Bond Films Have Some of the Best Stunts Ever Filmed
While stunt work in Hollywood is in decline because of the over-use of computer graphic imagery, which makes everything easy to fake, the James Bond films are famous for doing real stunt work on an epic scale. No matter how you slice it, seeing a real stunt will always trump a phony computer-generated piece of fluff. The recent Bond films have featured some very good stunts, such as the plane jump in "Quantum of Solace," but very few films in history have topped the epic stunts of the James Bond films of the 1970s.
|"Little Nellie" in "You Only Live Twice" (1967).|
The stunt work in James Bond films always was good, and those films also used whatever tricks were available. Even some of the best stunts, such as Sean Connery flying "Little Nellie" in "You Only Live Twice," are marred by weak effects. However, when stunts in a Bond film work, they can change the entire tone of the film from mundane to epic.
Herewith, the top five stunts in the James Bond film franchise. We'll start off with the best this time because, well, nobody does it better, and this is the best of the best
1. James Bond Skis off of a Mountain
|That is an actual skier jumping of an actual cliff, no tricks whatsoever.|
Many fans consider "The Spy Who Loved Me" the pinnacle of Roger Moore's tenure as James Bond. The film had a terrific theme song by Marvin Hamlisch sung in winning style by Carly Simon, it introduced the epic villain "Jaws" who was so popular that he was brought back in the subsequent film "Moonraker," and it had perhaps the best title sequence of the entire Bond series.
Even with all those stellar aspects, the real jewel in the crown for "The Spy Who Loved Me" was at the conclusion of the teaser sequence that opened the film. Bond is being pursued by bad guys on skis, and he has nowhere to escape: the mountain down which he is skiing ends in a cliff. He then goes soaring off the cliff, presumably to his doom - until a parachute opens and saves him.
Second-Unit director John Glen, who would later direct Bond films in his own right, headed off to Mount Asgard in Canada to film this scene in July 1976. Under the coordination of Bond stunt coordinator Willy Bogner, stuntman Rick Sylvester was paid $30,000 to perform the stunt. With all related expenses, costs for filming that one brief scene came to $500,000, an epic amount in the 1970s.
Sylvester was chosen because, five years earlier, he had invented the stunt by skiing off El Capitan and parachuting to safety. To film the sequence for "The Spy Who Loved Me," they had to fly by helicopter to Mount Asgard's summit. Despite the fact that they had multiple cameras in operation, all but one malfunctioned, but that was enough.
Sylvester almost did not survive the jump. You can see in the film's final footage that after he releases his skis and opens his parachute, Sylvester almost gets hit by one of his skis. It easily could have tangled in the parachute cords and caused major problems, but instead it fell safely aside and Sylvester landed safely. The scene is enhanced for many fans due to the fact that the parachute is a Union Jack, underscoring the fact that Bond is a British spy.
2. Jumping a Hornet Across a River
|"The Man With the Golden Gun."|
In "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), one of the centerpieces of action was a car chase across Bangkok, Thailand. This being a James Bond film, it couldn't be just any car chase, but had to include crazy feats that no sane driver ever would attempt. The highpoint of the chase scene is when James Bond, played by Roger Moore, has to drive across a river without any bridge in sight. Naturally, he manages this in the most unexpected and thrilling way possible.
The stunt had been designed by John McHenry in Buffalo, New York as a way to test vehicle automation software. It was part of a touring carnival before being adopted for "The Man with the Golden Gun."
"Bumps" Willard performed the dangerous stunt, which involved Bond driving his car up a twisting ramp-like structure, flying across the river, and then landing on a similar twisting structure. To everyone's astonishment (and relief), the stunt was planned out so perfectly and performed with such precision that it worked on the first take. It happened so fast that the stunt had to be shown in slow motion in the film, to the accompaniment of a corny slide whistle added by John Barry.
3. The Underwater Lotus
|James Bond (Roger Moore) with a roadworthy Lotus.|
In "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), Roger Moore as James Bond, accompanied by Barbara Bach (Anya Amasova), drives his Lotus Esprit off a pier and into the water. Well, that's easy enough for just about anyone to do, though they probably wouldn't want to. What came next made this one of the great stunts of all time.
With the press of a button, the Lotus sprouts fins and turns into a submersible. It then cruises serenely underwater.
Bond fires a missile from the Lotus at a pursuing helicopter, destroying it. "It's time we said goodbye to an uninvited guest," Bond says. He later casually drives the Lotus onto a beach and gives some girls in bikinis a casual wave.
The whole stunt was accomplished with an actual Lotus which had been modified by removing its wheels and adding some things like the fins. The Lotus actually could be used underwater, though this one could not be used on land. The car sadly had to be pulled and could not drive underwater on its own - but still.
After the film, the production team put the Lotus in a Long Island storage container and then forgot about it. Eventually, the owner of the container sold its contents to a Long Island contractor, sight unseen, for $100. The buyer found the Lotus beneath blankets - dented and without wheels, but unmistakably the Jame Bond submersible Lotus - and took it home. The Ian Fleming Foundation later confirmed that the vehicle was the one used in "The Spy Who Loved Me." He sold it in 2013 for $1 million (£616,000), the owner receiving a quite respectable £550,000 after fees. The buyer? Elon Musk. Incidentally, this is not the most valuable James Bond car, that honor goes to the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball," which sold for $4.6m in 2010.
4. James Bond Flies Through the Air
|"From Russia With Love."|
James Bond has to escape from the bad guys in "From Russia With Love (1963), and he has a car waiting for him outside. The only problem is, how does he get to it past various walls and other obstacles? In one of the most ingenious stunts in the entire James Bond series, Sean Connery dons a jetpack and flies up and over a wall, gently descending to the pretty girl attending his tricked-up Aston Martin.
The Bell Jet Pack was a very real device, and worked pretty much as shown. This was one of its few appearances in film, and it was a good one. The stunt also introduced the idea of James Bond dabbling in science fiction that was begun in "Dr. No" and followed through to fine effect in "Moonraker."
A stuntman did the actual flying. However, everything shown in the film happened exactly as it could have in real life using that equipment if you knew how without being a stuntman, making this one of the most realistic stunts in the series, too.
5. Driving a Tank Through City Streets
|James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) drives a tank.|
The scene that most people remember from "Goldeneye" was the tank stunt. While it doesn't get a lot of notoriety, the shots of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond driving a tank through city streets was a highlight of his first outing as James Bond.
The scene took six weeks to film, and was done on location in St. Petersburg, with additional footage shot on a British sound stage. The actual tank was a Soviet T54/55 which the East England Military Museum was kind enough to loan for filming. The tank actually was driven through St. Petersburg, which must have startled some residents, with special tracks fitted to prevent it from destroying the pavement. Pierce Brosnan didn't actually drive the tank, but part of the stunt's charm is that it appears as if he did.
The real fun of the scene, though, is that it realizes a fantasy that many people have - that of simply getting a tank and wreaking havoc with it.