Production Notes - Tomorrow Never Dies

The 18th 'official' Bond film faced many challenges, not least of which being that it was the first to be made since the death of Albert R. Broccoli, the producer who, with original partner Harry Saltzman, had instigated the series back in 1962. It also had to prove that the phenomenal global success of Goldeneye [1995] was no fluke, that Bond really was back to stay.

Above: Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

The story that would eventually become Tomorrow Never Dies has its roots in a treatment that was written by novelist Donald Westlake before Goldeneye was filmed. It's not clear exactly what role the treatment played in the final production, but it certainly seems to have had some influence over a script being prepared by Goldeneye co-writer Bruce Feirstein which revolved around Britain's then-imminent handing over of its colony in Hong Kong to the Chinese.

Goldeneye director Martin Campbell, whose work on the film was clearly a major factor in the film's success, was unwilling to work on two consecutive films and it was left to executive producer Michael G. Wilson to track down a new director.

He found him in Roger Spottiswoode, a British ex-patriot who had edited for Sam Peckinpah in the early 70s [Straw Dogs [1971], The Getaway [1972], Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid [1973]] before becoming a director with the forgettable Terror Train [1980]. While in Hollywood, Spottiswoode's career had encompassed such movies as Air America [1990], Under Fire [1993] and the American TV film And the Band Played On [1993].

When he signed on with EON, Spottiswoode set to work reworking Feirstein's script, assembling seven scriptwriters at the Athenaeum Hotel in an effort to get the screenplay, now titled Tomorrow Never Lies, into some kind of shape. Among these Hollywood luminaries, who came to the London brainstorming session unpaid, were Robert Collector [writer of Memoirs of an Invisible Man [1992] and Nightflyers [1987]] and Nicolas Meyer [The Seven Per Cent Solution [1976], Time After Time [1980], Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [1982]]. Over time, Daniel Petrie Jr [Beverly Hills Cop [1984], Shoot To Kill [1988], Turner and Hooch [1989]] and David Campbell Wilson were called in to work on the script before Feirstein - who would retain sole writing credit - was brought back to give the script a final polish.


Above: James Bond's new 'equal' was Wai Lin, played by Hong Kong action movie star Michelle Yeoh.

With work on the script dragging [it wasn't completed until a week before photography was due to begin], EON began the casting process. Pierce Brosnan was onto the second film in his four film contract and it was already difficult to imagine the series without him. Other returnees from Goldeneye were Desmond Llewelyn [Q], Judi Dench [M], Joe Don Baker [Jack Wade] and Samantha Bond [Moneypenny].

Ranged against Bond this time would be deranged media mogul Elliot Carver. The part was originally offered to Anthony Hopkins, who had also been approached for a part in Goldeneye. Hopkins was reportedly interested in appearing in Tomorrow Never Dies but eventually turned the part down. In February 1997, Wilson met with Jonathan Pryce and he accepted the offer to play the power-crazy Carver.

The Bond girls this time were a satisfying mix of the traditional and the decidedly new - traditionalists included former Lois Lane Teri Hatcher, who was hot off the success of the set of ABC's recently retired Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman [1993 - 1997]. Hatcher, who was pregnant during the shoot, had finished Lois and Clark's final episode on the Monday, arrived in the UK on Tuesday and began shooting her scenes for Tomorrow Never Dies on the Wednesday. The other traditionalist was rock star Bryan Adams' then-girlfriend Cecilie Thomsen as language professor Inga Bergstrom.

Rather more interesting was Michelle Yeoh, a former Miss Malaysia who had gone on to carve out a distinguished career in Hong Kong action movies. Making her debut in a western film, Yeoh was cast as a sort of female Bond, "his Chinese counterpart" Brosnan called her, who was to more than hold her own against Bond. Yeoh was prevented from doing a lot of her own stunts by the production's insurance agents [which was certainly frustrating for the actress - back home she was used to getting into the thick of it], though the arrival of seven members of a Hong Kong stunt team gave her the chance to show off her martial arts skills to excellent effect.

Goldeneye had seen the Bond series leaving its traditional home at Pinewood and setting up home at Leavesden, the former Rolls Royce factory had been sold off to a Malaysian company named Third Millenium. By the time Tomorrow Never Dies was ready to start shooting, the newly renamed Millenium Studios was home to George Lucas' Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace [1999] and only a meagre 400,000 square feet was left available to EON


Clearly this wasn't going to be enough and EON again created its own studios space, this time taking over a former grocery distribution warehouse in Frogmore, St Albans which was converted into the new EON Studios. The colossal 007 stage at Pinewood was also used - the first time Bond had filmed there since The Living Daylights [1987] - to house the interior of Carver's stealth ship.

