Special effects and miniature effects supervisor
Chris Corbould Lamont
talks about his work on
Casino Royale and bringing Bond back to reality...
Casino Royale Special Effects Supervisor Interview
- Chris Corbould
4th December 2006
When Chris Corbould had that sinking feeling
on the set of Casino Royale he knew that months of meticulous
preparation and hard work had paid off.
As special effects and miniature effects
supervisor on the 21st James Bond film his remit is far
and wide ranging,
as he explains. “It starts off with the atmospherics – we’re
responsible for any rain, any snow, any wind.
“And then there is the pyrotechnic side of things
because we are responsible for any explosions, bullet hits,
that sort of thing. And then we deal with the engineering
Corbould is one of the most experienced and talented exponents
of this cinematic art (as no less than three BAFTA nominations
would testify) but even he admits that Casino Royale provided
a completely unique challenge – hence that sinking
One of the key segments of the film features a beautiful
house sinking into the water in Venice. Inside, Bond (Daniel
Craig in his first outing as 007) and his lover Vesper
Lynd (Eva Green) are trapped as the house literally falls
in around them and they are pursued by attackers.
It’s a remarkable sequence both on screen and off,
especially when you consider the incredible lengths that
Corbould and his colleagues (especially production designer
Peter Lamont) went to, to make it happen.
Above: Special effects and miniature
effects supervisor Chris Corbould
Basically the inside of the house was built
on a giant ‘rig’,
weighing a mighty 100 tons, which took up the whole of the famous
007 Stage at Pinewood Studios.
“It’s the biggest rig I’ve ever built in a
30 year career,” says Chris with an understandable hint
of pride. “The actual rig measured 45 foot by 40 foot,
was 45 foot high and it reached the roof of the 007 stage, that’s
how big it was.”
In the story, the house is kept afloat only by a series of giant
inflation bags propping up the ancient, crumbling structure.
When the bad guys start destroying these massive balloons – one
by one – the whole house begins to come apart at the seams
with water gushing in.
Chris and his colleagues had built the set around an existing
indoor tank at Pinewood – increased to 20 foot deep from
it’s normal 8 foot – and the rig, operated by computer,
ensured that walls tumbled down and the whole set could drop
16 foot at the very push of a button.
It took us months and months to research it, design it and then
make it. And we were still tinkering with it the day before we
shot on the set. But to be honest, it worked really well and
we were very pleased with it.”
And that wasn’t all. With the problem of the interior
of this old house solved, it was then time to switch to the exterior.
So a model, one third the size, was built in another giant water
tank on the back lot at Pinewood, completely with more than 100
different parts of the building designed to fall off as it falls
into the water.
“We had to build the exterior of this Venetian house and
it’s a lot more complicated than you would think,” he
recalls. “There was something like 150 different bits that
fall off from tiny bits of rendering to chimneys and balconies,
you name it. It was quite a challenge - and it was like a big
jigsaw to put back together.”
Corbould has a long and distinguished association with the James
Bond films. “My first one was The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
with Roger Moore as James Bond and I also worked on Moonraker
with Roger. I did the two films with Timothy Dalton and then
four with Pierce (Brosnan). I’m on my fourth Bond but please
don’t call me a veteran,” he jokes.
His impressive CV also includes Superman II and Superman III,
Willow, Alien, Shadowlands, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire
Chronicles, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins.
How does the process of making Casino Royale start for
Well, it would have been a few months before we start filming.
I meet up with the producers and the director once they have
a script and we start looking to see if there are gadgets in
it, what the action sequences are going to be like, how we can
change them and spruce them up. And then I would start working
with Martin (Campbell, director) specifically on the action stuff.
What was Casino Royale like in terms of your job as special
Actually it was an interesting one. There were lots of reports
about ‘there’s no action in it.’ well that’s
rubbish, because there is actually a lot of action in it culminating
in building the biggest rig I’ve built in a 30-year career.
And what was that?
It was the interior of the sinking house in Venice. We built
it on the 007 Stage at Pinewood. It was the biggest rig I’ve
built by a far margin.
How long did that take to build?
We started thinking about it in October, once we’d
met with Martin and he told us what he wanted. And then Peter
Lamont (production designer) came up with the designs and we
started doing some research and development into exactly how
we would do it. It was started in October and we were still tweaking
it the day before we started shooting it several months later.
I have to say, we were all pleased with it and it worked very
What did that rig have to do?
