11 JANUARY, 2002: Pinewood Studios, England
Somewhere in Antarctica, Agent 007 is trapped in an icy cavern. Fur-clad Arabs surround him, with their AK-47 assault rifles levelled at his head. James Bond reluctantly steps away from the huge bomb he’s been trying to defuse and raises his hands. Suddenly, diabolical laughter echoes around the chamber and a menacing voice booms: “You thought you could stop me, Mr Bond! But I will melt the polar ice cap and I will bring forth the deluge!” A tall, turbaned figure steps forward.
“Ice to see you, Osama,” says Bond, with a wry smile...
For Total Film, shivering at Pinewood on this drizzly, winter day, the above scene is a distinctly possible climax to the 20th official Bond movie, which, at this time, is just rolling into production. Rumours are rife. “It’s going to be called Beyond The Ice! Sean Connery will have a cameo!” You get the gist. We’ve gatecrashed the Fort Knox-secure shoot to quiz Kiwi director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, The Edge) and the principal cast members about what the 40th anniversary Bond – still untitled – is really going to involve.
The Bin Laden plot is quickly scotched by a faintly amused Pierce Brosnan. “I think it has been discussed,” he says, “and it’s a good idea, but it’s not gonna happen in this one – sorry.” And the Connery rumour? We’ll come back to that. Of course, at this early stage, everyone’s still rather cagey about giving away too much, but it transpires that Die Another Day, as it is later dubbed, focuses on Bond’s quest to stop the rogue General Zao (The Fast And The Furious’ Rick Yune) and mysterious businessman Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) from using extreme measures to realise Zao’s dream of reuniting North and South Korea. But there are complications for 007. According to Brosnan, “you see Bond as a renegade, a man completely out of his environment,” a man who doesn’t know who to trust – including fellow MI6 agent Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) and Jinx (Halle Berry), who Tamahori excitedly describes as “a Modesty Blaise character”.
During the next eight months, this massive production will thunder through Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, Hawaii and Iceland, setting up hovercraft chases, swordfights, ice-lake car battles and several anniversary-celebrating winks to previous Bond movies. But, throughout, Pinewood will remain the hub of all this activity. And it’s to Pinewood that Total Film repeatedly returns to piece together the story of the biggest Bond yet.