In four of the last five James Bond adventures, special effects supervisor John Richardson has acted as an off-camera Q' to the indomitable 007 — engineering a speedboat chase over a waterfall in Moonraker, flying a minijet through an aircraft hangar in Octopussy, snaring a blimp on the Golden Gate Bridge in A View To A Kill and staging a massive ground and air battle in The Living Daylights. Eschewing opticals in favor of full-scale physical effects or cleverly integrated miniatures, Richardson has earned a reputation worldwide as an effects artisan of consummate ingenuity and skill. Article by Nora Lee - from a 1988 issue of Cinefex Magazine.
article by Nora Lee.
His name is Richardson — John Richardson.
His dossier, stolen from an unnamed studio executive, reveals that in recent years he has had a very close relationship with British Secret Service Agent James Bond. In fact it is now known that it was Richardson who engineered Bond's escape by hang glider from his doomed speedboat when it plunged over a two-hundred-foot South American waterfall during the Moonraker caper. Richardson was also reportedly on scene in Latin America when Bond unloaded his jet plane from a horse trailer, took off and played hide-and-seek with a surface-to-air missile in the Octopussy affair. Bond managed to escape being blown to smithereens inside an airplane hangar only because Richardson stepped in with a uniquely configured Jaguar and saved the day. And without Richardson's assistance on A View To A Kill, Bond would never have been able to pursue the assassin May Day as she parachuted from the Eiffel Tower. Richardson himself helped choose the taxi, knowing that even if it should get cut in half or the top should be sliced off it could still be driven — as long as it was not put in reverse!
Now, on Bond's latest undertaking The Living Daylights, Richardson has been positively identified as the mastermind behind 007's narrow escape from the belly of a Russian transport aircraft. Who else could have rigged a parachute to an on-board jeep in such a way that the agent and his lady did not plunge to a fiery death, but instead landed with a soft thud moments before the plane exploded?
Richardson is often armed, but prides himself on not being dangerous. However, caution is advised— he enjoys blowing things up.
Tor twenty-five years, James Bond has been saving the world from evil plots of every kind. But since 1979, special effects supervisor John Richardson has been saving Bond. Richardson represents the second generation of special effects artists in his family. His father. Cliff Richardson, pioneered cinematic special effects in England beginning in 1921. One of his first jobs was on the Stoll Picture Company's 'Grand Guignol' series of two-reel silent pictures based on the famous French horror plays. In the early Thirties, the elder Richardson worked with Alfred Hitchcock at Elstree Studios and eventually took over the effects department at Ealing Studios. "As far back as I can remember," Richardson recalled, "Dad was making snow in the backyard and giant frogs and airplanes and things like that. Every day he used to come home from work and tell me what he'd done. He'd bring little figures home — little Humphrey Bogarts from The African Queen. I can remember it all very clearly. I sort of had it in the blood before I ever got to secondary school — wanting eagerly to be a special effects man."
Richardson got his first chance in 1960. He was fourteen at the time and his father was going to Israel to work on Exodus for Otto Preminger. "I got a leave of absence from school and went out to Israel with my mother. After you've seen the sights.
here isn't a lot to do for a fourteen-year-old; so I got a job on the unit." Exodus was only the first of many features for father and son. As Richardson's apprenticeship continued, he found work on such films as The Victors, The 7th Dawn, Lord Jim, Judith, Casino Royale (1967) and The Dirty Dozen, In 1968, Richardson landed his first solo project — Duffy. But collaboration between father and son continued with Richardson senior handling one unit and Richardson junior another, and together they worked on such films as The Adventurers, Battle of Britain and Young Winston. Then John Richardson went on his own fulltime and in a number of remarkable pictures. His solo performances include orchestrating the tremendous battle scenes in A Bridge Too Far, as well as rigging a variety of effects for The Omen, Superman, Raise the Titanic, The Great Gatsby— and most recently Aliens, for which he won an Academy Award. "John is a very dour character," quipped John Glen, director of the last four Bond films, "but he comes up with some lovely ideas." Glen should know. He was second unit director and editor on Moonraker— Richardson's first 007 encounter — and is responsible for Richardson's continued appearances. In the credits on Moonraker, Richardson is listed as one of five effects artisans and was basically in charge of the location shooting in South America and Florida.
Midway through the storyline, James Bond (Roger Moore) has tracked the evil Drax (Michael Lonsdale) to his jungle headquarters; but to breach the inner sanctum, Bond must first navigate his boat through treacherous waters and expendable flunkies. Thank goodness the boat has been outfitted by the ingenious Q (Desmond Llewelyn), because in the process of evading his pursuers, Bond manages to get himself chased over a waterfall. Even though the film was shot eight years ago, Richardson remembers very clearly the events that took place at the Iguazu Falls in Brazil — most recently seen in The Mission. i'd been out there on a location scout about a month before we went to shoot. I felt then that the chances of actually getting a boat over the falls were fairly remote because there were many rocks just below the surface of the water. The water was flowing very fast at that point, and the boats would almost certainly impale themselves —which was in fact exactly what happened. But I said we would give it our best shot and so five of us ended up out in the river — twenty feet from the edge of a two-hundred-foot drop — literally roped together, trying to manhandle a very heavy Glastron speedboat down just to the lip of the falls where we could release it and launch it over the top. What can I say? We didn't actually achieve it. We got the boat down there, but in the end it got jammed on a rock right at the edge and we couldn't shift it. I ended up being winched down onto the boat from a helicopter to try and physically shift the boat off the rock. By now, we were just trying to get rid of it because it was in the way for all the plates that we had to shoot. Anyway, this helicopter dropped me in the water and it dropped me in the bushes — dropped me everywhere but in the boat. The idea was that I could get hold of the boat, the helicopter would fly up and away and I would act as the link so the boat could be dragged clear of the rock. As soon as the boat was clear, it would go over the edge and I could just let go." Even when Richardson made contact with the boat, however, there was a problem in that the craft weighed over a ton. It was only a dummy; but since the original idea had been to employ an air cannon to propel it over the falls, this particular dummy had a steel shaft built inside it. When plans changed and the heavy tube was no longer needed, there was neither the time nor the wherewithal to remove it.
