Production Notes - Die Another Day

After the global success of "The World Is Not Enough" in 1999, Pierce Brosnan had completed his contract for three films, and chose to take a short break from Bond before exercising his option for a fourth 007 outing. Claiming an extra year between movies would help improve the quality of the story, Brosnan completed "The Tailor of Panama" and his personal project "Evelyn" before returning for what would ultimately be his final foray as 007.

Above: Pierce Brosnan as James Bond for the fourth and final time.

Scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were asked back to pen their second Bond script, and turned to Ian Fleming's novels for inspiration. As the 1979 adaptation of "Moonraker" had born little resemblance to its literary roots, Purvis and Wade mined the novel for elements, including: the patriotic British gentlemen's image hiding an unscrupulous villain, a Blades Club face-off, and the character of Gala Brand. Their female foil would undergo several changes, and by the time shooting started, she had deviated so much from the source material they renamed her (with help from actress Rosamund Pike) to Miranda Frost. Extending a subplot from their previous film where Bond carried an injury, the writers this time damaged the central hero further, making him redeem his 00-status following his capture and torture.

When director Lee Tamahori was brought on board (Brett Ratner, Stuart Baird and Stephen Hopkins were considered to direct the movie), he demanded several changes to the script, most notably adding a CGI para-surfing stunt sequence and changing the final showdown between Bond and Graves from an indoor beach resort in Japan to an airborne finale over the Korean DMZ.

Some of his more risque suggestions, such as having a dozen PVC cat-suit clad girls chasing Bond back to his car at the Ice Palace, would be dropped from the final cut.

A few months before shooting was scheduled to start, on August 11th 2001, an old friend made a long-over due return to the series, when EON announced Aston Martin would be supplying Bond's wheels again.

Casting was an almost last-minute affair. Four weeks before filming began, the only parts that had been cast were the MI6 regulars - Pierce Brosnan (007), Judi Dench (M), Samantha Bond (Moneypenny), Colin Salmon (Robinson) and John Cleese (Q).

Rosamund Pike was hired to play Miranda Frost just five days ahead of principal photography.


Above: Halle Berry as Jinx (top) and Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost.

The identities of three unsuccessful Bond Girl screentests were revealed by Salmon (who stepped in to Bond's shoes for the casting) as Saffron Burrows, Salma Hayek and Sophie Ellis Bextor. The seemingly endless stream of information appearing in the press lead casting director Debbie McWilliams to joke that someone must have been going through her garbage. The casting of Halle Berry as the lead 'Bond Girl' drew headlines around the world, but necessitated further late changes to the structure of the story. This is most apparent during the Ice Palace scenes where Bond yo-yo's in and out of the villain's lair - breaking Cubby Broccoli's rule of "never going back to the same place twice".

In December 2001, just days before filming on Bond 20 was to start, a UK actor's strike potentially threatened the schedule. However, EON Productions allegedly struck a deal with the UK Actors' Equity Union which meant that production could proceed regardless of the outcome of the dispute had it not been resolved.

The kick-off press conference and photo call was held at Pinewood Studios on January 11th 2002 with Brosnan, Berry, Pike, Toby Stephens (Graves) and Rick Yune (Zao) in attendance. Principal photography of "Bond 20" - as it was known then - began the same day with Brosnan suffering through a heavy cold as he switched between filming his MI6 office scenes and meeting the world's media.

It would be two months after the press conference, where Brosnan joked they were open to suggestions for titles as they had ran out, that EON announced via a statement that James Bond would "Die Another Day" in his 20th film. Wilson and Broccoli said the title "carries on the tradition of the Ian Fleming stories and reflects the excitement and mystery of our latest script”. It was derived by Wilson from a phrase from the poem "A Shropshire Lad" by A.E. Housman: "But since the man that runs away / lives to die another day".


Above: Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves attending Buckingham Palace (top), and Rick Yune as Zao (above).

