Today, veteran James Bond 007 stunt co-ordinator and second unit director Vic Armstrong turns 70. The following interview was conducted during the "Bond in Motion" press day at London Film Museum, 18 March 2014.
All text © Brian Iskov/James Bond•O•Rama
Vic Armstrong, very pleased to meet you. You and the Bond franchise go way back.
Yeah, 1966. Forty-odd years.
Do you have a favorite Bond car?
I did like the Aston Martin. But if I had my choice to pick any one of the cars I've worked with, it would be the BMW Z8. I think it's unique. I got a few cars, I've got a 450 SL C Mercedes, I've got a Bentley Continental GT. I like cars that are pretty and have a certain personality, as all those cars have, and I think the BMW is actually matching them quite well.
Some people didn't care much for the BMW's, mainly because they weren't British.
Yes. All that sort of talk went on, but the sales of BMW quadrupled, I think, after "GoldenEye" (1995). It went through the roof.
And Bond barely used the car in the film.
I know! Did nothing with it, just drove it along. But it quadrupled the sales.
On 2 May 2003, SF (Svensk Filmindustri) released "Die Another Day", the 20th James Bond 007 film from EON Productions, on 2-disc DVD and VHS in Denmark.
To mark the video release, this free GoCard postcard was distributed to Danish cinemas, cafes and restaurants.
Note: The sponsored logo in the lower right corner advertises Crazy Daisy, a provincial chain of Danish discotheques.
"The Program", a French-British co-production directed by Stephen Frears ("The Queen", "Philomena"), is released in Danish cinemas today.
"The Program", which premiered in the UK on 16 October, tells the story of professional cyclist Lance Armstrong (played by Ben Foster) and his fall from grace. Armstrong defeated his early cancer diagnosis and went on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles, all the while denying his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
A special point of interest for fans of James Bond 007 comes during a brief sequence in which Lance Armstrong receives some hard-hitting news from an oncologist at an American clinic.
The doctor is played by none other than Michael Gregg Wilson, who is of course best known as one of the two main producers behind EON Productions' James Bond film franchise. Wilson is credited in the end crawl of "The Program" for his performance as "Lance's Doctor".
The 73-year old Michael G. Wilson has been involved as a writer and/or producer on every James Bond film from EON Productions since "Moonraker" in 1979.
"Listen, you have to suck up to anyone you can!" Stephen Frears joked, when Bond•O•Rama.dk asked him about Michael G. Wilson's cameo part in "The Program" during Toronto International Film Festival, where the film had its world premiere in September 2015.
Stephen Frears continued:
"Lance Armstrong went to a hospital in America. It was a very, very distinguished doctor who treated Lance, and I thought I'd better find somebody substantial to play him. I just didn't want to be frivolous about the doctor."
At the Danish gala premiere of "SPECTRE" at the Imperial cinema in Copenhagen 27 October 2015, Bond•O•Rama.dk had the chance to ask Michael G. Wilson himself about his guest appearance in "The Program" (watch video below).
"Well, he asked me to play a doctor, yes. The oncologist. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it," Michael G. Wilson said. He then inquired if I had seen "The Program", which I confirmed.
"Oh, good. Well, alright. Don't give me any reviews," Wilson added, laughing.
Michael G. Wilson also reminisced about his brief cameo apperances in the James Bond film series. To date, Wilson has appeared as an extra or a bit player in 16 of the EON Bond films, starting when he was a teenager helping out his stepfather, Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, on the American leg of the "Goldfinger" shoot in 1964.
"I was only there for three weeks. We went to Fort Knox, and I worked there as a runner. Third assistant director kind of thing," Michael G. Wilson told Bond•O•Rama.dk.
"It was a necessity at one time, when I was in "Goldfinger", I had to appear just to fill out the background. But you know, it became sort of something that we did; [it] became a tradition".
In the current Bond smash "SPECTRE" (2015), Michael G. Wilson has a "blink-and-miss-it" walk-on part. He can be glimpsed shaking hands with Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). The young man accompanying Wilson in this sequence is his son, Gregg Wilson, who is also the film's associate producer. If Michael G. Wilson should ever choose to retire, Gregg Wilson is expected to carry on the EON Productions' James Bond franchise as Barbara Broccoli's main producing partner.
The relationship between Michael G. Wilson and Stephen Frears goes back to 2003, when Wilson and his half-sister and fellow producer, Barbara Broccoli, considered doing a spinoff movie starring Jinx, the Halle Berry character from "Die Another Day" (2002).
Stephen Frears was slated to direct "Jinx" for a short while ("About ten minutes!" Frears chuckled when Bond•O•Rama.dk asked him about it). EON's regular writing duo Robert Wade and Neal Purvis delivered a first draft in 2003, but MGM decided not to go forward with the project, apparently to the dismay of Wilson and Broccoli.
● Read Variety's original news item about "Jinx" (October 2003)
This interview with special effects supervisor and EON Productions veteran Chris Corbould took place during the "Bond in Motion" press day at London Film Museum, 19 March 2014.
All rights © Brian Iskov for James Bond•O•Rama.
Chris Corbould, your first Bond gig was as a special effects assistant on ”The Spy Who Loved Me” back in 1976. How many Bond films have worked on since then?
I've done 13 in all [14 including the later ”Spectre” - ed.]. The one film I didn't work on was ”Octopussy” (1983).
So you're definitely an integral part of the Bond family.
Yes. They [the Broccolis] are a great family to work with. I've had many great years working with them. Hopefully many more.
Do you ever get to drive any of the cars in the films?
Absolutely. These [Jaguars and Aston Martins from ”Die Another Day” (2002)] are quite interesting, because my department had to modify both cars. We actually had four Jaguars and four Astons to be four wheel-drived, because there were no four wheel-drive models of these cars. The whole chase sequence, the battle sequence, happened on the ice, so we decided to convert them to four wheel-drive. Plus all the weapons. We had a lot of fun on this sequence on the ice, and because we were on ice, both cars had an inflating ... buoyancy system. So if they went through the ice, they would automatically inflate and keep both the driver and the car afloat.
And you're triggering all effects live from this radio-control console?
Yes. That controls the missiles coming out, the gun rotating, the gun firing ... You know, the driver has enough to do doing all the stunt driving, so we figured we wouldn't give him that responsibility. So we would always handle all the gadgetry that went on.
I'm guessing you didn't do the invisible car. That would have been another department.
No, no, no, we left that to somebody else. I'm not a great fan of that one, but there you go! I think we pushed the limits a bit too far on that one.
So which of the Bond cars did you like the most?
I enjoyed the Vanquish, I thought it was a nice car. Actually liked the one in ”The Living Daylights” (1987), which was a real meaty ... the Vantage?
The [Aston Martin] Volante? The black one with the outrigger skis?
Yeah, that was my favorite, because I was prepping that, doing all the preparation in Austria when we shot it, so we would take it out on the ice and drive it around the ice. It was a lot of fun.
Did you work on the Lotus Esprit when you did ”The Spy Who Loved Me”?
Sadly, I didn't. I was on that film mainly based back in England, and they shot most of that in the Bahamas.
Is it true that you couldn't get the Aston Martin DBS in ”Casino Royale” (2006) to roll over because the tyre grip was too good?
It wasn't that. The centre of balance was so good that the stunt guys tried several times to steer into it and turn it, and in the end, we had to put a small nitrogen cannon in it. So as they turned into it, we would hit the nitrogen cannon, and it would make that flip. Once it was flipping, it was fine. It was just getting it flipping that was the problem, initially. But we got it in the end. They're just class cars, aren't they? They're not designed to flip over. They put a lot of work into them to make sure they don't flip over. We had to help it a little bit.
Apparently, around the time of ”GoldenEye” (1995), the British Automobile Association complained that Bond shouldn't be driving a BMW.
Well, so what really? You have to change every now and again, and when the Aston came back, everybody loved it again. You can't just stick with the same car every time. We had the Lotuses for a little while, we had the BMW's, and we're back to Astons now. It just makes it more fun, I think, if you change it a little bit every now and again. It would get boring if you just kept using the same car.
What do you think makes the Aston Martin such an iconic car?
I think it's quintessentially a very British car, as Bond is. It's a classy car, elegant, and it just lends itself to fast driving. And also, the gadgets that we put in it. You don't expect to see the gadgets coming out of such a classy car. I think [the contrast] that all helps.
Part of your job seems to be giving the cars personality beyond what they already have from the factory.
Yeah, character. Absolutely. That's what we strive to do. We have to really dig deep in your brain these days to try and come up with something that hasn't been seen before. I mean, when you look at how many of the cars have got missiles on! We have to strive and come up with something different.