I checked all the lines and the hooks from the helicopter and the harness that I was wearing before we took off. Once I got hold of the boat and the helicopter started to fly up and away there was no way I was going to let go of the boat! I'd got it, and I was so hyped up by this time to get rid of the bloody thing that I was determined not to let go. So the helicopter is pulling and my arms are getting longer and longer by the second, and suddenly I hear this ping, ping, ping, ping, ping... I thought. What on earth is that?' I could hear it quite loudly over the noise of the helicopter, and I suddenly realized it was the stitching on the harness 1 was wearing — breaking. So I let go. It seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time. So we went through all that and tried several other things unsuccessfully, and finally we went back to the hotel fairly dejected. That night it rained somewhere two hundred miles upstream, and during the night the water came down and washed the boat over. Solved our problem for us." Eventually the shot was achieved, but not as originally planned. Back at Pinewood Studios — home base for the Bond films — the effect was produced with miniatures by visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings.
After filming the end of the chase in Brazil, the effects crew moved to Port St. Lucy, a small town in the Florida Everglades, to choreograph the preceding portion of the chase in which Bond's speedboat is pursued by three others — one manned by the implacable Jaws (Richard Kiel). The sequence involved a lot of explosions, bullet hits and the deployment of Q's singular defensive systems. Among other things, Richardson built a radio-controlled, self-propelled torpedo, which —guided by one of his crew — could be fired from Bond's boat and made to pursue the bad guys chasing close behind. The speedboat was also equipped with mines that could be released in its wake, and it was here in Florida that the top portion of the cabin was transformed into a functional hang glider so that Bond could escape as his boat plummeted over the falls.
Photo: Appropriately enough, special effects supervisor John Richardson poses on a set full of high explosives constructed for the James Bond thriller, A View To A Kill. Richardson — a second generation effects artist — has overseen physical effects and miniatures on four of the last five Bond pictures. / His first 007 assignment — on Moonraker — was to supervise a speedboat chase which culminated with Bond escaping via hang glider only moments before his craft was swept over a giant waterfall. / Early segments of the chase were filmed in the Florida Everglades and entailed the rigging of underwater explosives carefully timed to the passage of the various boats. / The climax to the sequence — shot on location at the Iguazu Falls in Brazil — did not go according to plan. When the speedboat became snagged at the edge of the two-hundred-foot precipice, Richardson attempted to dislodge it manually by suspending himself from a hovering helicopter.
"All of the pyrotechnic work was, to say the least, a little tricky," Richardson recalled. "Explosions in water are always one of the most dangerous situations for us. We have to be very careful in order to avoid accidents because charges can drift and boats don't necessarily follow the right line. We had to make sure that the boats were as close as they could be to the explosions, but not too close. When the boats were going fifty miles an hour, the timing of letting off the explosions near them raised a few problems. You can only do that sort of thing by eye. We always had to be in a firing position so that we could watch the boats coming. We managed to get pretty damn close at times — the Glastron was jumping up on the water spouts created by the explosions."
Two of the chase craft are eventually blown up, and for those shots the boats were towed past camera on a special mount Richardson had built to hold each speedboat nose-up in a planing position. That way it looked as if they were moving along at high speed. Richardson insists that the secret to a successful explosion is to produce not one big blast but a series of small ones that accomplish a variety of things. ' We had different charges. Some were inside the boat and some were fixed about four feet underneath so that when they went off they would actually lift the boat out of the water. We also had self-timed charges in the boat so that on one we got it about fifty feet in the air. First there was an enormous waterspout with the boat in the middle of it, and then a fireball fifty feet off the water when the boat itself blew up."
On one of the boat chase explosions, Richardson was able to break what looks like a single blast up into three distinct parts. The first explosion occurs in a very close shot and two crew members fly out. One of them was Richardson — who, despite being a supervisor, does seem to get rather personally involved in his work. "We had an air ram in the back of the boat, so when the first explosion went off you saw two bodies flung out and into the water. It s always nice to see real people flying out of an explosion like that. It was a small controlled explosion, and it wasn't really that dangerous. The dangerous thing was the crocodiles in the water. It was a case of hearing somebody say Cut!' and then getting up and running on top of the water back to the boat as fast as you could! The way the scene is cut together, you see the start of the explosion and the bodies come flying out in the close shot. Then we cut back to a wider shot and see the boat blow up. Next there is a reaction shot of Bond, and then we go back to the boat which is now upside-down and blows up again."
Effects such as these are difficult and expensive to do more than once; so to insure adequate coverage, the effects unit generally employs multiple cameras. "Most of the work we do involves two cameras, but there are times when I have to beg, borrow or steal every camera I can get my hands on and have everyone who is capable of pointing one covering the scene. If you can muster three or four — especially on the big set pieces — you'll be okay." As complex as the boat chase was, Richardson's work required only a week of shooting in Iguazu and another three or four in Florida.
