Sounds like a dangerous movie set to be on.
The 25th installment of the James Bond series, No Time To Die, is in theaters now. We got a sneak peek at Daniel Craig's fifth outing as Ian Fleming's eponymous British spy. We won't give you a full review here, but we will say that something happens in this movie, several things actually, that have never happened in a Bond movie before.
It was directed by Cari Joji Fukunaga, who worked on the film Beasts of No Nation and the TV show True Detective, among others. It was written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga. In addition to Craig, returning stars include Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann and Bond's love interest, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, Ralph Fiennes as M, the great Christoph Waltz at villain Blofeld and Jeffrey Wright at Felix Leiter. Resting crazy face Rami Malek plays big bad Safin.
The locations range from London to Italy to the Faroe Islands, but we came for the stunts. And we've already seen plenty. We will let you in on one secret, about 90% of what you see in the trailer is in the first few minutes, so there are ton of action sequences still to watch. Concerned with those sequences, we talked to Neil Layton, the action vehicles supervisor coordinator for the movie about what it takes to make a Bond film. Layton, an engineer by trade, spent 20 years in motorsport before moving to filmmaking.
"I worked for Prodrive and was part of the team that had Richard Burns and Colin McRae and many other greats," said Layton. "Also, we specialized in touring cars, both British and world. I then worked for the Ascari race team with Ben Collins, aka The Stig from Top Gear. So Ben and I were friends and Ben was the precision stunt driver for Quantum of Solace."
"At the time they needed somebody who could work on supercars, and that was seven DBS Aston Martins. Although I was at Ascari, I was in the middle of moving out to Spain to live and run the workshops and the race resort," said Layton. "And l made a last-minute decision, I wasn't ready to move my family out to Spain. I went for an aerodynamicist job at Brawn Formula 1, and simultaneously was asked to run the DBS group on Quantum. I thought it would be an interesting experience to do a film. At the time I didn't know it was going to be James Bond. I didn't know it was going to lead to where it's led, 12 years on, running a company called Auto Action Development."
Layton's background in racing and engineering led him to help create a fully remote-controlled stunt vehicle with Shiftec, where the car can be driven safely, with all the controls still in place, and the actor in the driver's seat when necessary.
"We worked in collaboration with Shiftec coming up with the idea, where we can drive and operate the car externally. The actors can be inside the car doing the dialog and 9 out of 10 times there's so many lights and cameras going around the car, visibility is impaired."
"For many years it's been the stunt driver controlling the car from the roof, but there's a lot of limitations to that, higher center of gravity, extra mass to the vehicle. So we came up with an idea to make it remote controlled," said Layton. "In collaboration with Shiftec and Auto Action Developments we built the Gemini system. That gives us the ability to control the car whether its automatic or manual, and we can still retain all the controls. We can drive car dynamically, and even use the hydraulic hand brake."
"We had three options: we can drive the vehicle on screens with monitors surrounding us, it's a bit like a video game. We can also drive the car using VR goggles from another vehicle in chase or sitting up on a cherry picker. It gives us the ability to drive the car at speed, and we have a range of 500 meters. It opens up extra avenues where we can drive the car off a bridge or into an oncoming train. It removes the risk for the stunt driver."
In filming No Time To Die the production used eight identical Aston Martin DB5s. Two were built as gadget cars and two were fitted with roof pods for the stunt drivers, when possible. The movie also features a classic Aston Martin V8, driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, a DBS Superleggera for Nomi, who replaced 007 in the fictional world, and the new Valhalla, though it just sits at MI6. In addition to Aston, we have a load of bad guys in new Land Rover Defenders, which leads to a specific, massive stunt jump using modified models we had the chance to drive last year.
"It was real," said Layton. "They jumped the length of three double-decker buses. The stunt coordinator did the first stunt jump himself. He worked out the approach speed, and as soon as he finished, he came back up and asked for the ramp to go higher. So the approach distance got longer, so that we could hit the ramp faster. Which meant the car was going up higher in the air, and for longer."
"The conditions were super treacherous; the weather wasn't kind to us. We're doing all of this on cold, wet grass. To gain traction to hit the approach ramps at the correct speeds simultaneously and send all the Defenders through the air, even watching it on the monitors, you looked at it and it was like does that look for real? But it was," said Layton. "We rehearsed it maybe three or five times, and then when we went to the actual take, we probably ran that seven or eight times."
This week, Layton got to finally see the finished product with his crew at one of the first screenings.
"To watch it last night, it was rewarding. For everybody that was involved in production for the whole film, it's something everybody can be very proud of," said Layton. "Dreaming as a kid, you create these sequences or car chases in your head. I think my favorite was the car chase through Matera, which was unique, because of the roads and conditions in a 3,000-year-old town. That was great."
We thought it was great too, and doesn't seem nearly as long as its 2-hour, 45-minute run time. If you have a chance this weekend, and like Bond films, car chases or fight sequences, along with a little bit of heart, check out No Time To Die.