All Time High! To help celebrate nearly 40 years of Octopussy, the JBIFC is re-publishing some edited extracts from an on-set report we carried in 007 magazine back in January, 1983.
The JBIFC’s report was the first detailed account from a fan organisation on the making of Octopussy, Roger Moore’s sixth adventure as Ian Fleming’s spy.
It was based upon what was witnessed during the main week of First Unit principal photography taken on location at the Nene Valley Railway (NVR), near Peterborough, in September, 1982, involving the main cast, and the subsequent weeks of Second Unit filming, which took place at the same locations along the railway line during September and October, 1982. In many ways, the report offered lots of fascinating insights into the challenges and logistics of making a Bond movie, and has very much stood the test of time.
Here’s a second set of extracts, with some extra comments restored from the original transcript.
‘On Location in Peterborough’, from: 007, vol.1, no.12, January, 1983
The First Day – Monday, September 6th, 1982.
A whole week of Bond began that morning. I arrived at Wansford Station after cycling all the way from Peterborough (a good few miles), brimming with excitement and anticipation. The Station lies in a relatively quiet country lane which runs off the A1, with a few small houses dotted alongside the road, their gardens next to a steep embankment which leads down to the River Nene; the road gradually winds down to some rail level-crossing gates and the main Wansford Station, which was restored by volunteers. The Station and rail line first opened in 1867, and just prior to the level-crossing and Wansford Station, the old steam trains run across a large wooden railway bridge which runs over the River. It is surprisingly quiet, although the gentle hum of traffic can be heard in the far background. The surrounding area is mainly a combination of farmer’s fields with grazing cattle, grain barns, and old English hedgerows.
The hot August weather had suddenly given way over the weekend to some wet weather; conditions were now dry but the sky remained a fairly dull grey in tone. The stars’ caravans, the catering tent, make-up and dressing-rooms and so on were in a field at the back of the Station, and it all looked very muddy with people picking their way carefully through the mud, balancing on duckboards placed between the caravans. For the local extras recruited from Peterborough it was a highly memorable experience.
Their day started at 7.00-8.00am with costume fitting, then hairdressing and make-up. The men playing the East German soldiers and police, and also West German police, had their hair cut very short – some more than once, until the make-up people were satisfied. The uniforms they had to wear were often too big but some hasty stitching soon put that right.
Roger Moore arrived at Wansford Station appprox mid-morning, driven in a black Daimler. He was staying at the Saxon Hotel in Peterborough. Apparently EON had booked every hotel in Peterborough and the surrounding areas and that still wasn’t enough, given the size of the accompanying film crew.
As I had never seen Roger Moore in real life before I found the experience all a bit strange at first. He certainly looked suntanned and immaculate, and considering he is 54 he is in amazing condition. It will be interesting to see how he comes over on the big screen. I felt sorry for many of the ‘Octopussy girls’ as they had to pick their their through the muddy landscape in the adjacent field. I immediately recognised a few of them, including Mary Stavin and Carolyn Seaward. All the girls were dressed in white tops with the ‘Octopussy’s Circus’ emblem on the front, blue jeans and either knee-length boots or white ankle boots. They are playing Madame Octopussy’s circus troope. The film crew and key members of the cast began work early in the morning. The ‘establishing scene’ of the day was of the Octopussy Circus being loaded onto the train including Nina the elephant and various chimpanzees.
One of the things that really comes home to you on a film set is the amount of time people spend just waiting around. Patience is vital. Shots that only take a few seconds often take ages to set up, and (usually) retakes have to be done and camera angles re-positioned. It makes you realize how much work goes into each scene. Being an ‘extra’ was probably worse; even though there was plenty to watch going on all the time, the extras were often confined to a particular spot; I think they inevitably became bored and many of them consoled themselves in endless breaks for cups of tea in small plastic cups. The local newspaper was later to call it ‘The harsh reality of an extra’s lot’.
There was absolutely no way I was ever bored, though, and, in contrast to the extras, I could pick and choose where I would go and what to look at (while obviously ensuring I did not get in the way). I was absorbing every possible thing that was going on.
During the course of the morning Roger Moore posed for Press photographers (and also EON’s official photographer) in front of the main train engine with his leading ladies, Maud Adams (Mdm. Octopussy) and Kristina Wayborn (who plays Magda), each standing next to him, or all three of them together at the same time.
With steam occasionally rising from the train engine behind, it led to some nicely atmospheric stills.
The sun also briefly broke through the overcast clouds at that point. And then the serious filmmaking began for Roger.
He did various scenes on the Station platform and near the train, and it was interesting (for me) to see all the familiar Bond crew names present, including the ever-cool John Glen, cameraman Arthur Wooster, Michael Wilson, and legendary stuntman Bob Simmons. The main stars of the film also had various scenes, and appeared around the set during the course of the morning and afternoon (sending my camera into melt-down): the internationally-famous Louis Jourdan, who plays the main villain, Indian actor Kabir Bedi (a henchman) and, of course, the beautiful Maud Adams.
At one point, Roger and Maud went for an after-lunch stroll and gave the press (and public) an opportunity for some more very nice photos.