Photo: The precredit sequence to Octopussy culminated with Bond piloting a minijet through an open hangar in an attempt to elude a surface-to-air missile hot on his trail. Since the stunt was considered too problematic to perform live, the sliding hangar door was reproduced as a third-scale foreground miniature and positioned directly behind the machinegun emplacement Like scale models of the plane and missile were then mounted on wires and flown between the foreground miniature and the actual hangar to create the impression that they passed inside. /For a subsequent shot in which the missile detonates within the hangar, a tenth-scale miniature of the structure and its surroundings was rigged with pyrotechnics and photographed at high-speed. / Scenes of the minijet within the hangar were achieved by affixing the full-size plane to a gimbal mount attached to a Jaguar driven by Richardson. /In a banked position, the minijet wings concealed the support pole and foreground props obscured the automobile. / Forced perspective miniatures were also employed for a more distant shot of the plane's exit from the hangar.
Richardson was not involved in the next Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, when John Glen made his directorial debut. But on Glen's second outing, Octopussy. Richardson was back at it — this time as visual effects supervisor. Octopussy is full of effects flourishes, the most memorable being the centerpiece of the series' trademark precredit sequence. Captured while on a sabotage mission at an unspecified Latin American air base. Bond manages to escape via a collapsible minijet housed in a bogus horse trailer. As soon as Bond is airborne, the military launches a surface-to-air missile which 007 manages to elude long enough to draw it into a hangar. Moments after he flies in one hangar door and out the other, the missile impacts within, reducing the structure to rubble.
Photo: Also in Octopussy, Bond appropriates a Mercedes sedan and— after blowing out all four tires — maneuvers it onto some railroad tracks in pursuit of a train carrying an armed nuclear warhead. Richardson coaches actor Roger Moore on driving the specially appointed vehicle which had a slightly altered wheel base enabling it to fit onto the tracks. / For a scene requiring the Mercedes to be struck by an oncoming train, the illusion was created by pre-smashing the car and then mounting it on an air cannon positioned on the far side of the railroad bridge. With precise timing critical, the Mercedes was fired across the tracks just moments before the train passed — creating the impression, with clever cross-cutting, that the vehicle had actually been knocked aside by the locomotive.
The basic idea had first been devised for Moonraker, but had been shelved — one of the few times anyone could recall a Bond sequence being abandoned because no one could figure out how to do it. "Since Moonraker, that scene was always in the back of our minds," said John Glen. "We loved the idea of Q with the horse trailer —which is how it was originally conceived. We kept playing around with it, and on Octopussy we got it out and actually wrote a scene to incorporate the jet and the horsebox. It was completely different from the original concept. John came up with a brilliant idea when the jet was being chased by the Exocet missile, for shots of the missile following the jet, we toyed with all kinds of things, but finished up by just using a model airplane and towing a miniature missile with a flare inside which made a smoke trail." The third-scale, radio-controlled plane was in fact an exact replica of the real minijet — except that it had a propeller, which of course the original did not. By employing a low-pitch, high-rewing motor, however, the inconsistency was undetectable on film.
In reality, the complex sequence was comprised of a series of shots involving live stunts with an actual minijet, radio-controlled models of the jet, cleverly integrated foreground miniatures and a specially outfitted Jaguar. Obviously, one of the biggest challenges was flying the plane through the hangar full of people. ' Our stunt pilot offered to actually fly the plane through," Richardson explained, "but there were several problems with that. One, he couldn't have anybody in or around the hangar at the time —which is no good at all filmically. And second, it meant that at the speed the aircraft would have to be flying, it would be through the hangar in about a second. So we did the plane going into the hangar with a foreground miniature. The hangar door was built in miniature and placed a third of the distance between the camera and the real hangar. Then we flew the model plane from off-screen in behind the door and out so that it looked as though it were coming through the gap. It was sort of an upside-down hanging miniature. For its exit on the other side, we did exactly the same thing.
"We got the full-scale plane through the hangar by cutting the top off an old Jag and mounting the plane on a support pole that came out of the top. The pole was painted to camouflage with the background as much as possible; and when the car entered the hangar, we used something in the foreground to conceal the car and pole. Also the plane was on a hydraulic gimbal so that it could bank as it went through —and when it did so, the pole was concealed by the wing. During the shot, I would drive through the hangar at about sixty to seventy miles per hour, with all the stunt guys scattering in front of me. We had people actually closing the door at the far end, and one of
my guys was sitting in the back of the car working the movement of the aircraft. As we approached the far end, he was able to bank the airplane, which caused the wing to come down and hide the pole arm and also allowed us just enough room to squeeze through the doors. We did several takes, and it all worked fine except on one occasion when I got through the doors and took my foot off the throttle and nothing happened. The car just kept going at seventy miles an hour — the throttle had jammed. It took me a beat to realize what had happened and by that time we had missed a sharp turn and taken to the grass, pirouetting towards an old plane sitting out there in a field. Once I realized what had happened, though, I was able to switch the engine off and we were all right."
For the shot in which the hangar explodes, Richardson and model unit art director Michael Lamont constructed a tenth-scale miniature of the structure and its surrounding area, loaded it with pyrotechnics and shot it at high-speed. But the explosion actually began on the 007 stage in full scale. Richardson brought in a full-size missile and flew it down a wire into a plane on the set, causing a fiery explosion that segued neatly into the exploding five-foot-tall miniature.
