What is it that makes the long-running series, James Bond, so special? Aside from Martinis, fast cars and beautiful locations, it’s often the jaw-dropping stunts that help make a Bond movie memorable.
They are some of the most dramatic and memorable scenes in the history of James Bond movies.
But in the increasingly complex world of cinematography, not everything is quite what it seems.
From the spectacular image of a seven-storey building collapsing under 007’s feet to the simple cameo of a mouse scurrying across a floor, the camera sometimes has to lie.
Increasingly, however, cinematic deception has come to involve the use of computer-generated images (CGI). Now, CGI has evolved beyond our wildest dreams throughout cinematic history. Today you wouldn’t be able to tell what is fact or fiction if it hit you in the face.
The Bond franchise has always sworn that using real stunts, explosions and fight scenes were truly authentic. However, that doesn’t mean to say that their surroundings were.
Take a look at these two images for example:
Of course, not all the scenes are performed by real actors. In fact, even though Daniel Craig did perform some of his own stunts, over the period of 15 years, Craig did have a number of loyal stunt doubles to help him out.
There are a lot of scenes in the Bond franchise that has really felt like near-death experiences, for both the stuntmen and the audience involved. Well, that’s because they were!
It’s not just about the performance though, it’s about the planning and coordination of a practical stunt that wows audiences more than ever, and for audiences to expect when watching 007.
As stunt fighters, pilots, divers, swimmers, climbers, body-doubles, skaters, shooters…anything you can think of in the films, a stunt performer probably had a hand in bringing to the big screen.
While visual effects are present at times to reduce some of the risks, the stunt is mostly practical which means there is ALWAYS risk, but always something so much more worthwhile in watching on the big screen.
Let’s take a look at some of the most terrifying action scenes that actually happened in the Bond films – no CGI, nothing.
1973 Live And Let Die – The Crocodile Run
The scene sees James Bond – played here by Roger Moore, trying to escape a small island after being captured. However, the actor has been replaced by a stunt double for this moment – realising that his best escape route is to use crocodile backs as stepping stones.
Many would think that these animals were probably just stuffed toys or electronic snappers but think again.
Yes, they were real!
While searching for locations in Jamaica, the crew discovered a crocodile farm, after passing a sign warning that “trespassers will be eaten”. It was here on this farm that they met their next stuntman.
The stunt double used for this scene was Ross Kananga who also owned the crocodile farm. Overall the scene took over five takes to get right.
Crocodiles can jump 20-30 feet high out of the water, so acting on a bridge wasn’t entirely safe. They did tie-up the crocodiles feet though-just in case.
After two takes, the situation became more dangerous for Kananga.
The crocodiles had already seen the act twice, so they were waiting in anticipation for his next attempt. On the fourth take, one of his shoes was caught in a croc’s mouth.
“The film company kept sending to London for more clothes,” Kananga revealed in a 1973 interview. “The crocs were chewing off everything when I hit the water, including shoes. I received one hundred ninety-three stitches on my leg and face.”
Finally, on the afternoon of December 31st, 1972, Ross Kananga successfully completed the stunt on the fifth take.
Watch his nail-biting failed attempts below:
James Bond 1977 The Spy Who Loved Me – The Parachute Skier
Rick Sylvester, an American multi-skilled mountaineer and skier became part of the Bond family from 1977 to 1981.
He was asked to perform stunts that set the standard for all James Bond set-pieces.
In the movie, when everything looks hopeless for James Bond – he defies all odds and ‘Bond’ aka Rick Sylvester, uses his BASE jumping skill to ski from the top of Mount Asgard in Canada, in a stunt that would come to encapsulate everything we love about James Bond; his daring-do, his skill and his love for Queen and country.
Yes, this act was real!
In one take captured by one camera, Sylvester skis off the summit and falls over 6,000ft. At the last minute, he rips the cord and deploys the Union Jack parachute to a full burst of the James Bond theme in the soundtrack.
Factoring in the weather and wind and the falling skis, the film crew and Sylvester produced a stunt that proved when it comes to the original action, nobody does it better.
2006 Casino Royale – The Parkour Chase And The Mighty Crane Jump
What better way to introduce a new, modern Bond than have him perform parkour, the free-running technique that was just entering the public consciousness around the mid-2000s.
Daniel Craig pursues a bomber played by Sébastien Foucan, considered by many as the founder of Parkour, to the top of a crane, engaging in a fight that will give even the bravest viewer a case of vertigo.
Shooting the scene at 100 feet above the ground, even seasoned action filmmakers felt the jeopardy in capturing the action.
The heart-stopping leap from one crane to another and then onto a roof was achieved in one shot. Although most of the jumpers were sporting safety harnesses connected to an even higher crane and a small landing platform was digitally erased from the shot, one actor did not.
All the running and highly intense parkour scenes were done by Sébastien Foucan, the founder of freerunning and personal trainer.
Yes, he actually did this without any safety equipment. However, even for the crane scene, he admits that it was a bit scary.
“Even me, when I was doing James Bond – I was scared. I only had one tiny wire supporting me and my mind couldn’t accept that was enough. But you focus and you learn to believe you can do it. That’s where I think freerunning has been influenced by martial arts – in that sense of inner focus and concentration and self-belief” – Sébastien Foucan
James Bond 2012 Skyfall – The Motorbike Chase On Top Of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
The James Bond film “Skyfall,” directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig, filmed one of the movie’s most important action scenes atop Istanbul’s iconic Grand Bazaar.
Most would think that this scene is probably simply some planks set on the ground with a massive green screen behind.
Well, you guessed it, no, it actually happened.
One hallmark of James Bond movies is that they always open with a great action scene. In ‘Skyfall,’ Daniel Craig chases a henchman in Istanbul, crashing through a crowded market and over the city’s rooftops.
Risking life and limb, two stuntmen climbed to the roof of the Grand Bazaar for the scene on April 17, riding Honda motorcycles across the top of the large market while shop owners in the bazaar watched them through windows.
According to The Daily News, The dangerous scenes, for which 400 people worked, were successfully staged without incident.
However, on the first day of Istanbul filming over the weekend, a 400-year-old wooden building in the Grand Bazaar was damaged, when motorcycles that were passing in front of a jewellery shop, missed the corner and hit the structure.
They ended up having to use plastic tiles, imported from the UK, to place ontop of the historic roof for more protection. They also supported the plastic tiles with silicone materials so as not to damage the roof
One of the stuntmen, Robbie Maddison, who holds the world record for longest motorcycle jump (322 feet), doubled for Daniel Craig here.
With no helmets or safety equipment, the entire scene was completed in one take.
In the end, James Bond just wouldn’t be James Bond without the stunts.
Of course, there is plenty more where that came from! However, with more sophisticated computer work, less and less dramatic stunts like these are rarely seen nowadays.
The spy franchise, James Bond, has featured some of the most jaw-dropping action moments in cinema over the years, and it’s these incredible stunts that have ensured cinema-goers rarely leave disappointed after seeing new Bond movies on the big screen.
We look forward to seeing what incredible stunt work and epic battle scenes await us in the new bond film No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s last Bond film.
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