The latest James Bond movie SPECTRE, released to huge box office success in 2015, has evidently left a special and lasting legacy in Mexico City. As many 007 fans will recall, director Sam Mendes and his hard-working crew created a spectacular pre-credits sequence for the 24th Bond movie, which involved a dramatic a foot-chase and helicopter fight, a confrontation which took place against the backdrop of the capital’s ‘Day of the Dead’ parade.
However, the parade was actually something specially created for the world of James Bond. There was no official major ‘Day of the Dead’ parade in Mexico City. Traditionally, Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations, which take place annually on November 1st and 2nd, have consisted more of quiet family gatherings to mark the arrival of All Saints eve, often with visits to the graves of loved ones, with some songs, music and drinks.
Last weekend, though, the Mexican government – under some pressure to allow the capital city to live up to the expectations created by SPECTRE – organised a major ‘Day of the Dead’ parade for the first time. Numerous floats, large skeleton marionettes, and over a 1,000 actors, dancers, and acrobats all took part in the special parade. The event proved to be very popular indeed, drawing tens of thousands of onlookers to the city centre’s streets to watch the procession and enjoy the atmosphere and colourful sights. In fact, it was so successful all the indications are now pointing towards this becoming a permanent annual fixture in Mexico City’s calendar, helping to boost the country’s growing tourist industry.
Lourdes Berho, chief executive of the Mexico tourism board, explained: ‘When this movie hit the big screen and was seen by millions of people in 67 countries, that started to create expectations that we would have something. We knew this was going to generate a desire on the part of people here, among Mexicans and tourists, to come and participate in a big parade’.
From Mexico With Love
The pre-credits filming that was carried out for SPECTRE in Mexico City, which saw a huge amount of behind-the-scenes preparation and make-up work put into the ‘Day of the Dead’ festivities, kicked off the movie in heart-thumping style, and was largely the result of an idea that came to Sam Mendes. Explaining his reasons for choosing the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival for SPECTRE, Mendes commented at the time: ‘I wanted the audience to be dropped into the middle of a very, very specific, very heady, rich environment. It’s the Day of the Dead, everywhere you look there’s colour and detail and life. We’ve built floats and maquettes, the costumes are extraordinary and the craftsmanship is amazing’.
The Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ (Dia de los Muertos) festival provided a perfect setting for the energetic foot-chase engaged in by 007 through the crowded streets and into the famous Zocalo Square. The main shooting in Mexico City took approximately three weeks, and the ‘Day of the Dead’ scenes saw a large number of extras all having to be made up and ready in their costumes for each day’s carefully co-ordinated shooting. This involved a challenging and complex logistical operation, processing all the extras and getting them into appropriate costumes, with special attention paid to making up ‘skeletal’ and ‘dead’ facial charactersistics on each person involved. There was very impressive attention to fine detail in each case. Huge catrina skeletons, known locally as ‘Dapper Skeletons’ and ‘Elegant Skulls’, also added tremendous visual impact to the sequence.
At the time of shooting, EON co-producer Michael G. Wilson revealed that ‘it is maybe the biggest sequence we’ve done’, while 007 actor Daniel Craig also similarly commented: ‘It’s one of the biggest opening sequences I think the Bond franchise has ever done’.
Additional shooting for the Mexico City sequences was also carried out at Pinewood Studios in England, including some further work on the gritty helicopter fight sequence between Bond and his adversary that formed the climax to the pre-credits. It was truly a case of live and let high! And now it looks pretty certain that, with the creation of a formal ‘Day of the Dead’ parade by the Mexican authorities, Bond has left a major long-term legacy in the country.
SKYFALL and SPECTRE director Sam Mendes