Like Moonraker and its other predecessors, Octopussy has an impressive chase sequence. Attempting to halt a train carrying an armed nuclear warhead, Bond steals a Mercedes sedan, blows out all four tires, maneuvers the bare-wheeled vehicle onto some parallel railroad tracks and gives pursuit — only to be met head-on by a train going in the opposite direction. Richardson again added a personal touch to the work by test-driving the specially appointed vehicle — which had a slightly altered wheel base enabling it to fit onto the tracks —and acting as stunt driver during parts of the sequence. "Roger Moore drove the Mercedes down the railroad track at one time," Richardson allowed, "but the stuntman and I actually did quite a lot of the driving. In fact, I used to drive the Mercedes whenever I could because that meant I could watch the track for tricky areas and get one of the boys to lean on the right wing of the car to make sure we went the correct way. We had to be very careful, because if we were going over points in the track — which are junctions where the train can turn off onto another line — we had to weld little brackets over them to stop the car from derailing. If we didn't weld them up, the car would get to the points and one wheel would go one direction and the other wheel another and I'd be left somewhere in the middle. At seventy or eighty miles per hour, that could pose a real problem. Although we made our wheels similar to railway train wheels, the real ones are much bigger and thicker and rarely derail."
The actual confrontation with the oncoming train was as much an optical illusion as anything. "When the Mercedes was supposedly hit by the train," Richardson explained, "it was actually fired out over the water with an air cannon. The tricky thing was timing the car, because we had to fire it from the other side of the track so that it came across in front of the train and looked like it was being hit. Once we managed to get it so close that as it flew across and the train came on through, the front wing of the car just clipped the front of the express. In another cut, we fired the car towards a boat on the lake and we had two stunt guys who leapt out of the boat just before the car hit the water."
Richardson is the first to admit that sometimes it is the little fiddly things' that take the most time and attention. In Octopussy, for example, while Bond dallies with smuggling entrepreneur Octopussy (Maud Adams) in her island palace, one of the villains tries to disrupt their tryst with a saw blade-equipped yoyo. It was a very treacherous-looking weapon and a nightmare to construct. "We actually built a yoyo with a circular saw blade on it. Then we had to build a variety of them — one that the actor could safely use and one that would actually cut through a desk and others that were backups. It was very much a trial-and-error thing. When you get a script and it has something like that in it, it's usually no good having somebody give you a design and say, Build that.' You can't necessarily make it work, normally I first get the boys to build something that works — then we worry about making it look right. We use that approach in a lot of our gags."
Richardson's next Bond outing, A View To A Kill, contained some truly spectacular effects work. In one sequence, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) sets into motion a plot to corner the world microchip market by flooding the entire Silicon Valley in northern California. He then takes off in his personal blimp to observe the debacle from above. James Bond foils the attempt, of course, and manages to grab onto the airship's mooring line as it drifts across San Francisco Bay and becomes entangled in the Golden Gate Bridge where Bond and Zorin battle to the death.
Photo: for his next Bond outing — A View To A Kill — Richardson was called upon to stage an enormous fire at the San Francisco City Hall. After covering the historic structure with fireproof board, corrugated iron and sand, the veteran pyrotechnician employed giant flares, smoke and gas burners to create what appeared to be a major conflagration. / A full-size mine set played a major role in the film — and at the end it had to be flooded. / The more catastrophic aspects of the flooding were created in miniature on a third-scale replica thirty feet by twenty feet by twelve feet high. /
For a car chase filmed on the streets of Paris, Richardson and his unit had to modify a Renault taxi so that its top and rear end could be sliced off and yet still have it drivable. / The perilous climax of the film featured a corporate blimp entangled on the Golden Gate Bridge and an ensuing battle between Bond and his adversaries atop the giant landmark. High above the bay, John Richardson studies the structure in preparation for location plate photography.
The composite sequence was an intricate mix of on-location stuntwork, live-action process shots, miniatures of the blimp and portions of the bridge, full-scale segments of the bridge and sections of the gondola. To complicate matters even more, parts of it were shot in San Francisco and parts of it at Pinewood. As special effects supervisor, Richardson was responsible for assembling all the pieces —and on occasion his duties expanded to include directing the effects unit. "I've directed the model units on three Bonds, plus occasionally they let me loose with real people as well. Arthur Wooster does almost all of the second unit work; but on A View To A Kill, for instance, I was given most of the shooting on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We had a lot of Vistavision plates to do, and I shot all of those on the bridge. That entailed actually going up to the very top of the Golden Gate and climbing a hundred feet down the main cable and setting up a camera to get the right background. That was more than a little interesting. John Glen is an excellent director to work with, especially with regard to action sequences, because all of the effects scenes are very carefully storyboarded up front. That gives us the opportunity to work out the best ways of doing something and determining where the different techniques will slot in. Then we can be quite sure of getting the best of every world. When I was doing the plates for the Golden Gate Bridge, I could go through all the storyboards and And exactly what backgrounds were required. Instead of just sticking the camera up and shooting down, I actually went to the spot where the action was taking place, worked out the angle on the actors, then placed the camera and shot that background. We knew every time that we'd get exactly what we needed." Richardson was especially sensitive about getting the plates just right because he knew they would have to work in with his models and miniatures back at Pinewood. He likes miniatures, as did his father who pioneered their use in England. "I enjoy directing miniatures," Richardson dead-panned, "because it gives me my own unit and I can sort of get away on my own and get drunk with power."
On A View To A Kill there were three blimp models ranging from ten to forty feet in length. All of them were operated by radio-controlled motors. One version — used only for a shot of a disloyal follower being ejected from the gondola — was even constructed to be inflatable and actually float. Unfortunately, filling it with helium turned out to be unworkable. Not only was the gas extremely expensive, it tended to seep out of the large-scale prop and also made the ship rather difficult to control since even the slightest breeze would buffet it about. Consequently, Richardson ended up filling the blimp with air and suspending it from a crane. "It was an incredible model to build because it was inflatable," continued Richardson, if we tethered it to the ground, it tended to pull the envelope out of shape. If we hung it from a crane, that too tended to pull the envelope out of shape. So we had to construct the model exactly the same way that real airships are built. It had a little tubular hatch in the bottom that was hidden by the car and then we employed curtains — made from the same material as the outer ship — that extended from the top to the bottom on the inside to balance everything out and maintain the overall shape. Once the blimp was inflated, I got in it and coupled all these curtains top and bottom, which took the load off the envelope. I was fine when it was full of air; but when it was full of helium, I had to work in an aqualung —and that didn't do my claustrophobia any good at all."