Filming began on 18 January 1987 with the pre-credits sequence, the French Pyrenees standing in for a mountain range in Afghanistan. The second unit was this time under the supervision of Vic Armstrong, a former stuntman whose association with Bond went back to You Only Live Twice [1967] on which he was one of the many stuntmen.

The explosive opening sequence was in the can by the end of February and the second unit moved on to Portsmouth where night shooting at the Royal Naval vessel HMS Westminster and the land establishment HMS Dryad doubled for the scenes where Royal Navy vessels prepare to engage the Chinese navy.

On Tuesday 1 April 1997, the main unit moved in to EON Studios and began their work. But problems were not far away - the crew was scheduled to travel to Ho Chi Min City and other destinations in Vietnam on 1 May for location work, but the Vietnamese government suddenly had a change of heart. The official line had it that the newly emerging Vietnamese cinema industry wasn't equipped to deal with a production on the scale of a Bond film. Unofficially, it was suggested that although the Ministry of Culture had agreed to co-operate with EON, Ho Chi Min City's People's Committee were upset by the series' negative attitude towards Communism. The Vietnamese Ministry of Culture would only say that the film had been refused permission to shoot in Vietnam for "many complicated reasons."

The Vietnamese excursion was cancelled and a suitable alternative was being sought out during May while the main unit touched down at RAF Lakenheath and the USAF base at Mildenhall in Cambridgeshire. A couple of weeks later, Brosnan and Hatcher were filming their love scene at the Stoke Poges golf club, previously used as a location for Goldfinger [1964].

The production next set off for Thailand which was now going to be used for the South East Asia scenes instead of Vietnam. It was here that Jean-Pierre Goy performed the stunning motorcycle leap across a hovering helicopter that would cap one of the film's best action sequences. Several of the Thai locations were meticulously recreated back at Frogmore by production designer Allan Cameron.

While in the East, the production once again called in at the island of Khow-Ping-Khan. one of a string of islands near Phuket, off the Malay peninsular. The island, now unofficially renamed James Bond Island by the locals, had been visited back in November 1974 by the cast and crew of The Man With the Golden Gun [1974].


Brosnan was grateful to leave the unbearable heat of Thailand behind him when he returned to the UK to join the second unit at the rather less glamorous location of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North West London. One of the centre's multi-storey car parks was to stand in for the car park in Hamburg where Bond was to use his gadget-laden, remote-controlled BMW to evade a gang of Carver's assassins. As the car park was rocked by a series of explosions, one concerned member of the public - not realising what was going on - called for the police and fire brigade!

On 17 July, Brosnan was injured during one of the fight scenes, a stuntman's helmet hitting the star in the face. Brosnan required eight stitches down one side of his face, leaving the crew no choice but to film many of his scene from one profile only.

Production ended in September after detours to Mexico, Hamburg and Florida, and by all accounts it wasn't the happiest of shoots - although he towed the party line during filming, Brosnan later described the experience of making Tomorrow Never Dies as "like pulling teeth."

After the too-many-cooks approach to the soundtrack of Goldeneye, the music department was considerably slimmed down for Tomorrow Never Dies. In the place of the three composers and two song writers that had worked on Goldeneye, EON handed the soundtrack duties over to David Arnold, an acclaimed producer who had previously worked with the likes of Bjork. Arnold was to revamp the Bond soundtracks, retaining many of the characteristics of the John Barry soundtracks he so admired but bringing in new, dance influenced elements.

In June, it was announced that the new song would be performed by American rock singer Sheryl Crow who was enjoying great success on both sides of the Atlantic at the time. To commemorate his appointment to the Bond series, and the emphasis his desire to mix the old with the new, Arnold released the album Shaken and Stirred in October 1997, a collection of covers of Bond songs performed by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde and many others.

Throughout production, there was much concern that the film might not be ready for its intended release date, prompting MGM/UA's impressively titled Executive Vice President of International Distribution Marketing Guy Laurence to issue a statement: "This film will be ready, and anyone who says it won't is either wrong or showing considerable bad faith."

MGM/UA themselves badly needed another hit Bond film. There had been another reshuffle of the board and Variety had taken to describing the company's financial situation as 'tender.' Tomorrow Never Dies was MGM/UA's only Christmas 1997 release and they'd sunk a reported $100 million into the film.

Their faith in the character was rewarded when Tomorrow Never Dies became one of the most successful films in the series. Following its London premiere on 10 December 1997, the film opened in the States against James Cameron's mighty Titanic [1997] and even managed to brush that aside - referring to MGM's famous trademark, Rex Weiner in Variety quipped that "Bond must beat the boat and save the lion." He did so admirably and proved that Goldeneye had been no fluke. Bond was back and, it seemed, he was here to stay.