Just a few days later, Madonna was announced as the title song artist on March 11th. "She is starting work in the studio on Monday (18th March 2002)", confirmed her publicist."It is true that part of the contract was to have a cameo role in the movie, but her commitments to her new play in London means it is no longer possible". Schedules were reworked and Madonna was given lesbian undertones in the role of Verity, Frost's fencing instructor. It was the final scene shot during principal photography on July 27th. When Bond introduces himself to Gustav before they fight, Madonna was originally to introduce him with the catchphrase, "Bond. James Bond." However, it was later decided that the audience would prefer the line coming from Brosnan.

Halle Berry left the production for a couple of days to attend the 2002 Oscars, where she won Best Actress and became the first Academy Award winner to be a leading Bond Girl in the EON Productions series. Rosamund Pike also had to leave the film set for one day for an awards ceremony too - her English Literature graduation at Oxford University.

As well as Pinewood Studios and its historic 007 Stage, the film was shot primarily in the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Cádiz, Spain. Other locations included scenes shot in Maui, Hawaii, where Laird Hamilton and other professional surfers were hired to perform the pre-title surfing scene on Christmas Day 2001. Holywell Bay near Newquay in Cornwall doubled for the exteriors of the North Korean beach, where Brosnan picked up the rest of the action for the sequence before moving to the back-lot at Pinewood. Scenes inside Graves' diamond mine were filmed in Cornwall, at the Eden Project, in early March.

The scenes involving the Cuban locations Havana and the fictional Isla Los Organos were filmed at La Caleta, Spain.

Also in Spain, the scenes featuring Berry in a bikini were shot in Cádiz. The location was unusually cold, windy and rainy, and footage was released of Berry wrapped in thick towels between takes to avoid catching a chill.

Berry was slightly hurt during filming when debris from a smoke grenade flew into her eye causing a scratched cornea. She was treated with eye drops at a local hospital. The US media ran exaggerated stories of dust, grit, grenades and even a flying rock.

It was not the only time Berry would suffer on set. As Brosnan recalled of the Cuban love scene, "Halle had this piece of fruit in her hand and she gives me some, then puts it in her own mouth. I made a joke and she started laughing and then she gagged. Suddenly there was no sound coming out. I banged her on the back, then began putting my arms around her to do the Heimlich. Somehow she expelled the fruit which was a good thing, because I've never given anyone the Heimlich before."


Above: Lee Tamahori directs the action.

Brosnan suffered himself during the filming of the opening teaser sequence. The cold and slippery surfaces in Aldershot, UK, caused havoc for the world`s most famous secret agent. "I didn't warm up. It was as simple as that. You really need to stretch, and I just kind of ran through those paces. I suddenly realised that I had to do a 200-yard-dash with 500 extras, six cameras, explosions, one thing and another, and the knee just went. It was a cold February morning." Shortly afterwards Brosnan flew to the US for a small operation on the damaged knee before filming continued 7 days later. It was the first time in the series' 40 year history that a Bond movie was briefly shut-down due to the unplanned absence of its star.

Back in London, the Reform Club was used to shoot several places in the film starting on May 26th, including the lobby at the Blades Club, MI6 Headquarters, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, and Westminster. Location manager Simon Marsden had to negotiate long and hard with the appropriate authorities to secure permission to film Gustav Graves' parachute jump over Buckingham Palace. His negotiations were further complicated by the death of the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The action was shot at first-light before the regular crowds of tourists would have made it impossible.

Svalbard, Norway and Jökulsárlón, Iceland were used for the car chase on the ice with additional scenes filmed at Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway and RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire. Although a quarter of the movie is set there, Brosnan didn't have to travel to Iceland as the Ice Palace was created at Pinewood, with additional pick-up shots from the locale recreated in an English car park with cardboard cutouts standing in for glaciers.

A real-life 'Q-Branch' of special effects gurus had spent months heavily modifying the Aston Martin DBS and Jaguar XKR cars so they could operate on the ice and at the sub-zero temperatures.

The frozen lake in Iceland used for the car chase does not naturally freeze very often due to its closeness to the sea and its high salt content. The action unit had trouble getting the lake to freeze properly, so they had to consider moving the sequence to ice in New Zealand. With time quickly running out before the call had to be made, the team damned the river that links the lake to the sea and within two days the entire lake was frozen to a depth of over 2 meters.