Photo: Bond hangs suspended from a mooring cable on the Zorin blimp as the airship approaches the Golden Gate Bridge — a twenty-foot-tall construct of fiberglass and steel positioned in front of a photo cutout background of the San Francisco skyline. / Workers examine the miniature set prior to shooting. /Atop an extension ladder, John Richardson rigs wiring to control the ten-foot-long blimp suspended from above by a crane. / Closer shots employed a forty-foot-long version of the ship and a similarly enlarged section representing the very top of the bridge. Effects technician Ray Lovell steadies the crane-mounted airship with a guy wire at the rear while Richardson helps effects cameraman Leslie Dear and his crew photograph a shot of the mooring rope snapping taught as it catches on the bridge. / For scenes requiring live actors, a full-size segment of the bridge was used in conjunction with a mockup of the gondola and a partial section of the envelope.
The San Francisco shoot was an exceedingly tough one. By day, Richardson was filming plates from atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Then at night he was busy burning down the San Francisco City Hall. "There was about a four-day period when I didn't get any sleep at all — not until I got on a plane for home. It was the one time I crossed the Atlantic and managed to sleep the whole way." In the story, City Hall must bum because Zorin wants to dispose of a corrupt official he has been bribing plus any records of his company's activities that might expose his evil plot. "Originally when we started talking about the burning of City Hall in our office back in Pinewood, everybody assumed it would be a foreground model. I said, "Why not do it for real?' "Don't be ridiculous! They'll never let us set fire to City Hall.' "Well, I can do it if they'll let us.' So we flew out and met with the mayor and the city fire department and tried to convince them that I was intelligent and knew what I was doing. Ultimately, they seemed to accept that we could do what we said we could."
The City Hall conflagration was suggested mostly by the use of enormous flares which created the kind of incandescent light that normally comes from a large-scale fire. Richardson also used smoke and gas burners and covered the building's roof with fireproof board, corrugated iron and sand. The biggest problem was that the fire needed to be staged right above the chambers of the most prominent judges in San Francisco. Consequently the effects crew was not allowed to work during the day for fear that they might make noise and disturb the judges. "It was one of those situations where we hadn't enough time to get all ready, but somehow we managed to scrape through. When it came time to shoot, we lit up the building and put it out about twenty-five or thirty times over three nights. Once you're rigged, though, it's no big deal to do it again and again. All the fire engines in the scene were real San Francisco Fire Department engines manned with real crews. We just made sure that some of them were actually coupled up to real hydrants so they could really put the fire out if necessary. I'm happy to say they didn't need to, but they had to pretend to put it out and I was forever rushing around screaming: Don't put water on the fire! You'll put it out!
What Bond film would be complete without a chase car going to pieces? A View To A Kill was no disappointment. Early in the film. Bond is dining with a French detective in a restaurant at the Eiffel Tower. Before he can finish his wine, however, Bond's lunch guest is dead and 007 is off chasing the killer. The chase takes him up the tower, but the assassin eludes him by leaping off the top and parachuting onto a boat in the Seine. Mot to be outdone, Bond grabs an elevator on its way down, hijacks a taxi and starts out across Paris in hot pursuit. But before he and the taxi catch up, the vehicle leap-frogs over a bus, is turned into a convertible, cut in half and generally destroyed.
"For the car chase," said Richardson, "we worked very closely with Remy Julienne, the French stunt driver. I think he is the best there is and we've worked together on all the most recent Bond films. My crew normally does most of the building on the stunt cars and Remy drives them — so obviously, he needs total confidence in us. We had a lot of support from both him and Renault. It took about six different versions of the taxi to do that chase. I remember one situation where we were testing the car that drove along in half. We had skids on it in the rear and some flints along the back to give off sparks from underneath. For safety, there was a small petrol tank up under the bonnet. And it was fine. You could drive it along and all these sparks would come out the back. Then, after a rehearsal, the driver wanted to go back to the boat — but instead of taking a big curve, he reversed. Of course, all the sparks wound up under the hood and spread to the petrol tank and set the car alight — and it blew up! So we lost a car before we had even started. It was a lesson well learned. We didn't reverse after that."
To trigger the earthquake that will flood Silicon Valley, Zorin has planted tons of explosives in an abandoned mine shaft. Being a cautious and thoroughly rotten villain, he wants no witnesses to the devastation; so he floods the mine with his workers still inside and then gleefully turns a machine gun on the survivors. Though an enormous full-size mine set was constructed for the film by production designer Peter Lamont, Richardson realized it would be impossible to control the vast amounts of water necessary to flood and destroy the scene without the use of miniatures. He and Michael Lamont therefore directed the construction of a third-scale replica which occupied a space thirty feet by twenty feet by twelve feet high. Richardson also devised a means of inserting Walken and his cohort into the miniature via a mirror built into the set. In reality, the actors were standing in front of a full-scale background piece quite some distance from the miniature; but in the shot they appear to be on a ledge firing away as the set crumbles around them.
