As we all continue to wait for the long-delayed No Time to Die to finally see the light of day, at least we can fall back on the many classic Bond movies of decades past. And few sequels can rival 1995’s GoldenEye, the first of two stellar Bond movies from director Martin Campbell.
IGN’s latest installment of Watch From Home Theater reunited Campbell with star Famke Janssen for a fun and very illuminating reflection on Bond’s big ’90s comeback. If you missed out on the livestream, you can still watch the commentary track in the embedded video player below. But if you just want the juiciest details, read on to learn some fascinating anecdotes about the making of GoldenEye, including Campbell’s quest to “go for something the audience has never seen before” and the scene that left Janssen with a very nasty injury. Then be sure to check out our previous recaps of the Rogue One WFH Theater and the Jurassic Park WFH Theater.
A New Breed of Bond Opening
Every good James Bond movie strives to make a strong first impression with its opening sequence, and GoldenEye is no exception. Its single-take dam sequence remains one of the most memorable opening sequences in the entire franchise. We were curious to learn whether Campbell approached the epic opening scene with an eye toward topping all previous Bond movies and making a clear statement in that regard. But as Campbell explained, it was less about “out-Bonding” the previous movies and more about giving audiences something completely new. Though he did draw some inspiration from a classic Roger Moore Bond flick.
“It’s not that so much, but you do sit down and talk about, ‘What can we do that’s never been done before?'” said Campbell. “I think the greatest opening Bond sequence is the in The Spy Who Loved Me, where he skis off the mountain, all in one shot. I think it’s the most fantastic. So, in a funny way, we had that in mind when we did this. But the idea is that you always go for something the audience has never seen before. We sit down, we discuss it, and I’d seen photographs and a documentary of this dam, actually, because climbers use it to hone their skills for mountain climbing. That’s really where the idea came from.”
How Janssen Broke Her Rib
Another of GoldenEye’s many memorable scenes comes when Janssen’s character Xenia Onatopp attacks Brosnan’s Bond in the sauna – a mixture of action and sex appeal as only the Bond movies can deliver. But as Janssen revealed, that scene came with a heavy physical cost, and one that didn’t become fully apparent until after production had wrapped. She actually broke a rib while shooting the scene, despite the fact that the set was specifically padded to prevent injuries.
“Pierce was throwing me up against the wall and I said to Pierce, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just throw me real hard, because I don’t want to act it too much. It’s gonna look fake and I don’t want it to look fake. So just do it.'” said Janssen. “And then he did it, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. So we had to stop breathing for a bit. It wasn’t until I came back to America that I had broken a rib.”
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An $80,000 Car Accident
Production on GoldenEye didn’t just take a toll on Janssen’s physical health. It also extracted a heavy financial price when a stunt driver accidentally wrecked a very valuable Ferrari. The scene in question is the one where Brosnan’s Bond is racing his Aston Martin against Xenia’s Ferrari. The driver handling the Ferrari accidentally crashed the car, with repairs clocking in at a whopping $80,000.
“From what I remember he was crying,” said Janssen. “I had a male stuntperson to double me for the driving sequence, because I think they all belonged to Ferrari. So it was a big deal when that car crashed. I remember sort of the eyelashes and everything going places when I saw him coming out of the car.”
Campbell added, “I always think the conceit of this chase is a bit ridiculous, because a Ferrari like that and a ’65 Aston Martin competing…”
You Only Explode Once
Campbell reflected on one of the film’s more bombastic moments – the scene where the control room explodes. That scene was an especially harrowing experience for the crew, as they only had one chance to get everything right before irrevocably blowing up the control room set and all its complex models and matte paintings. Fortunately, everything went according to plan.
“These are always nerve-wracking to film, simply because you know you’ve only got one take. [laughs] There’s no way you can reset this thing. And if anything goes wrong… And, again, in those days, no digital to get you out of [trouble].”
Later, Campbell admitted that there was another “only one chance” scene that didn’t go off as planned. Near the end of the film, Bond can be seen leaping aboard a helicopter after dropping Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan to the bottom of the radar dish. Because that scene was shot on the very last day of production, and because it had very specific lighting requirements, Campbell had only seconds to get the right shot. Unfortunately, the stuntman missed when he attempted to grab onto the helicopter, forcing Campbell to rely on some editing magic to splice the scene together.
“It was our last day of shooting. We had to shoot in the sun to match, an we had 45 seconds of sun just before lunch,” said Campbell. “So we all had to go, and he jumped and he missed it. If you look at the close-ups of hands hitting, that got us out of problems.”
Campbell on Bond Music
Many Bond fans will argue a movie is only as good as its theme song. Fortunately, GoldenEye features the titular main track, composed by Bono and the Edge and performed by Tina Turner. When asked what their favorite Bond themes of all time are, Campbell pointed to an all-time classic – the title track from 1964’s Goldfinger.
Though, surprisingly enough, Campbell admitted to not being entirely happy with the music in GoldenEye, with the iconic tank chase sequence being a particular sticking point for him. Even though this scene is the first in the movie to make use of the familiar James Bond motif, Campbell revealed he and composer Éric Serra didn’t necessarily see eye to eye.
“Three or four composers turned this film down before we’d shot it. John Barry we went to first, who, of course, established Bond in many of the Bond films. I loved his music. So on the fourth one, I’d seen The Professional, and I just thought, in keeping with bringing Bond up to date, [Éric would] be a perfect candidate for it.”
Campbell continued, “But in all honesty, I was disappointed in the music. Our budget was not that much, and it was limited to what we could do. And when I was dubbing the tank chase, the music that came in for that was in exactly the same register as the tanks. In other words, it disappeared. So I rang Éric in France and said, ‘Look, we have a real problem here.’ I remember saying to him him, ‘There’s no point in using synth for this, because it’ll just disappear. I said what we need is the Bond theme, and you always use percussion and brass to crash through all the effects.’ And I remember his answer to me was, ‘Well, lower the effects.’ So I said, ‘I’m not going to do that,’ and that was the end of our conversation.”
Fortunately, Campbell said Serra’s assistant was willing to rewrite the score for the tank chase in the span of a few days, allowing them to record the new track without falling behind schedule.
In other Bond news, MGM was reportedly seeking a deal to debut No Time to Die on a streaming service rather than in theaters, but no streamers were willing to meet the studios $600 million asking price. We also recently learned Hitman developer IO Interactive is working on a James Bond video game codenamed Project 007.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.