The scene where Bond surfs the wave that Icarus created when Graves was trying to kill Bond was shot on green screen. The waves and all of the glaciers in the scene were digitally produced.

The effects company behind the CG sequence reportedly spent so much effort achieving the quality required for the waves and icebergs that they left insufficient time to properly composite the Bond character.

This experiment in using a digital Bond to achieve a stunt sequence was lambasted by the stunt industry and mocked in many reviews of the film.


The hangar interior of the "US Air Base in South Korea", shown crowded with Chinook helicopters, was filmed at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, UK, as were the helicopter interior shots during the Switchblade sequence although this took place entirely on the ground with the sky background being inserted later with blue screen techniques. Although in the plot the base is American, in reality all the aircraft and personnel in the shot are British. In the film, a Switchblade (one-man glider shaped like a fighter jet) is used by Bond and Jinx to enter North Korea undetected. The Switchblade was based on a workable model called "PHASST" (Programmable High Altitude Single Soldier Transport).

Graves' plane was a 20-foot wide model that was controlled by a computer. When the plane flew through the Icarus beam, engineers cut the plane away piece by piece so that it looked like it was burning and falling apart. Filming of Graves boarding his Antonov in North Korea was captured in Manston Airport, near Ramsgate, England in early May. The production then moved to an MOD base in Aldershot to complete the pre-titles hovercraft chase under the supervision of Action Unit director Vic Armstrong.

Originally planned to be shot on the beach in Cádiz, the final love scene was filmed in a specially created 'Buddhist' temple on the West coast of Wales. The appearance of religious artifacts in the love scene would later cause a publicity storm.

The earlier sex scene between Bond and Jinx — the first time onscreen in the series in which Bond is depicted actually having sex as opposed to a post-coital scenario — had to be trimmed for the American market. An early cut featured a brief moment — seven seconds in length — in which Jinx is heard moaning strongly. The MPAA ordered that the scene be trimmed so that the film could get the expected PG-13 rating. The scene was cut as requested, earning the film a PG-13 rating for "action violence and sexuality".

Wide publicity for "Die Another Day" kicked off on 10th August 2002 when MGM revealed the first titled poster for the movie, featuring Brosnan and Berry. In early October, the theatrical trailer was released in front of "Red Dragon" in the USA. Trailers were also played at screenings of "Austin Powers in Goldmember" due to an out-of-court settlement among MGM, Danjaq and New Line.

In post-production, while the film negative went through the traditional photochemical printing process, the entire first reel, including the opening pre-title sequence, was instead digitally graded. The digital lab also worked on the Hovercraft battle sequence, creating a gritty look with enhanced explosions through to Bond's eventual release from captivity as well as a key sequence that would normally have required sky replacements.

With all the edits complete, the Royal Albert Hall was transformed into an Ice Palace for the World Royal Premiere on 18th November 2002 with the help of 500 twenty-foot artificial icicles on loan from Germany and more red carpet than the Oscars.


The Royal Annual Film Performance lured stars from past and present to the biggest premiere a Bond film had ever seen. Among the previous cast members attending were Britt Ekland, Fiona Fullerton, Richard Kiel, Maud Adams, Shirley Eaton, Lois Chiles and theme song legend Shirley Bassey.

With Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in attendance and the series celebrating 40 years on the silver screen, an unprecedented meeting took place of former 007 stars - George Lazenby, Sir Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all attended. Sir Sean Connery claimed he could not be there due to filming commitments. Meanwhile in Leicester Square, an almost simultaneous screening at Empire UCI was getting under way to accommodate the unbelievable response for tickets. The screenings at the Royal Albert Hall and Empire UCI raised approximately £500,000 in aid of the Cinema & Television Benevolent Fun, a charity that helps the people behind the cameras.

