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An overview of the production of the 21st Bond film..

Storm Front

The first official slate on Casino Royale was struck on 30 th January 2006 in Modrany Studios in the Czech Republic. The first scenes shot were interiors of the embassy of the fictional African state of Nambutu where Bond confronts and captures bomb-maker, Molloka after a thrilling parkour chase. This was an exhausting action sequence, just to watch with Campbell barking direction loudly, imparting energy to the performances. Craig had invested the time since his announcement as Bond building his body for the role and preparing for the fight with stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell and stunt double Ben Cooke. Aggression was required -Bond was under fire.[more]
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The reaction to Craig’s announcement as the 6 th Eon Bond on 14 th October 2005 (amusingly, the first blonde Bond, Roger Moore’s 78 th birthday) by some of the less distinguished representatives of the world’s press had been somewhat snide. Coincidence, perhaps? The myriad of negatives about Craig and silly rumour was not helped by that website (which the press thought spoke for all fans rather than a tiny, deluded minority).
Happenstance, maybe? But the repeated inaccurate reporting by the mainstream press and pundits seemed as if some were out to get Bond – and that was definitely enemy action! Controversy escalated. The rumours seem ridiculous now and worth repeating if only for a lesson about the accuracy of modern journalism. However, the constant media attention showed how important and relevant James Bond still was to popular culture. The absence of a Bond film since 2002 had whetted the appetite of a world hungry for 007 but were the producers taking a gamble at the Casino Royale? A new Bond is always risky. A new direction, riskier. The villain and the leading lady had yet to be cast. To top it all, a new studio was on the scene. After paying billions for an for a stake in Bond’s fate, Sony Pictures Entertainment and their subsidiary, Columbia Pictures (personified to the production in the form of SPE Chairman, Amy Pascal and SPE CEO, Michael Lynton) could have been forgiven for thinking that it was not the most auspicious start to a new era of 007. However, the Eonians refused to dignify rumour with response. They bided their time. A storm front was coming.

Bohemian Bond

Principal production took place in Barrandov and Mondrany Studios, Prague, the Czech Republic. This had happened before in the series: 1979’s Moonraker was principally filmed in Billancourt, Epinay and Boulogne studios in Paris, France and 1989’s Licence To Kill went to Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico. However, as with those precedents, Casino Royale would still make use of facilities in Pinewood Studios and shoot at substituted locations in the UK. His last visit to this territory was also for the debut of a new Bond: Timothy Dalton in 1987’s The Living Daylights, back when the Cold War was thawing and the country was part of Czechoslovakia. Ironically, then, the Bratislavan scenes had to be shot in Vienna, Austria because the Velvet Revolution had yet to take place. How times had changed – now Casino Royale was officially a UK-US-German-Czech production, thereby qualifying for various regional incentives to encourage film investment in Europe. Production designer Peter Lamont created over 40 sets for the film and many of the interiors were shot at the studios.

Shooting continued at Mondrany Studios and then moved to the main studio, Barrandov. On 15 th February 2006, Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Martin Campbell, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced Mads Mikkelson would play Le Chiffre, Bond’s green baize nemesis. Casting of the leading lady was imminent and by press release the following day, 16 th February 2006, Eva Green was confirmed as Vesper Lynd. Shooting continued apace in Prague. Danube House, a new office building on the banks of the Vltava doubled for the office in which Bond confronts Dryden. The marble Vitkov Monument, a mausoleum became the interior of Gunther Von Hagen’s Body Worlds exhibition which in the film is set in Miami Science Centre. The 800-year-old library of the Strahov Monastery was used as the House of Commons interior seamlessly matching the exterior of the Palace of Westminster in London. The Neo-Renaissance National Museum in Wenceslas Square was transformed into the reception and stairways of the Grand Venetian Hotel where Bond and Vesper enjoy a romantic break after their ordeal.
Bahamian Rhapsody

The production then decided to use the varying locales of the Bahamas to double not only Madagascar but also the Italian Riviera. Shooting began on 23 rd February 2006 at the 200-year-old Buena Vista Hotel in Nassau which doubled the Nambutan embassy on Madagascar. Bond’s romance on the Italian Riviera was filmed off the coast at Lyford Cay, Nassau. Peter Lamont converted a disused motel into a Madagascan shanty town where Bond is introduced at observing a snake and mongoose fight. An abandoned hotel complex, now a Royal Bahamian Air Force base, at Coral Harbor on New Providence Island became the building site through which Bond chases Mollaka. Wilson remembered the location well. “[It was] where we filmed the hotel rooms in Thunderball. On The Spy Who Loved Me we used the same location as a camera platform and had models and workshops.”

The Bahamas also was a setting in itself.Bond’s arrival by seaplane was shot at Paradise Island, home to Sol Kerzner’s The One & Only Club which doubled as the Ocean Club where Bond beats Dimitrios at poker. Top Kerzner executive, Jerry Inzerillo, makes a cameo appearance as a player at the table in this scene as did Diane Hartford. She was previously the uncredited girl Bond speaks to at the Kiss Kiss Club in 1965’s Thunderball, a production which received the local assistance of her husband, the wealthy property developer, Huntingdon Hartford.

Golfers, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els own the secluded Albany House estate on the West Coast of New Providence Island. It was this location that served as Dimitrios’ beachfront mansion, where Bond emerges from the sea to watch Solange leading her horse along the sand.

