Spy Harder

Die Another Day – the 40th anniversary Bond movie – promises to be huge. Total Film shadowed the production for eight months. And everybody was expected to talk...

5 JULY, 2002: The Ice Palace, 007 Stage

The Ice Palace is a one-day exhibition of what Graves can do,” says production designer Peter Lamont, a veteran of 16 previous Bonds. “But, for me, it was a chance to do something out of the ordinary.” Three months earlier, this gargantuan set was beautiful. Now it’s in a state of destruction, with an inch of water swirling around Total Film’s boots – all a result of Tamahori’s decision to stage a car chase inside the Palace itself.

Action Unit director Vic Armstrong, another 007 veteran who’s been doing Bond stuntwork since sliding down a rope in You Only Live Twice, is preparing one of the shoot’s final sequences. An Aston Martin squats in a corridor, with a Brosnan-a-like dummy lodged behind the wheel. A track snakes out from beneath the car, leading to a chamber blocked by a thick “ice” door, which is filling with water. Once it’s full, the Aston’s path is cleared, with Total Film politely shoved to a place of safety. A clapperboard is snapped and the car hurtles forward, smashing through the door. Water gushes out and the corridor briefly transforms into a raging river. When it subsides, Armstrong strolls to the monitors and replays the stunt. He’s happy. This was the second take and he’s nailed it.

Despite having been a Bond stalwart since the Sean Connery days, Armstrong is anything but complacent. “Creating stunt sequences is tough on a Bond movie,” he says, drying off in his trailer, “because we’ve done everything before and we’ve still got to avoid rehashing anything. To stay original – that’s what keeps me awake at night.” However, Armstrong doesn’t seem overly worried today, and is confident that Die Another Day has plenty to offer in the way of never-before-seen stunts.

 But how does he find having to get to know the working methods and quirks of a different director on each Bond movie? “With my background, I’m used to working with hundreds of different directors anyway,” he says. “Scorsese, Paul Verhoeven, David Lean... [The World Is Not Enough director] Michael Apted was good in the way he didn’t just leave it up to me. And Lee has never done action before, really, so it’s interesting. It’s quite different from watching it to doing it and actually capturing it...”