The opening weekend total for "Die Another Day" in the USA broke the Bond record books when it took an amazing $47.1m - surpassing the previous record of $35.1m by "The World Is Not Enough". It also broke through the $100m US box office target faster than any Bond movie ever before. It became the highest international grossing James Bond picture of all time with a $264.9m international cumulative score, overtaking the $242m set by "GoldenEye". The holdovers were impressive, too. In its second weekend in the UK the picture knocked Harry Potter off the top spot. After just 10 days on release, "Die Another Day" had grossed 90% of the final box office for 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies".

The movie also set a new record for merchandising, with $120 million worth of deals with 24 various companies for product placement and/or tie-ins. It was reported that these deals covered the production budget even before cameras had rolled.

The film's success extended outside of the box-office too. Less than a month after its release, UK fencing clubs saw an increase in the number of people interested in taking up the sport. Iceland had a noticeable increase of tourist interest, mostly from people seeking to stay in an ice hotel such as the one shown in the film, even though no such structure exists in the country.

But due to its plot, the film was bound to cause a stir in the Korean peninsula, although nobody could have predicted the strength of the protests. Both North and South Korea found reasons to launch boycotts against Bond's latest adventure.

Shortly before the film opened in the territory, a 20th Century Fox Korea spokesmen anticipated the ill feeling towards the film and said: "There are some misunderstandings of the movie. The enemy described in the movie is extreme nationalists, not North Korea". But director Lee Tamahori poured fuel on the fire by saying: "To hell with North Korea. It's a basket-case country and the sooner its leaders all roll over and die, the better." This caused the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland to issue a statement calling for an end to the screenings and saying the film was a "dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander North Korea and insult the Korean nation".

Korean-American actor Rick Yune, who played Zao, tried to quell the controversy by saying: "The enemy in the movie is not North Korea, but the individual he plays". He also went on to say that "the movie has nothing to do with Bush's characterisation of North Korea in January 2001 as part of an 'axis of evil' because the story was written four years ago".

Meanwhile, south of the border, a national boycott was attempted on the grounds that the film depicted South Korea as a US Colony, and activists claimed boycotting the film was necessary in order to protect national pride.


Further controversy arose when South Korean Buddhists discovered Bond and Jinx make love in a Buddhist temple at the end of the film. The Jogye, South Korea's largest Buddhist order, issued a statement saying: "This is a slight to Buddhism, which has purified the culture and mind of mankind for 2,700 years". A cinema outside of Seoul finally bowed to pressure and cancelled all showings of "Die Another Day" after less than a week of release in the country. Despite the protests (infact some cinema goers said they were going because of all the media attention) "Die Another Day" opened well in both North and South Korea, but dropped out of the top ten by its second week resulting in takings down to approximately 65% of the level achieved by the previous film.

"Die Another Day" completed its global release in Japan on February 2nd 2003 with its premiere in Tokyo. Although three premiere screenings were held during the day to accommodate high demand, few celebrities turned out and it was a rather low-key affair.

When the dust had settled, "Die Another Day" had taken an astonishing $160.9m in the USA and a worldwide total of $431.97m - a new series record high.

A spin-off was planned, featuring Halle Berry's character Jinx as the lead. Purvis and Wade wrote for two months and director Stephen Frears was hired to helm. However, after the failure of other female-character-driven action films like "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life", MGM pulled the plug on the project.

Critical reception to "Die Another Day" was mixed with many long-time fans expressing disappointment at the outlandish turns the film took after the otherwise well-received first reel. Sir Roger Moore actively voiced his displeasure with the film, citing the invisible car and the weak CGI as being a low for the series. "I thought it just went too far — and that’s from me, the first Bond in space!", he said. "Invisible cars and dodgy CGI footage? Please! They gave the public what they wanted, though maybe they too realised there was only so far they could push it before Bond became a caricature of himself, and the funeral directors were called in. "

It was this creative cul-de-sac that caused producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to quietly make a decision that would shock the movie industry and many Bond fans. Despite breaking series records at the box-office, and with Pierce Brosnan's contract of 'three with an option for a fourth' completed, James Bond would be taken back to his roots and rebooted for an origin story with a new leading man.