Through experience and inclination, Richardson has an unshakable faith in such old-fashioned' methods of doing effects. He believes that in-camera effects shots not only look better, but are infinitely less expensive than intricate opticals. His claims are beautifully supported in The Living Daylights. Pre-production on the latest Bond epic began over a year before its release — in May 1986. One of the most pressing concerns — and certainly one of the last to be resolved — was the selection of a new 007. Roger Moore had retired from the secret agent business; and after months of speculation and media attention, Welsh stage actor Timothy Dalton was announced as his replacement. The film was already four weeks into production. It was not the first time producer Albert R. Broccoli — Cubby to the Bond family —had had to replace the actor portraying Bond. Sean Connery was Broccoli's first 007 in the 1962 film. Dr. No. Though wary of being typecast, Connery continued on for four more films until Australian actor George Lazenby replaced him in On her Majesty 's Secret Service. When Lazenby failed to spark audience interest, Connery was enticed back into the role on Diamonds Are Forever. With the next adventure, Live And Let Die, 007 fans were introduced to Roger Moore, who redefined the role and stayed with it for a total of seven films.
Cubby Broccoli and John Glen took the latest changing-of-the-Bonds as an opportunity to also change the direction of the series. Together they decided to shift away from the outlandish adventures of the past decade and return to author Ian Fleming's idea of Bond — a kind of Bond not really seen since Dr. No and From Russia With Love. For John Richardson, once again serving as special effects supervisor. The Living Daylights meant toning down the fantastic and bringing the stunts and gadgets back into the realm of possibility —realism, inasmuch as a Bond film can be realistic.
Photo: Miniature pyrotechnics were employed for scenes of the blimp's destruction. / For the most recent Bond adventure — The Living Daylights — Richardson and his crew equipped a late model Aston Martin with a wide range of offensive and defensive systems, including self-studding tires and outrigger skis essential to maintaining maximum speed and maneuverability on icy surfaces. / When one of Bond's tires is shot out during a high-speed chase on a frozen lake, the resourceful secret agent uses his whirling wheel rim to slice a hole in the ice into which his pursuers fall. Though the chase was shot on location in the Austrian Alps, the sinking car was photographed at the studio and employed an outdoor tank equipped with a hydraulic rig for submerging the vehicle. The icy lake top was constructed from fiberglass and covered with marble dust snow. Real trees and a painted backdrop completed the illusion.
What's it like to be handed a Bond script? "Oh, it's nothing really," Richardson said, tongue in cheek. "You read it and then you go into a state of shock for about three days. Then you read it again and you think, Perhaps they're going to find me out on this one...' Then we all sit down and go over it It's very much a family atmosphere on the Bonds. We all know each other so well and we've worked closely together. Some of the guys, like production designer Peter Lamont, have been on thirteen or more Bond films. We get our heads down and talk about the story. We get ideas and change things. Everyone is always receptive to suggestions. Of course, I find myself trying to outdo myself — and everybody else! That's half the fun, and probably the part of the film I enjoy most. Pre-production is the opportunity one gets to be a little more creative, rather than just blowing things up. You can help write the script, if you like, in a small way. It helps the film. We all get our input and hopefully the film gets the best of everybody's work as a result."
One of the delights of the new Bond is the return of 007's Aston Martin, first introduced in Goldfinger. Using an updated Volante model, the ever-resourceful Q has outfitted this incarnation of Bond's faithful car with such handy devices as a windshield heads-up display for targeting weapons, guided missiles hidden behind fog lights, a jet engine booster rocket, self-studding tires for driving on ice, convertible outrigger skis for stability in snow, high-intensity laser hubcaps and the ubiquitous self-destruct mechanism.
Three real Aston Martins were employed, and a number of dummies were constructed to enable Richardson to make all the gags work. For a chase sequence in which Bond leads his Russian pursuers out onto a frozen lake, skis were made practical on one of the dummy cars so that they actually came out and folded down. Then other sets were fitted on the real cars so that they could be driven out on the ice. The same approach was used for the studded tire gag. One tire was rigged with studs that would pop out. Then the real cars were outfitted with standard studded tires. Richardson noted that the tires were a necessity for driving on the ice at speeds of up to eighty miles per hour. Without them and the skis, the vehicles would have had no traction. Remy Julienne and his stunt team were again enlisted to do the driving, and they got a workout. Besides a stunt on the lake which involved using the tireless rim on the Aston Martin to cut a huge hole in the ice, there was a earlier scene in which Bond uses his hubcap laser to sever a chase car's body from its chassis. "Building a car to come apart was a fairly difficult job, " Richardson noted, "because we had to have two people in it. We had to make a compact body shell for them to sit in; but when the car came apart, they still had to get past the wheels and over the chassis — I was worried about it, but I thought it cut in very well."
As is often the case, several different techniques were employed to suggest the actual cutting of the car. One was a pyrotechnic effect — burning away a thin lead sheet. Then for the very close-up shot, Richardson used an oxyacetylene torch burning through from the inside to give a slightly bluish effect. With the pyrotechnic device, the car was moving along the road in Austria. For the oxyacetylene gag, it was on a rolling road on the stage with an effects man inside operating the torch. The car was held together and towed for the shot, and at the right moment the two pieces were released. The laser beams were animated in postproduction.
Richardson is especially happy with one particular shot involving the Aston Martin. During the beginning of the same chase sequence, the Russians try to block his passage with a semi-trailer truck. Bond decides to use his on-board missile system to clear the road. "From inside the car, you see the two targets come together on the windscreen. Then we cut to a moving POV outside where we see two missiles fire toward the truck and blow up — all in one shot! It's so quick that only an aficionado would appreciate it. To do it, we had a camera tracking along the road and we had two wires running out for the missiles to fire along. We had the two missiles sitting on the wires, ready. We tracked the camera along at car height on an outrigged arm so that when the camera drew level with the ends of the wires, it was over the top of the wires and at the right height for the bumper of the car. With the camera still tracking forward, we fired the two missiles. They came out from under camera, went straight down the wires, hit the truck and then we blew the truck up on a visual cue." No opticals.
