Les Ambassadeurs Plaques
22nd June 2022
Barry Eldridge explains the process of recreating Bond props for a new generation of enthusiast
By MI6 Staff
In 2022, the 60th anniversary of the Bond films, Factory Entertainment partnered with EON Productions to produce an entry level range of replica props. Factory Entertainment already had a reputation developing replicas for the most discerning collector, with stunning replicas of the Moonraker laser gun, the 'SPECTRE' walking cane, Safin’s mask from 'No Time To Die', the 'GoldenEye' key pair or Jaws’ teeth from 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. The newest releases are casino chips from Les Ambassadeurs Club in 'Dr. No' and the Tarot card deck – designed by Peter Lamont with its distinctive ‘007’ reverse – as seen in 'Live And Let Die'.
We caught up with the creative director at Factory Entertainment, Barry Eldridge, to discuss the newest offerings.
“Anybody that's familiar with the cassette box sets of the late '80s and '90s will recognise these boxes, because that's what they are,” Eldridge explains. “They have little magnetic flaps on the side; they're all designed to be sort of a display piece, and they've given us permission to use some nice imagery. The presentation elevates the prop from something potentially obscure to something iconic from the series," says the modern-day props master. “A casino plaque, unless you really know what it is, unless you're a hardcore Bond fan, [may not evoke Bond’s style] but everybody remembers 'Dr. No'. They know what 'Dr. No' is. So these, we hope, will appeal to not just you and I, but the casual fan who likes Bond and maybe likes the idea of something connected with Bond. Having Connery right there, really helps.”
Factory Entertainment have been in discussions with EON about the production of the plaques for years. It took Barry a while to convince the rights holders there was merit in a reproduction. EON had a valid hesitation, says Eldridge. “They were concerned about the possibility of them being either confused with or mixed up with the real thing. In not in all cases, but many of the Bond films used real casino ephemera or material. All the plaques were serial numbered. Every one of them had a [unique] serial number. And on our replicas, they all have the same serial numbers. We've changed the serial numbers. They all start with 007. The other thing we've done is on the back, for legal reasons, we have a very small note that indicates, ‘No cash value.’”
The original props “were borrowed from an actual Mayfair casino. The casino is still there. It's just a different ownership and a different brand. They were brought to the set at Pinewood. Personally, I find it fascinating because the casino in question had been in 'A Hard Day's Night', and filmed in the casino, the actual casino, but for 'Dr. No', they chose to completely rebuild it on a sound stage at Pinewood and do everything there. Some uniformed security guards came out to Pinewood with a quantity of the plaques.”
Although they were genuine 1960s plaques Barry says, you’d “need a time machine” to defraud anyone with them. After the scenes set in the casino wrapped, the guards evidently took the chips back to the casino and it wasn’t until years later, when it became clear Bond was becoming the cultural behemoth he is today, did the production company source some period chips for their archive.
“I'm not an expert on casino plaques or what they're made from but I've had to kind of educate myself in this project,” admits Eldridge. “The plaques in the EON archive are not in the greatest of condition, and that's probably an understatement. Casino plaques used to be manufactured of a plastic material that had a high content of urea in it. And it's a sandwich, so you'd have a layer of material, then something else, then something else. And over time, there's a chemical reaction that happens, because these were not made to last 50, 60 years. They give off a fairly unpleasant smell. They warp. They bleed. The material is literally melting. There's a chemical reaction between the two materials, and in traditional old casino plaques, the material in the middle is referred to as clay. It isn't a ceramic, but it is some form of natural material, and that's having even more problems.”
Some painstaking research into the niche world of casino chip manufacture later, Barry says: “We had to redraw all the artwork. You've got three sizes: 500, 100, and 50. There were more on the table in the scene, but the ones that Bond handles are these three. They've got a very nice kind of casino plaque feel to them. They're heavy. They're weighty. I am really pleased with how they came out.”
Unlike some of Factory Entertainment’s pricier replicas these are not a strictly limited run. The first run, Barry reveals, was 1,500 but more may be minted if the demand dictates. Barry wants these prop replicas to be more obtainable. “I want to get these out to more people. I want to bring people to this hobby. If it brings somebody into the hobby who then goes online and finds out that there's this huge forum of like-minded individuals then that’s great, that's what I want.”
The other consideration – other than the lower price point – to making these accessible is the size. Not everyone can afford a ‘Bond room’ but as Barry says, these sit neatly on a shelf.
Factory Entertainment’s other recent foray is into the vintage tote lunchbox design, utilizing the striking graphics from the films’ marketing. “Bond is one of those great untapped resources. And it has this huge heritage and it has all this appeal. I’m a businessman but I also love the [series]. One of my overwhelming memories is getting the Lone Star 'Moonraker' cap gun on my birthday.”
More props in the ‘unlimited’ range are on their way. “There are more items coming in this price point and scale, but we can't really tell you what they are… yet.”
£50 is W95mm/3.7", H65mm/2.55", D6mm/0.2”; £100 is H108mm/4.2", W75mm/2.9", D6mm/0.2”; £500 is W117mm/4.6", H80mm/3.2", D6mm/0.2”; box is 270mm/10.6", 145mm/5.7", 35mm/1.4”
The set contains three plaques - £50, £100, £500 - in heavyweight acrylic, based on the set used on the props used in filming. The design feature an illustration of Les Ambassadors, 5 Hamilton Place, home to Le Cercle. Modern materials have been used in place of obsolete vintage materials and the serial numbers on each plaque have been modified for legal compliance reasons. Each plaque has flame-polished edges, inlaid mother of pearl-effect screen-printed artwork and engraved serial numbers. The set is presented in a gift box, with magnetic closure and an individually numbered certificate of authenticity booklet.