MI6 got together with the underwater stunt coordinator of “Tomorrow Never Dies” Lee Sheward earlier this week for a chat about shooting underwater, and what was cut from the final film...

Lee Sheward Interview - Part 3
20th October 2003

MI6 got together with the underwater stunt coordinator of “Tomorrow Never Dies” Lee Sheward earlier this week for a chat. He also performed as a stuntman in “The World Not Enough”. In this third installment of a four-part interview we chat about his coordinating work on “Tomorrow Never Dies” and the bits that did not make the final film...

Shooting Underwater

How long does it typically take to prep and underwater crew and shoot?
We "The Stunt Dept" had a week on the Devonshire water tank set. The set had been built on dry land and then put into the tank and then flooded. We had to test what we could and couldn’t do with the set. The whole thing was on a hydraulic rig so where you see the model unit and the rocks collapsing from below the ship, that’s the model unit. Then the ship starts to tilt, that’s all the model unit. Then it cuts back to Bond and Michelle in the missile room, the room starts to tilt. The thing that really gives it away is you see the chain block the pulley blocks slide across the set and get the impression the whole thing is tipping then the missile racks all collapse and knock over.

The whole thing had to be tested to speed on exactly how fast it’s going to go and how it was going to react. For example, if the stunt doubles could get through the door in time before it shut, because everything was a real weight, and at weight wouldn’t have fallen with the same emphasis. And those racks holding missiles... you didn’t want to get caught under those and crushed flat! So it took maybe a week of camera tests and filming in the set (as we would in a normal filming situation) and then developing the film and finding out what it was like and what it would look like before shooting it properly.

Were you given any artistic licence when shooting the underwater scenes?
I wasn’t really given any artistic license to change anything to put my opinion in whilst doing it for the best way to achieve something, because I came on really quite late on in the sequence or in the film. It had all been storyboarded and you know the writers, producers and director had all talked it over for weeks and months probably.

Was anything cut from the final film?
We actually shot a lot more than was in the film. There was actually a whole sequence where Bond and the girl came out of the missile room into a corridor and into another anti-chamber and then the door gets shut and locked and then they take there diving gear off and then they swim up through the funnels and escape. It never made the final cut of the movie. It was probably a third more than is in the film, which was never used, purely because of the length of the movie. The problem with underwater sequences is that it’s hard to make them look exciting and dynamic, because being underwater slows things it’s more of a tension thing than a fast action stunt thing.

How did you make this sequence different from previous Bonds?
Obviously the biggest two are “Thunderball” and “For Your Eyes Only”. Both have completely different objectives of what was being achieved. “Thunderball” was a huge underwater battle, whereas“For Your Eyes Only” has Bond in a stiffened suit fighting a shark and the odd guy. This one was more trying to escape from a sinking ship. So it’s a slight variant to that, everything was already storyboarded before I got there. Hopeful next time they'll ask for a few ideas and let us come up with something new.

Were there any heart-stopping moments during you time on the Bond films, or did everything go to plan?
Any sequences on Bond or the bigger stuff can be heart stopping, Bond pushes the limits of what we can and can’t do. They are definitely aimed at being the action movie for everything being cutting edge, and the sequences I’ve done over the years have been very exciting and heart stopping with the adrenalin rush you get working on a Bond film.

Everything goes to plan... nine times out of ten. On the Bond films nobody has been injured and nothings gone totally AWOL, maybe the timing on one or two things hasn’t exactly worked perfectly. That’s down to planning and preparation. With the right planning and preparation it works well and it's only if you change things at the last minute, or don’t rehearse well enough, or don’t get the right personnel in that it doesn’t work properly.

Keep an eye out for the final part of the interview where we chat about personal favourites, playing the goon, and the role CGI.

Many thanks to Lee Sheward.

Related Articles
Lee Sheward Interview (1)
Lee Sheward Interview (2)
Lee Sheward Interview (4)
MI6 "Tomorrow Never Dies " Coverage