Photo: On location in Morocco — doubling as Afghanistan — Richardson and his crew employed massive amounts of dynamite and gasoline to effect a thundering ground battle between well-equipped Soviet troops and primitively-outfitted Afghan rebels. / During the conflict, Bond commandeers a Russian cargo plane and takes off just as a smaller craft is coming in for a landing. Since the full-size plane was an American-made C-130 Hercules made over with Russian markings, the model unit constructed several twelfth-scale replicas for use in the scene. From a low-angle camera emplacement dug into the ground, Richardson surveys his miniature setup prior to photography. /A radio-controlled Hercules soars above the desert floor. For maximum correlation between live-action and model photography, the miniature work was also executed on location in Morocco.
When the plot transports Bond and accomplice Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo) to a Russian military base in Afghanistan, the pair manage to escape with the help of some Afghan freedom-fighters only to discover they must return to complete their mission. Richardson helped stage the resultant battle between the primitively-equipped Afghan rebels on horseback and their superiorly-armed Russian counterparts. Pyrotechnics were the order of the day. Tor the main battle sequences filmed in Morocco at Ouarzazate, I tried to insure that we maintained a constant overall atmosphere of smoke and dust as I always feel that that helps enormously in this type of sequence. To achieve that effect, we employed four Dante fire machines that I developed with my father some years ago. These machines use kerosene or a similar burning oil and will give a flame effect up to fifty feet high with a column of black smoke which under the right conditions will rise to a thousand feet or more. To produce even more smoke, we burned a lot of old car tires and used smoke pots. The explosions we tried to vary as much as possible. For the large ground explosions we used high explosive — a locally purchased dynamite which we dug into holes in the ground and covered with dust, felt and cork. In conjunction with these we used an effects charge which was invariably either napthalene-based or a straight flash charge. For the smaller ground explosions, or for more controlled ones near stuntmen or artists, we used either steel kicker plates with a multiple ring of primacord or a steel mortar pot which could be dug into the ground or sandbagged and directed where required. Por the fiery explosions we used gasoline in mortar pots with a heavily tamped black powder charge or in forty-five-gallon drums with a high explosive lifting charge. On some occasions we also used five-gallon plastic drums wrapped with primacord. In all cases, we employed a separate igniting charge which was normally napthalene-based. For one particular explosion, we managed to lire a sheet of flame horizontally along the ground for about one hundred feet by using a forty-five gallon drum of gasoline, a lot of sandbags, some primacord and millisecond-delay detonators with a main high explosive projecting charge. In addition to the big stuff, we had the usual bullet effects charges, capsule guns — fully- and semi-automatic — and an air cannon which was used to overturn a jeep."
At the height of the battle. Bond steals a cargo plane — actually an American-made C-130 Hercules made over with Russian markings. As he races down the runway with an armored car in hot pursuit, Bond manages to lift off just in time to avoid a head-on collision with a smaller plane attempting to land. The hair-raising near-miss' and the smaller plane's subsequent collision with the armored car was achieved entirely through the use of miniatures. Eager to insure a proper blend with the live-action, Richardson — with support from associate producer Tom Pevsner —convinced the powers that be to allow him to shoot his miniatures in Morocco with the same mountains in the background and the same lighting conditions as the first unit. He was very satisfied with the results.
"We used two scales of plane because of the difference in size between the Hercules and the landing aircraft. If we had built everything to the scale of the landing aircraft, then the Hercules would have been unmanageable. We would have needed a model with a twenty-five-foot wingspan. If we had built everything to the scale of the Hercules, however, then the landing aircraft would have been too small to rig the explosion. So at first we had a twelfth-scale landing aircraft and a twelfth-scale Hercules — which had a twelve-foot wingspan —and we shot the Hercules roaring down the runway and taking off over the smaller plane. We also had a twelfth-scale armored car since all three were seen together. Then as soon as the Hercules was off the ground and out of our shot, we substituted a sixth-scale passenger aircraft which gave us better angles. We could get the camera lower and see the plane come along and hit the armored car and the wing take the top off the vehicle. From that cut we went to a real armored car on fire with an actor jumping out. "
Photo: With Bond at the controls, the Hercules makes a bombing run on a bridge as Soviet tanks attempt to pursue their equestrian adversaries. / In reality, the bridge being used on location was not the most impressive of structures. / To make it — and its subsequent destruction — more dramatic, Richardson and his crew created an extended foreground miniature to heighten the structure. A rough cardboard mockup was fashioned first to test the approach. / Once the basic concept was approved, the model unit constructed an elaborate miniature that was aligned in such a manner that the real bridge surface could be used in the rear. Twenty feet across and four-and-a-half feet high, the bridge and ravine set was erected in front of the camera with the real bridge about a thousand feet behind it / Scenes of the bridge exploding and collapsing into the ravine were shot with high-speed pyrotechnics on a much larger miniature.
A second and equally remarkable miniature was used in a continuation of the same sequence. Bond's freedom-fighter friends are being routed by the Russians and so he steps in with some much-needed air support. As the Afghans retreat across a bridge with the Russian tanks hard on their heels. Bond pilots his transport overhead and drops a bomb between them. "There never was a bridge like the one you see in the film," Richardson explained. "Well, there was a little bridge. Lengthwise it was the same as the one you see on screen, but height-wise it was at most fifteen or twenty feet above the river bed. Of course, that wouldn't look very spectacular when it s collapsing. So — again in conjunction with Mike Lamont — we constructed a foreground miniature of the ravine and a different bridge. We used the existing bridge from the handrail down to the road level so that you could see vehicles driving along it, but everything beneath that was a miniature." The foreground miniature — approximately twenty feet across and four-and-a-half feet high — was erected twenty-three feet from the camera lens, with the real bridge about a thousand feet away.
