22nd May 2015
30 years after he demonstrated his sport in 'A View To A Kill', snowboarder Steve Link spoke to Steve Oxenrider about the shoot
At 52, Steve Link displays the boyish enthusiasm of a young California surf dude. "It was really an exciting experience," says Link of his experience on Bond. "It is a remarkable feeling to know that you have contributed to a major production." As a teenager Steve's skill at skateboarding and skiing helped him evolve into a seasoned snowboarder. By 1984 Link was already a pioneer and champion at snowboarding, placing third in the 1983 U.S. Nationals and second in the 1984 World Championships. His talent was about to land him a job as a stuntman for Roger Moore in Bond No. 14.
Snowboarding, a cross between skiing and surfing, originated in the United States in the 1960s and initially was popular only in California and parts of Colorado and Utah. Although snowboarding had made its motion picture debut in the 1983 French short film "Apocalypse Snow", it had yet to feature in a major motion picture.
While snowboarding in Colorado in early 1984, German movie producer and Bond ski photographer Willy Bogner spotted Link and, impressed with his aerial contortions and snow surfing performance, asked him to appear in the shooting of his first feature production, "Fire and Ice". Back in London the Bond producers watched the film outtakes and invited Link to be a part of the 'snow team' for their upcoming Bond project "A View To A Kill".
In the pre-titles sequence of "A View To A Kill" Bond is pursued on skis by a bevy of Russian soldiers until he commandeers a stolen snowmobile. When the snowmobile is blown up, Bond proceeds to use one of the destroyed vehicle's skis to sweep and slalom down the mountainside in order to evade the enemy. The chase ends as Bond surfs across a glacial lake with the skier thugs wiping out and sinking into the icy waters.
"Cubby (Broccoli) actually called on my birthday, July 5th. My reply was disbelief since I figured it was a practical joke or something on my birthday." With some apprehension, the lanky 22-year-old native of Midland, Michigan first had to lose his beard but concedes, "It was a free trip to Switzerland." Link joined the 2nd Unit on location in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in mid-summer of 1984. He teamed up with Tom Sims, John Eaves, Willy Bogner and the film crew headed by Unit Production Manager, Leonhard H. Gmür. John Eaves, a stunt skier in "For Your Eyes Only", mainly doubled Roger Moore in the skiing and snowmobiling sequences while Sims and Link were the snowboarding stunt doubles.
Link admits that Tom Sims did the majority of the snowboarding seen on screen. Tom Sims (1950-2012) is often regarded as the father of snowboarding and was attracted to "snurfing" (snow and surf) competitions organised in Michigan in the early 1970s. As snowboarding became more popular in the '70s and '80s, Sims developed the design for the first modern snowboard and later founded Sims Snowboards. Impressed with Link's talent, Sims took Link on as a sales representative to help promote the sport and sell his equipment.
The snowboarding scene was filmed over a six week period mainly on the Pers Glacier located at the foot of Piz Palü in the Alps of eastern Switzerland and northern Italy. "We had to be up every day at 5:30. After the van ride up from the hotel in St. Moritz and over the pass into Italy each day, we would be at the base of the mountain at the Diavolezza ski area with a helicopter waiting to bring us up to the base camp. The camp consisted of a big tent and a lot of warm food for the crew of 20 to 30 people - a chef, make-up people, the camera crew of five or six people and a lot of skiers, approximately ten of us. There was a three-course catered lunch every day."
"At that time Tom Sims was impressed by my abilities to tie in back flips on the board. Never before had Tom seen anyone doing inverted rolls. He brought me along to cover him if there were to be any big airs involved." Sims' and Link's direction was entrusted to Leonhard Gmür and cameraman Willy Bogner. Tom Sims filmed the surfing scene across the glacial lake next to the Diavolezza ski resort. (This stunt is often, incorrectly, credited to "Steve Lincoln", an obvious confusion with Steve Link.)
