“I’ve done a lot of big movies, but I’ve never been on a set like that,” offers Craig. “It’s really extraordinary. We’ve got Mexico City to thank for that.”
Pinewood is Bond central; almost every interior shot you see is filmed here, along with green-screen sequences. It’s also the base of operations; a self-contained Buckinghamshire village, of sorts. A village with a thriving population, in which everyone is creating that magic. I walk through Monica Bellucci’s Roman bedroom (well, her character Lucia Sciarra’s, but let a guy dream) and ‘ride’ a train with LED windows that make it look like it’s speeding through Morocco.
“If you can’t get excited about making a movie of this size, with this cast, with Sam Mendes and this crew, then go home,” states Craig.
And, of course, no James Bond movie would be complete without scenes set in the UK capital, London. “The challenge was to try and find a way of shooting London that felt fresh and new and yet which was also a continuation of Skyfall,” says Mendes.
“We tried to find a way to look at familiar locations and familiar places within London from a different perspective – and I think we found some really great ways to do that.”
“We chose Rome because of the history and an atmosphere of darkness and foreboding,” says director Sam Mendes. “There is something dark and intimidating here…”
Not since the Visigoths has a foreign force invaded the city so successfully. Spectre hasn’t just taken over a few streets or a quaint little piazza, it’s taken over Vatican Square and the river Tiber. On the river where Romulus and Remus were born will see another ambitious pair – Bond and Hinx – go head to head along its path in what was perhaps the one thing lacking from Skyfall: a good old, buttock-exercising car chase. “Going sideways at 110mph through Vatican Square is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” says 007’s stunt driver Mark Higgins. “Thankfully we didn’t hit anything.”
Throughout the night, streets are sealed during takes, while, six bridges’ worth of the river path, which runs about 15-metres below street level, are completely closed off. As midnight approaches, news crews – all without permission to film – and members of the public line the river. Rome, I’m told, is proud to have Bond here. Happy, too, to appear in the kind of tourism advert it could never pay for. “I pinch myself some mornings,” gushes Craig. “I’m driving through Rome in a brand new Aston Martin, past the Colosseum and I’m like, ‘Yes!’”