My Day With James Bond
Major Loy's experiences with Tomorrow Never Dies.
I was nine years old when I saw Goldfinger, and I was hooked. I've been a staunch Bond fan ever since. My friends think I'm nuts. My wife and I watch a Bond movie at least once a week. My kids know the words to every Bond movie theme . . . well, I think you get the picture.
Imagine my surprise when I got a call from a Captain who works for me asking if I would like to work the "Bond" detail. I am an Air Force Major stationed at Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. I work in Special Operations. In fact, in my job I have dealt with real "James Bond" types for a number of years. I'm sure my "Bond" background is one of the reasons I got into Special Ops. As my mouth answered "sure," my brain screamed "all right!"
EON was actually filming one scene at our sister base, RAF Lakenheath (only 5 miles away) one day, and another scene at our base the next. This gave me the opportunity to meet numerous persons on the crew the day before the shooting at our base.
While that scene was being filmed, I was helping the setup for the next day's filming. Since the scene was to be on the inside of a C-130 aircraft, we arranged for one of our hangars to be used so filming could be done inside in case of inclement weather. Once the MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft was towed inside, the EON trucks started rolling in.
The scene was filmed entirely in the back of the aircraft. Since the tail opens up on a C- 130 it was fairly easy to figure out the camera angles. In setting up the scene a console was added to the back of the aircraft for Dr. Greenwalt, the Air Force GPS expert played by Colin Stinton. The panel was made of old aircraft parts and looked fairly impressive, but looked to new. After placing the panel in the aircraft we suggested that it be soiled a bit to match the interior. The special effect's department rubbed a quick layer of black paint and it matched within minutes.
They then placed an ordinary three-legged stool next to it to sit on! We laughed so hard it hurt. It didn't match at all. We suggested that we take the navigator's seat from the front of the aircraft and place it next to the panel. Viola! It looked great. After a while we realized it looked too bland so they crew chiefs for the aircraft painted their names on the side of it! Look for it in the movie!
Tons of lights, cameras, and wind machines were moved in. By the end of the day it looked like a miniature movie studio. During the first day I befriended the producer's limousine driver, Mr. Brian Brookner. He was a blast. He has driven movie stars and directors for more than twenty years, and been on the set of numerous Bond movies. His tales kept me in stitches for hours.
More important, he arranged for us to have lunch at the backlot and even showed me the special edition BMWs that were given to EON for the movie - quite extraordinary (did you know they gave ten free sedans to EON to have the Bond car included in TND?). After the end of a very exciting day I headed for home greatly anticipating meeting the stars and the shooting for the next day.
The next morning was unbelievably slow. The director, Roger Spottiswoode is a perfectionist and it took from 6:00 a.m. till noon to set up the scene. Meanwhile, I had a chance to meet some of the actors. Colin Stinton was very nice. He gave me his autograph and seemed thrilled that anyone wanted it. He said he was thrilled to be in a Bond movie and hoped the part could be reprised some time.
Al Matthews (remember Aliens?) plays an Air Force Master Sergeant. He too was nice enough to give me his autograph and chat. He was very finny, a real cut-up. He liked telling stories and having a crowd around him. He mentioned that being a character actor is great work and he recommended it.
By far the nicest actor on the set was Joe Don Baker. He was wearing his trade mark loud Hawaiian style shirt and a floppy hat. He gave me his autograph and we talked for quite a while. I explained my love of Bond and he asked me what the fans thought of his returning as Jack Wade. I stated that I could only speak for myself but I believed that most avid Bond fans like continuity of actors between movies. He explained that he had just been hired two days earlier after prolonged negotiation over money. When I told him how thrilled I was with his character he told me to tell the director to give him a raise!
At one point he commented that he thought he was the first character to return to a Bond film other than the star or HQ personnel. I pointed out that there were actually a few others to include David Heddeson who played the same part twice. He seemed disappointed that he wasn't the first. Other than the fact that it took a whole day to film this one scene, he obviously enjoyed playing his role and it is obvious that he genuinely likes Pierce Brosnan.
Brosnan was given a small room for a dressing room and spent most of the day resting. Since he was wearing a rubber suit most of the day, he would dehydrate easily under the hot lights. Although you could tell it was getting to him, he was a gentleman all the way. He gave everyone an autograph (for me and my wife - To Kevin, Life 97 - Pierce Brosnan). We spoke briefly and he thanked me for my advice and shook my hand. I was very surprised at the strength of his handshake.
Once shooting started it was a matter of reshooting the same scene roughly 30 to 40 times. Sometimes the director would change the camera angle, or move the wind machine. But basically it was never changed much. To make the aircraft appear to be flying a sergeant was placed on the tail of the airplane to jump up and down to make the aircraft move slightly. He did this for hours before they realized it really wasn't needed.
There were numerous breaks during which the director, Roger Spottiswoode and Pierce Brosnan would review takes from the previous days shooting. They did this right in front of us and didn't mind letting us see the wonderful footage. They reviewed the shooting at Lakenheath and the motorcycle chase scene. Listening to them discuss editing and camera angles made it obvious that both men trusted each other.
Roger Spottiswoode was also nice enough to give me his autograph and he couldn't have been more gracious. He is a quiet spoken man who seemed to get things done by suggestion rather than by barking out orders. He mentioned that he liked filming on location with real people because it gives the film a grittiness and authenticity. A few of the workers on the set complained about his attention to detail and how it slowed filming, but everyone seemed pleased with what they saw. He could have easily cleared the set when reviewing films but was nice enough to let us watch.
Barbara Broccoli was there most of the time to oversee production but rarely said anything. She preferred to stay behind the scenes. I never had the opportunity to speak to her but everyone seemed to like and respect her. I did however get to talk with some senior staff member of EON and had a particularly interesting discussion about future Bond movies. As an avid Bond fan I was grilled for my opinions on the direction that Bond is going.
I brought up the point that Bond should be in the 90s as he is presently portrayed but that the lack of connection between the Bond books and the movies is particularly sad. I talked at length about how I believe that Bond 20 (two movies after TND) should be a modern version of Casino Royale. I know that it has never been seriously filmed and that in fact the rights are not really in EONs hand. However, EON responded very positively and asked if I would like to write a script updating CR to the 90s!
At the end of the day the scene had been shot to perfection and the actors said goodbye to each other. This was the final day of shooting for Joe Don Baker, AL Matthews, and Colin Stinton. Pearce gave Matthews and Baker both a very big hug and wished them well. The crew cleared the set withing 90 minutes and were on their way . . .