Steve's signature aerial snowboard moment in "A View To A Kill" is a low-angle shot shooting off the edge of a towering snow cornice. The snowboard was attached to his feet, with no release bindings. The actual snowboards had to be modified, Link says, "to look like the front ski of the snowmobile. It looked like a fat water ski. Both my mountaineering boots and board were an art project, with metal copper pipes screwed on and spray painted. The first thing to go was the Sims name on the bottom of the board. Try snowboarding with spray paint and a heavy set of copper pipes all mounted on the board! It was a drag, literally."
"A lot of the scenes involved blowing up and setting explosives," Link remembers. Explosives were buried in the snow and triggered to give the effect of bullets just barely missing Bond. "There are a lot of precautions you have to take when setting up for a stunt." Link declined doing one proposed stunt. "They were setting up to do a big jump over a large 100-foot crevasse in the ice. It could be done on skis, but the snowboard which I was on, made it too dangerous. It required a landing after the crack and then I had to turn real quickly at an angle to avoid the next crack. I didn't think I could pull it off with the snowboard."
"We were instructed not to hike around since it was dangerous with all the crevasses in the glacier you might fall into. We saw three or four avalanches a day. We had a lot of avalanche danger because it was warm."
"We made wonderful friendships through our stay and had lots of fun times being on stand-by each day. It gets tiring just waiting all day for your turn. Not much besides a helicopter coming and going all day was what you listened to. If it was good weather we would work 10 to 11 hours a day. I worked about five to six days in front of the camera during the six weeks." Then 38-year-old Olympic alpine ski racer Suzy Chafffee was also on stand-by to film a brief skiing segment which would later appear in Maurice Binder's main title design for AVTAK. Link was shocked to learn that the stunt crew ran up a cool $5-million tab.
"I remember having a day off filming and watching the explosion of the snowmobile from across a rocky pike. The Swiss Alps were so devastatingly beautiful." Link then becomes philosophical. "Being there and taking part in such a large filming operation was overwhelmingly unbelievable. It was a lot to take in at 22 and from the vantage point at that time...not knowing that all this new fame was taking my life in some new, wild direction. I could only think of all kinds of new snowboarding equipment I wanted to build when I got home to the States." It was obvious that Steve's passion for snowboarding was greater than any silver-screen dreams. Link's on-screen appearances have been limited to the Bond and Bogner films, the "Dream West" TV mini-series, television commercials and a few television guest appearances demonstrating and promoting snowboarding. On one of these he tried to teach Ronnie Reagan, son of the former U.S. President, how to snowboard.
Steve's recollections of where he first viewed "View" are vague but thinks it was somewhere in Los Angeles. "It was a blast in that there were big people there but I saw no sign of Roger Moore. I remember how little of our footage was used." And, no, Steve doesn't seem to loathe the "California Girls" background addition as much as most discriminating Bond fans. He remarks that he found the opening scene thrilling and adds, "I felt like I was right there again. I liked 'California Girls' because Tom Sims liked it. He's from California so it seemed appropriate after hearing his positive reaction."
"After arriving home in Michigan I remember having an interview with the local Midland Daily News. They also put my name up on a movie billboard 'Local Midlander makes big screen in New James Bond movie'. This really set my mind sky high! Bottom line is anything that promoted the sport of snowboarding at that time was a great thing." Steve's business ventures since his Bond days have included construction and founder of Summit Snowboards.
Interviewed during the production of "A View To A Kill" in February 1985, Link commented on the blossoming popularity of snowboarding as a recreational sport. Even then he could foresee it as a possible future Winter Olympic sport. True to his prediction snowboarding was first included in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
Several months after completion of the snowboarding stunt, Link's performance merited a personal note from producer "Cubby" Broccoli. It said, "You did a great job. We hope to work again sometime. Thank you." But the ultimate compliment came in a letter of appreciation from agent 007 himself, Roger Moore. With typical wit, Moore wrote, "Many thanks for the splendid work you did. It looks absolutely great on the screen - I don't think I have ever been quite so brave."
Steve concludes, "In my mind growing up Roger Moore seemed like the only real James Bond. Receiving his personal letter of thanks was my biggest memory."