7th June 2023
007 things you may not know about Octopussy's production
By MI6 Staff
She Was Not Licenced To Drive
Bond's contact in the pre-title sequence, the beautiful Bianca, was played by Tina Hudson who was only 17 years-old at the time of filming. Director John Glen told MI6 Confidential in the 'All Time High' special publication: "She was so beautiful and had exactly the right look, so she was cast there on the spot. But it wasn’t until a couple of days before the shoot that she told me she couldn’t drive. As driving this Range Rover was a big part of her appearance, I had to improvise."
"The only person that I could find that was able to teach her to drive was the financial controller on the film, who seemed to have a lot of time to spare, so he took her out into Black Park Woods for the whole of the day, and had the time of his life teaching her how to drive. And she was a very clever girl, very intelligent, and she picked it up very quickly, and when we came to actually film, we were on a disused aerodrome in Oxfordshire, and I was on the truck and she was driving alongside the truck, showing a little more of her leg all the time. I kept saying “a little more leg, left hand down, little more leg, right handdown”. Even though she didn’t have a driving license, we managed.
Other Studios Effectively Subsidized Production
One of the first major decisions was to shoot a large section of the film in India. According to director John Glen, financial considerations were a big reason. But there were also complications. “Because India at that time, was a bit of a no-go area for film companies,” the director said. “There were all kinds of stories [coming] out of Indian bureaucracy, which the British were responsible for. You couldn’t get permissions from governments, the airline system was in chaos, the internal airline system. “So it wasn’t very well organised. The big advantage was, because they had terrible financial restrictions in India, you couldn’t remit your earnings from cinema back to Hollywood. It had to stay in the country. So the only way you could use those rupees, was by spending them in India.”
It fell to executive producer Michael G. Wilson to turn the situation in the production’s favor. “Michael Wilson went round Hollywood, mopping up all the frozen assets, financial assets, that were going, for half price,” Glen said. “So it halved our budget if you like, on the location. Which was wonderful, so we were able to have a month’s shooting in India, plus the second unit was there even longer. And it was at half price. Mind you, it had its drawbacks as well. But it was a fantastic decision and a fantastic location.”
Pam Grier Brought Some Notes
Casting considerations for the lead female role took a few interesting turns, including Faye Dunaway, Persis Khambatta, Susie Coelho, Barbara Parkins, Sybil Danning, Cybill Shepherd, and... Pam Grier. Who turned it down in a meeting with Cubby Broccoli. "I just felt to be a Bond girl would be: What am I going to do?" she said. "Am I going to help rescue him? Is he rescuing me?"
"A Bond girl is an afterthought, a CliffsNote, perhaps. I asked, 'Am I challenging Bond? Am I out to kill him? Will I kill him before he kills me?' They hadn't thought of that. I gave them other ideas, which were much more profound and interesting than what they were doing."
Ultimately, Broccoli concluded that he didn't need a big (expensive) name playing the role, and instead recast Maud Adams who had been screen-testing potential replacements for Roger Moore.
A Presidential Controversy
Back in 1983, London Weekend Television (LWT) commissioned a special 60-minute programme to coincide with the theatrical release of 'Octopussy' and to celebrate James Bond's 21st birthday on the silver screen. A smorgasbord of stars were interviewed about Bond, but nobody could top Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, performing the introduction to the special and praising 007 as a modern hero. It broadcast in the UK to large viewing figures, but the White House was unhappy when stations in the US who secured the broadcast rights used the President's words in TV spots promoting the show.
Spokesman Mark Weinberg said Reagan never expected any portion of his appearance to be used in television promos. Washington DC station WTTG, a stone's throw from the Oval Office, began their cheeky trailers with an announcer saying "and now a special announcement from the President of the United States" over a static shot of the Presidential seal. His agreement to take part in the "one-time tribute" was understood to be a celebration of the 21st anniversary of Bond films, not an inadvertent promotion of the latest release 'Octopussy', spokesmen told the media. MGM and United Artists were said to be "making the most of the showbiz spectacular". "He never intended this appearance to become part of the orchestrated hype for Octopussy, or the documentary itself", a defensive White House spokesman said.
Tennis Star Power
One of the late changes to the script involved Bond's allies in India. The casting of Vijay Amritraj shifted the responsibilities of the Station I characters. Originally, only one MI6 employee was to feature in India: Sadruddin. In the draft, he basically does everything agents Vijay and Sadruddin do in the final film. Sadruddin, in the pre-shoot draft, is the story’s sacrificial lamb who is killed with the steel yo-yo that kills Vijay in the movie.
The part later was split into two with the addition of tennis star Vijay Amritraj. "Obviously, Cubby saw something in me to hire me for the role, even with no past experience," he told MI6. "And John Glen was terrific as a director. He helped a lot with originality, keeping my freshness… having not done anything like this before.
In late 1982, videogame publisher Parker Bros was developing a game tie-in for 'Octopussy', to be released the following summer at the same time as the movie. Nobody had created a videogame alongside a 007 movie before. Unfortunately, it would be another two years before a different publisher succeeded, as Octopussy was ultimately deep-sixed.
"James Bond 007 as seen in Octopussy" was a single-screen game based on the train sequence from the film, and would have seen players battle gunmen and knife throwers, leap between train carriages and collect Faberge 'gems'. Despite spending thousands of dollars hyping the upcoming game in comic books and magazines with full-page advertisements (complete with fake quotes), and showing the prototype at CES in Chicago and the Electronic Fun Expo in New York in early 1983, Parker Bros quietly canceled the game with no announcement. 40 years on, the gaming industry hasn't changed much.
To Russia, With Love
Filming at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War certainly got attention from the Kremlin, but nobody else in Russia was allowed to watch. Glen reflected, "You go back to this time, 1982, when the Cold War was in full swing, and I can imagine when we went over the wall with our camera and with our lights and everything else they were taking pictures of us from the guard posts. The East Germans were taking pictures of us and I can imagine it all going back to Moscow and them saying, 'What the hell are they up to here?'"
"When the film came out I bet you they had a copy and I can imagine all the people in the Kremlin gathered together – and no one else in Russia allowed to watch it except for the Kremlin. And I can imagine them all sitting there and having a chuckle when Gogol’s young secretary comes and sits on his knee."