Heightened Interest

Whilst focused on the production, the cast and crew were perturbed but not distracted by the press bombardment. Daniel Craig was the first blonde Bond, whose teeth were knocked out in a fight sequence, who could not drive a manual car, suffered from sunstroke and could not swim. Allegedly. However, on 8 th March 2006, the production team hosted a multi-media press conference on the island for a brief glimpse of Bond reborn. Early scenes (including Craig’s Andress homage) made people sit up and take note and it allowed Barbara Broccoli to retort, “His teeth are fine, his driving is fine, he doesn’t have heat rash and he’s not afraid of the water… There’s always a heightened interest in Bond, and every time we recast the role there’s even more. It’s just in keeping with what we’ve been experiencing.” In one brief moment, the tide turned and suddenly there was a palpable sense of positive expectation. The publicity department had scored a massive coup.

Royale Pour Les Yeux

Michael Wilson noted, “The setting for the Casino Royale in the novel is Royale-Les-Eaux in France, but the production moved the location to an unnamed town in Montenegro. We needed somewhere that seemed to be out of the reach of the international banking authorities in order for Le Chiffre to feel safe enough to come out of hiding. We actually filmed all those scenes in Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic, which met all our requirements.” The Casino Royale itself was difficult to find in just one place. Situated in the script in Montenegro, the production scouted around Trieste and then along the coast of Croatia. Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic, ended up hosting the Hotel Splendide exterior and lobby, and the Casino Royale exterior and public gambling room, with the Salon Privé and hotel bedrooms being built at Barrandov Studios. Bond and Vesper arriving at Montenegro Station was shot at the Mill Colonade. Their first rendezvous with Rene Mathis was shot in the picturesque town square of Loket and the hospital interior in nearby Plana served as the scene of Bond’s emergency care following his torture by Le Chiffre. The Grand Hotel Pupp, a local landmark, became the Hotel Splendide with changes of signs and the addition of a canopy and some luscious plants. The location inspired Lamont’s favourite set from the film: Bond and Vesper’s double suite at the Hotel Splendide, built in Barrandov Studios.

The Game Is Poker

In the Fleming novel, the game was baccarat but Wilson explained, “…That game is no longer popular and there are very few people who understand it, whereas poker is now recognized throughout the world, with poker tournaments on television and online gaming at an all-time high.”Aplot point about the cards being a non-traceable recognition sign for the terrorists – each party would join two halves of a torn card – was deleted but can be glimpsed in the teaser trailer. Another sequence of Bond taking Mr Bliss’ place on the train when he meets Vesper was also shot but not used. Con O’Neill played Mr Bliss. Daniel Craig did learn the basics of poker and how to riffle a deck of cards.

The Italian Job

Towards the end of May 2006, production moved to Lake Como, Italy where the private estate, Villa La Gaeta, was used for the scene in which Bond “introduces” himself to Mr. White. The grounds of Villa del Balbianello, became the sanatorium where Bond recuperates from his torture and then Bond was off to Venezia. Venice was no stranger to Bond having previously paid host to 1963’s From Russia With Love and 1979’s Moonraker. At the end of May 2006, permission was granted to allow Bond and Vesper’s vessel, the Spirit ’54, to sail along the Grand Canal between the Accademia and Rialto bridges, the first time a yacht had sailed the Grand Canal for many years. The exterior of the collapsing house was situated on the Grand Canal opposite the Rialto Market. The real work of capturing the scene however would take place in the spiritual home of Bond, Pinewood Studios.

Keeping The British End Up

The Bond production team finally wrapped principal photography in the UK in July 2006. A sequence cut from the pre-title sequence established Dryden’s contact, Fisher (played by Daud Shah) being tracked by Bond at cricket match set in Pakistan. This was shot at the famed Eton College public school and the grounds but the sequence was deleted bar the vicious toilet fight. The production moved to Black Park near Pinewood Studios to film the rebel camp in Uganda where Mr. White introduces Le Chiffre to Steven Obanno. A point of trivia, the sequence is only the second time rain has appeared in a Bond film (OHMSS was the first).

The film has Bond behind the wheel of the new Aston Martin DBS. Unfortunately, the car was the victim of a spectacular crash sequence shot at the Millbrook Test Track in Bedfordshire, where it achieved a world record for the most amount of rolls made by a car from shot from a cannon. Throughout June and July 2006, the first and second units spent a total of ten weeks filming the Miami airport chase at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey.

Burning Down The House

The last weeks of July 2006 were spent at Pinewood. An exterior, one-third scale model of the collapsing Venetian villa was shot on the Paddock Tank. The interiors were then shot on the Albert R Broccoli 007 Stage and proved to be amongst the most challenging on the film because of underwater filming and a complicated gimble moving the set.

However, on 30 th July 2006, it was a case of history repeating. 22 years earlier, prior to the filming of A View To A Kill, an accidental blaze claimed the 007 Stage. Now, Venice was not sinking but burning, as the flames once again made the 007 Stage dance into the fire. Luckily filming had been completed, sets were being dismantled and no-one was hurt. Was this an omen of things to come?

You Can’t Deny The Prize

On 26 th July 2006, it was announced that Chris Cornell had written, with David Arnold, the main title song, You Know My Name. The song was recorded in Air Studios London and mixed in L.A while the score was completed at the end of October 2006

Post production rolled on with effects, sound and score being completed, prints printed and delivered to exhibitors prior to the press screenings and the Royal World Charity Premiere at The Odeon, Leicester Square, London on Tuesday, 17 th November 2006. It was only at this point that the Eonians would see if their gamble at the Casino Royale had paid off.

The gamble was a spectacular success earning Daniel Craig superb reviews, a BAFTA nomination for best actor and an Even Standard award for the same. The film has so far grossed just under $600 million worldwide making it the biggest Bond ever. A fitting finale to this gourmet Bond.

Ajay Chowdhury
(First published March 07 – KKBB 3)
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