One of the most daring stunts carried out during the filming of Octopussy back in 1982 involved 007 running along the top of a fast-moving railway carriage and hanging precariously onto the side as the train hurtles along through the countryside towards the West German frontier. The stunt was filmed at the Nene Valley Railway (NVR), near Peterborough, in the British county of Cambridgeshire.
The BBC’s popular One Show recently investigated how this breathtaking stunt was arranged. One of the roving reporters for the show, comedian Gyles Brandeth, visited the railway and the original locations for the Octopussy NVR filming. Working alongside the Icon Films company, Gyles headed a two-part report where two stuntmen reproduced part of the original Octopussy stuntwork shot at the NVR. His report saw him posing as Bond in the Mercedez car at the NVR’s Wansford station, and also included a conversation with Sir Roger Moore, who was, of course, James Bond at the time. There were also some clips from the movie, including a key stunt shot at the NVR’s Wansford Station.
The two-part report was transmitted in the 23rd November edition of the One Show, and Sir Roger – looking back on his memories of the NVR filming (he filmed there with the movie’s First Unit in September, 1982) – took the opportunity to pay generous tribute to his hard-working stunt-double, the late Martin Grace (1942-2010). Roger also gave details about the serious accident that Grace suffered while carrying out one of the dangerous stunts at the NVR.
This was especially interesting to the JBIFC, as the Club had one of its members on the scene throughout the First Unit’s filming at the NVR in 1982, and also for much of the Second Unit’s work (the Second Unit continued filming at the NVR while the main crew flew off to India). In fact, the NVR filming formed the basis of one of the JBIFC’s earliest location filming reports in 007 Magazine, edited by the Club’s founder and President Ross Hendry.
After the First Unit, under the direction of John Glen, had completed its location filming on the railway, using three of the main stations and a European locomotive, many of the key stunts involving the train were shot by the Second Unit over the subsequent weeks, and Martin Grace played an instrumental part in this work. Unfortunately, on one particular day, when Martin Grace was hanging off the side of the train carriage as it speeded along, he hit a concrete post and suffered serious injuries.
He ended up in Peterborough General Hospital for several weeks and, as soon as Roger Moore was informed of the accident, the Bond star quickly headed back to Peterborough to visit his close friend in the hospital. Martin, who had a great sense of humour, was apparently very popular with the nurses and other staff, and he and Roger made a great double act when the star visited the hospital. Moreover, despite his injuries, Martin was determined to get back to work and resume his career as soon as possible. And, against all the odds, he did precisely this.
Martin Grace, who sadly passed away in 2010, had been involved with the world of Bond as a stunt artist since You Only Live Twice in 1967. He had originally been spotted by the Bond stunt arranger Bob Simmons when Martin was in the famous (and ‘Bondish’) Milk Tray adverts on British TV in the 1960s. He became Roger Moore’s main stunt-double on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and he and Roger became close friends. He was involved in every subsequent Moore Bond film, and also doubled for the star on his non-Bond movies, such as The Wild Geese, North Sea Hijack, Escape to Athena, The Sea Wolves and The Naked Face.
All Time High
Martin once revealed that his own favourite Bond action sequence was the work he did on the pre-credits to For Your Eyes Only in 1981, a sequence shot at an old gasworks in east London. The daring Irishman was often perched 400 feet up in the air, hanging on to the side of a helicopter which had been ‘taken over’ by Blofeld.
The two main stuntmen who reproduced the Octopussy train stunt for the One Show described how modern-day health and safety rules are very different from the guidelines that governed stunt work back in the 1980s. What stuntmen could do back then would be very tightly regulated today. In a sense, this makes Martin Grace’s work back then – where he leapt from carriage to carriage atop the NVR train and ducked out of the way of an oncoming bridge at high speed – even more astonishing.