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Fights, camera, action! A look at the stunt work in Casino Royale

05-Nov-2006 • Casino Royale

Daniel is extremely fit and strong – and he’s 100 per cent up for it. In the construction site scene [above] we had him 90ft up on eight-inch girders. He had no problem with that,’ says Gary Powell, a long-time Bond stunt co-ordinator - reports the Mail On Sunday.

But Casino Royale takes a different approach to action from the last two effects-heavy 007 outings; in fact it harks back to the earlier Bond films. In You Only Live Twice, when Sean Connery escaped on a jetpack, a stuntman used the real deal – the only functioning one around at the time. And in Casino Royale, everything, from a plane exploding to Daniel Craig leaping across huge gaps 90ft above the ground, is ‘real’.

‘Audiences are getting bored with computer graphics,’ says Powell. ‘There’s so much computer work in action films, you may as well be watching Shrek.’ For a blockbuster, Casino Royale is uniquely light on computer effects. ‘We use them to top up, but really as little as possible.’

Sébastien Foucan, the French freerunner who plays terrorist Mollaka, says, ‘There were security systems in place but all the action is real. There was no point pretending the chase across the girders wasn’t going to be dangerous – it was.’

Fortunately, the major casualties during filming were the machines. ‘In one sequence,’ says Powell, ‘Bond’s Aston Martin gets rolled after a chase with a Jaguar. We had four Astons and four Jaguars on hand. If something went wrong, we didn’t waste time repairing it. We just kept the cameras rolling.’

One of the most spectacular and explosive sequences takes place at an airport – supposedly Miami International but in fact Dunsfold airstrip in leafy Surrey – and Live was invited to view some of the action first-hand.

The sequence depicts a terrorist, Carlos, attempting to blow up a prototype superjumbo aircraft and thus send Boeing’s share price into free-fall, so that the villain Le Chiffre can clean up on the stock market.

As Carlos steals a fuel tanker, with the aim of ramming it into the plane, Bond leaps on to the roof of the vehicle. Carlos attempts to shake him off, by swerving violently and then ramming into anything in sight. First, he smashes into some baggage trolleys fitted with nitrogen cannons – which shoot the trolleys and their contents into the air on impact – and then he ploughs into a bus.

There were in fact three tankers for filming: one for basic driving, another fitted with a huge counterweight on one side to enable it to drive on two wheels, and a third that has a driving position hidden so it looks like the principal actor is driving when in fact it is a stuntman. Each tanker was stripped from 16 tons to eight and fitted with a 600bhp racing engine. They were also fitted with pyrotechnic devices on the sides to make sparks fly on contact with other vehicles.

To make the bus jump in the air on impact, one half of the bus was yanked into the air using a pulley system. The explosions are created with petrol. The same shot was repeated 30 times in one night. Then, around 3.30am, the inevitable finally happened: the vehicles get too close and BANG! There was an almighty crash. A front wheel on the tanker blew and its axle buckled. The ambulance and fire teams, who are on constant call, leapt into action.

But the stuntman driver got out of the cab grinning. The stunt co-ordinator looked unconcerned, even when steam and sparks started coming from the cab’s radiator. Powell got on the walkietalkie and a new tanker arrived, while a forklift truck removed the mangled vehicle. ‘That one’ll be fixed by Monday,’ he said nonchalantly.

As we left the set, I asked how big the explosions were going to get in the airport scene. ‘Put it this way,’ said one of the crew. ‘There’s a petrol tanker… and it’s a Bond movie. What do you think?’

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