Richardson always tries to put as much camera movement on his models as possible, so in this sequence all of the shots were designed to include either a nodal pan or a zoom or a combination of moves. "On the first shot, we had the horsemen galloping across the real bridge, followed by two tanks firing their guns with a big fire on each side of the bridge. The real Hercules aircraft was flying across in the background. But the ravine which formed the whole lower half of the frame and which showed a bridge on stilts over a hundred-foot chasm was just a miniature. The river in the bottom was in fact cellophane paper and glitter. All of the blowing up was actually done on another bridge which we constructed at Pinewood. The original foreground model was about thirtieth-scale, but for the explosion we needed something much larger. So the bridge on the backlot was quarter-scale and we had just one part of the back wall of the ravine and about two-thirds or three-quarters of the bridge because it was all shot from the bottom looking up. Even at that, it was twenty-five feet tall and sixty feet long. We blew that bridge out a section at a time and did a series of cuts of its destruction."
Complicating matters was the fact that the foreground miniature was shot in November in the Sahara where it was still fairly bright and sunny. The quarter-scale model, however, was shot at Pinewood over Christmas and the first part of January. The crew had to scrape ice off the model every day before filming, but fortunately providence provided a few days of winter sunshine so that the shots matched.
Bond saves the day for the freedom-fighters, but then discovers that his plane is out of fuel. Moments before it crashes into a mountainside, he devises a quick escape by attaching a drop chute to a jeep in the cargo bay, strapping himself and Kara in and releasing the pallet-mounted vehicle out the rear hatchway. The parachute deploys and the jeep lands on the ground with a more or less gentle thud. Though such heavy equipment drops are common practice in military airlift circles — without people on board, however — for the film the jeep that falls out of the Hercules was only nine inches long. In feet, the whole sequence was done with models — from the drop to the hit. To get the miniature footage to cut with the real footage of Bond and Kara bouncing in the front seat after the hit, Richardson employed a standard military ring chute which was attached to the real jeep and towed along behind it. Timothy Dalton was therefore able to drive the jeep across the desert and up and off a two-foot ramp to simulate the landing. Then, to make the impact look much harder than it was, Richardson augmented the hit with dust explosions.
Running alongside the obvious effects are a myriad of little things which are not particularly special, but lumped together represent a tremendous amount of work. Included were all the gags in Q's workshop. His ghetto blaster, for instance, gives a whole new meaning to the colloquialism. The ghetto blaster was actually fired by HRH' when he came down to the studio — you know, Prince Charles," Richardson smiled. "He paid us a visit and we got him to fire the missile — not the one we see in the film, but a rehearsal one. I must say, he was very good. Then there was the other little gag with the sofa that swallows a person. And there was the key ring that had to have smoke coming out. That might seem rather straightforward, but we had to make a larger scale one and fit it with hoses to get the smoke to look right. Often you can spend as much time on the little things as you do on the great big effects because they are so annoyingly fiddly."
With the amount of work to be done on a Bond film, Richardson relies heavily on his well-trained crew. "I have a basic crew nucleus. John Morris has been with me for years. He has looked after at least one of the units on all of my Bond films. Likewise, Ken Morris — who is John's father — has been in charge of the workshop for me on all the Bond pictures. Ken is very much our Q. He has the easy task of working out how to build everything and putting up with me breathing down his neck and saying "Mot that way' or "Hurry up' or "Do that first' or whatever. He's fairly tolerant. He goes a few days and doesn't talk to me — until he has to — and then we re friends again. On A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights, Joss Williams looked after one of the units and did a lot of the basic organizing. When you are working in three or four countries — one after another — you've got to have somebody with each unit and then somebody leapfrogging ahead to prepare the next location. On The Living Daylights. Chris Corbould looked after the first unit for the first half of the film and then worked with the second unit for the Aston Martin chase sequence."
Photo: John Richardson and Leslie Dear examine the quarter-scale bridge — twenty-five feet tall and sixty feet long — erected for the detonation scene. / Mission complete, but with his plane critically low on fuel. Bond straps himself and his leading lady into a pallet-mounted Jeep and ejects it out the rear hatchway just as the Hercules is about to crash into a cliff. The entire sequence was accomplished with radio-controlled miniatures. / On location in Morocco, Richardson was able to employ an actual rock face — deceptive in its apparent scale — into which the plane could be crashed without the need fora miniature setting.
There is something special about the Bond films. They are truly a family affair. Cubby Broccoli has produced all fifteen — not counting two rogue' Bonds, Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again — and is regarded as the father of Bond by his crew. Because of the success of the series, funding is never too big a problem. Broccoli can afford the best and that is what he hires. John Olen, who has directed four of the films — an unprecedented record — insists that as a result, a Bond film is a moviemaker's dream. " Anything you imagine, you can do." Richardson enjoys meeting the demands of that sort of unbridled imagination —and undoubtedly the risks. "I love it because it gives me the chance to do the kinds of things I always wanted to do as a schoolboy — but always got punished for trying."
Moonraker, Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights photographs copyright © by Danjaq S.A. and United Artists Pictures, Inc. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Pat Perry.
copyright © 1988 by Don Shay. All rights reserved.
[Source: Cinefex #33, February 1988, P.4-23]