The sequence is set in what they call a house but is more
like the inside of an hotel lobby. It was four stories high with
a great big archway inside and a lift. The actual rig measured
I think 45 foot by 40 foot by 45 foot high and it reached the
roof of the 007 stage, that’s how big it was. This is supposed
to be a house in Venice where the foundations are rotting and
to stop it sinking further they’ve installed these inflation
bags, about eight of them, to take the weight off the crumbling
foundations. Now, during the action sequence Bond is going in
there for whatever reason and comes across the villains and these
inflation bags start being destroyed, one by one. This causes
the building to list over to one corner. With our rig we could
move up and down 16 foot, we could tilt it from right to left
and forward and backwards fifteen degrees, we could do anything
with it, to be honest. The 007 Stage already has an eight-foot
tank in it but to get the most out of this the production built
the side of the tank up another 12 feet, giving us 20 feet of
water. And it was linked with hydraulic valves and computerised.
And to be honest, it worked like a dream. We were all very pleased
How many people did you have on your team?
When we were flat out it was about 70 or 80. That wasn’t
as much as, say, Die Another Day, when we were up to 120. But
on that we had a lot of car work with the Aston Martins and Jaguars
which is probably where the difference comes from.
In special effects, what does your remit cover?
Well, it starts off with the atmospherics – we’re
responsible for any rain, any snow, any wind. And then there
is the pyrotechnic side of things because we are responsible
for any explosions, bullet hits, that sort of things. And then
we deal with the engineering side – just like the rig that
I’ve just told you about. You then go into the gadgets.
There weren’t too many gadgets on this one but we would
be looking after them. And then there are the cars and any modifications
they might need.
What cars did you have on Casino Royale?
We had the Aston Martin DBS which is the new sporty version
and a very nice looking car. That doesn’t come out until
next year. We didn’t have much to do with it but stunts
did a fantastic roll in it.
What was Daniel like
in his first outing as James Bond?
Our biggest thing with the cast – and the whole
crew – is the safety element and Daniel was very up for
being in amongst the action - more so than any other actor
I’ve ever worked with. He was absolutely obsessed with
it and he wanted his face in there. I’m a great believer
in that, for me that’s value for money with the actors
on screen, as long as it’s safe. And we did a lot stuff.
He did this whole run where he’s going along
a corridor where all the windows are being shot out and
we obviously had to be very meticulous in the planning
of all of this. I’d worked with Daniel before on
Tomb Raider so I knew he could handle himself as far as
the action but we still got him in and said ‘look,
this is what you are going to be up against.’ We
showed him everything so that he was confident when he
went into it.
And how did he do?
He’s just superb. He’s a real special
effects and stunt department’s dream. He thrives
on it and he’s a real pleasure to work with.
So he’s going to be a good
Oh, I can’t say enough good things about him.
I think he’s great and he’s got a real Steve
McQueen feel about him. McQueen is one of my favourite
actors and Daniel reminds me of him.
Above: Daniel Craig as James Bond
You’ve done quite a few Bond movies.
Which was your first one?
My first one was The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) with Roger
Moore as James Bond and I also worked on Moonraker with Roger.
I did the two films with Timothy Dalton and then four with Pierce
(Brosnan). I’m on my fourth Bond but please don’t
call me a veteran (laughs).
It seems that there are several core members of the crew
who have a long involvement with Bond and you are one of them.
I’ve almost grown up with Barbara (Broccoli, producer)
making these films and it does feel like family. And all of us
are very close and once you have proved yourself to them they
trust you and they keep asking you back all of the time, which
for me is a pleasure. And also Bond, for me as a special effects
guy in a CG dominated world, has been a bastion of what I can
excel at. They still give me the opportunity to show what I can
do physically rather then using CGI.
You mentioned the sinking house rig. What other challenges
will you remember from Casino Royale?
I got heavily involved with the models on this one. We had
to build the exterior of this Venetian house and it’s a
lot more complicated than you would think. It was a third scale
so it was 18 foot high, 18 foot wide, something like that. We
built it at Pinewood and shot it in the exterior tank there.
Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara
Broccoli (Eon Productions) and directed by Martin Campbell,
CASINO ROYALE was released on November 16, 2006
in the UK. Principal photography started on
January 30th 2006, with locations in the UK, Czech Republic
(Prague), Italy, and the Bahamas. It is British actor
Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond. He is the
sixth actor to play the 007 role in the franchise.
The film also stars Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads
Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino,
Simon Abkarian, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Clemens Schik,
Ludger Pistor, Claudio Santamaria and Isaach de Bankole.
Thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment