Bond films are often defined by their scenes’ foreground: tailored suits, beautiful women, that ever-present martini. Yet, much of the franchise’s iconic aesthetic comes from the background as well. Exotic locations are de rigueur in every Bond pic — though the franchise’s definition of “exotic” has evolved over the decades.
The Bond backgrounds, according to Anthony Waye, longtime location manager and assistant helmer for the Bond franchise, were to take people to “places they’d never seen,” but that was easier when “Dr. No” opened in 1962. