James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is coming to Christie’s

Special effects and action vehicles supervisor Chris Corbould on the set of No Time To Die in Matera, Italy. Photo © 1998 Hewlett-Packard Company

The first James Bond movie I worked on was The spy who loved mewhich was released in 1977. I was working for a special effects company at the time, based in Pinewood Studios. The first task I was given was to make a ski pole that turned into a gun. I ended up on set and helped blow up Karl Stromberg’s underwater base, Atlantis.

About 75 percent of my role as a Special Effects Supervisor is about technique. That aspect of the profession has become increasingly prominent over the years. The spy who loved me characterized by mechanical installations, but nothing beats the sinking house in Casino royale (2006), which was four stories high and weighed 120 tons. In front of skyfall in 2012, we showed tube trains crashing through the set, which required the construction of a two-car overhead monorail.

“I said to the director, Sam Mendes, ‘Sam, we’re in the middle of the Moroccan desert, no buildings in sight – I can give you a blast you’ll love!'”

James Bond engineers have always taken pride in getting everything really on camera. That has been their mantra for years. CGIA [computer-generated imagery] is a great tool and we use it for many reasons, mainly to ensure security. However, the actors will react very differently to an assistant director who simply says ‘Explosion!’ calls. over a megaphone, compared to a real explosion 100 feet behind them.

The big explosion at the end of Ghost [2015]where Bond destroys Blofeld’s desert lair, had to be CGI. The computer guys kept showing examples to the director, Sam Mendes, but he wasn’t happy about it. I said to him one day, ‘Sam, we are in the middle of the Moroccan desert, no buildings in sight – I can give you an explosion that you will love!’ And he said, “Okay, let’s get on with it.”

I came up with some special effects ideas for the James Bond movies. The Tank Chase Golden Eye (1995) was originally a motorcycle chase. I was asked to go into the office to talk to the producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and the director, Martin Campbell. They said, ‘How can we make this chase more spectacular?’

My immediate response was, ‘Down with it. Let’s do something else. Bond starts the chase in a military park with military vehicles everywhere, so let’s make him take one—like a tank.”

We then came up with this theory that, yes, a car is faster, but the tank can take shortcuts through buildings. We had a lot of fun with that.

Location can be a big factor in dictating what a sequence will look like. When you do a site visit, you enjoy the architecture and the surrounding nooks and crannies, and everything starts to fall into place. In Istanbul, we went up on the rooftops and someone said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a motorcycle chase down this roof?’ The whole series for the opening of skyfall came from that.

For the first chase in No time to die (2021), I visited Matera in Southern Italy about 13 times with Lee Morrison, the stunt coordinator?. We would report to Director Cary Joji Fukunaga with the locations we found and what we could do. He would tick something off, but also say: ‘No, we need something else here’ and then we have to go outside again.

A key ingredient to a good chase is a good car, and James Bond is blessed with the Aston Martin DB5. We needed 10 for it No time to die, but at £2 million each, it was not financially viable to buy them all. Instead, we opted for two real DB5s for photos of Daniel Craig getting in and out, after which Aston Martin made eight identical replicas.

‘In Matera we built a whole installation that allowed us to let the car do a donut remotely, without Daniel doing anything. Unfortunately Daniel stole our thunder because he did the donut himself!’

You need at least two models of each car. If one fails, 500 people can’t stand while it’s being repaired. We fitted two with driving pods on the roof so we could let British rally champion Mark Higgins drive the car while Daniel and Léa Seydoux were filmed indoors cornering at 80mph.

There were two more DB5s equipped with all the gadgets: we updated the weapons in the front and little bombs that would fall out in the back. Four other cars were stunt cars – dressed from the windows up and down equipped with roll cages, hydraulic hand brakes and stunt fuel tanks.

In Matera, Lee Morrison couldn’t get the DB5’s tires in to grip the polished stone the way he wanted. Then he came up with the idea of ​​spraying a well-known brand of carbonated drink on the road and making it sticky. I was skeptical at first, but the extra stickiness allowed him to corner 20mph faster.

Daniel Craig is a very good driver. Before each film, he spends a few weeks with the stuntmen, getting used to each car. They really put him to the test.

In Matera we built a whole installation that allowed us to let the car make a donut remotely, without Daniel doing anything. Unfortunately Daniel stole our thunder because he did the donut himself! But for insurance reasons, he can’t do much. You can’t let your protagonist take too many risks.

It’s unusual to have two car chases in one movie. In No time to diehowever, the two sequences are so different—one in a 5,000-year-old city, the other rural and off-road—that they complement each other.

The chase with Range Rovers and Defenders was shot at six locations. We started in Norway, but also used Windsor Great Park and a private estate in Scotland. Land Rover gave us 10 pre-production Defenders to film that no one had seen at the time. They didn’t want any photos to come out before the big launch, so we always had to keep them hidden.

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I’ve been working on it for about 11 months No time to die. It’s fast and it’s daunting at first when you have all the ideas in front of you and you think, ‘How am I ever going to achieve this?’ But luckily I had a great crew that took up the challenge every time.