The weather remained rather dull all day, providing a good ‘East German’ atmosphere to the location. Luckily, rain held off. Sometimes, to observers, the set seemed like chaos, but it was obvious to me that the assistant directors and crew members usually had everything firmly under control with their walkie-talkie radios. Moreover, I was fascinated how relaxed and open it all was as the day progressed. In the afternoon, there were key scenes shot on the main platform involving the arrival of a Russian general. He had to be driven in a large black car (a Mercedez saloon car) around the back of the Station and up to the side of the railway. The car had to wait on the road near the Station with the Russian General sitting in the back, and his aide would then drive into the Station grounds when ‘action!’ came over a walkie-talkie radio.
This take was done several times. I stood around quite a while watching this and picking up snatches of conversation from people. Near the main level-crossing, Nene Valley Railway (NVR) people, East German soldiers in their brown Russian-style uniforms, and various members of the public stood around waiting and talking. I placed myself strategically next to the pedestrian gate at one end of the main platform and could see filming taking place on the platform. An East German armoured car stood nearby and various film location lorries. Most of the lorries had the official emblem for the film on display behind their windscreens – the word ‘Octopussy’, with the OCT forming the famous 007 logo.
Then the filming seemed to move along the platform to the other end, and various people started to walk onto the platform itself. Some had gone onto the modern steel footbridge which runs over the main railway track from one platform to another. I grabbed the opportunity and joined some German police extras up there, positioning myself at one end of the footbridge, looking down directly onto the platform. It provided an excellent vantage point! Soon, quite far away, a black Mercedez saloon car was filmed coming slowly down the railway track from the direction of the Wansford rail tunnel: the Mercedez had been fitted on rail wheels. I heard that Roger Moore was in it, too. It couldn’t get better than this! There was then quite a wait, followed suddenly by many comments, laughs and ‘ooh look, there he is!’, etc. I looked down on the platform running underneath the footbridge: Roger had suddenly appeared. He walked down the platform causing laughs as he did so – he had some ‘Deely-boppers’ on his head. It looked very funny and he was obviously in his usual jovial mood: he had an innocent smile on his face as he drew laughs from the film crew at his visual joke. At one point, he playfully placed the Deely-boppers on Arthur Wooster’s head as poor old Arthur was trying to adjust his Panavision camera! Roger then climbed aboard one of the train carriages and disappeared inside.
Plans were then made for the next scenes. A camera and spotlight were set up just below the footbridge. A T.V. film crew also appeared on the platform and the reporter interviewed some of the Octopussy girls through the carriage windows. Meanwhile, John Glen and some film crew held on-the-spot discussions about the next scenes. The cameras were set up aiming at the main carriage doorway and panning to take in the long platform.
Kabir Bedi appeared with one of the Meyer brothers (who is playing a knife-thrower). Roger also appeared just to see what was happening and stood on the carriage footplate at the entrance. He used the handrail to lift his legs in the air for some exercise while he waited. Kabir Bedi and John Glen had a little chat with him as he did so.
The next scene then got under way. John Glen leaned out of a carriage window to oversee the shot. Bedi stood stiffly to attention near the carriage entrance, waiting, and the Meyer brother stood further back along the platform. The Russian car drove into the back area of the station and the General got out, saluted a sentry and climbed onto the platform. As this happened Bedi would see the car’s arrival, tap on the carriage window and Maud Adams would step out, followed closely by Louis Jourdan, and walk along the platform to meet the Russian. Circus extras were loading equipment on board in the far background. During these takes a stills photographer arrived and, between takes, Maud was photographed standing on the platform with Bedi and Jourdan standing just behind, or directly at her side.
During the late afternoon a catering table was set up on the road just outside the Station and tea, etc, was dished out to the extras and film crew when they felt like wandering along. It provided a good chance for me to mix with people and I was beginning to find the happy atmosphere of the film-making highly infectious.
I think the thing I found I had to adapt to was that, to all members of the film crew, all this was just part of the routine of the job. They were used to it all, whereas to people like me all this was unusual, glamorous and different.
I admired the professionalism that could be seen all around.
Towards the end of the day there was the issue of the first call-sheets on the set to the film crew and extras, typed up on a manual type-writer and then hastily printed on light-blue paper, a ritual that takes place every day near the end of a day’s shooting, and I noticed it was really looked forward to by some people. Relatively minor NVR officials seemed to get them, too (to make them feel important to the filming, thought I, rather cynically). They would read them and fold them over and over to get them as small as possible, and then tuck them away in a pocket never to be seen again, which reduced me to annoyed jealousy! I took another opportunity to have a good look at the full length of the Octopussy train, especially the armoured rail car which I had first seen the previous Saturday. I found out this particular piece of SFX wizardry had been built by the Art Dept on a ‘Lowmac’ rail wagon.
The filming stopped in the early evening and I left Wansford Station just as extras queued up to hand in their uniforms and the Octopussy girls climbed aboard their coach to take them back to their hotel. For me, it had been a day made in double-o-heaven, and I couldn’t wait for Day 2…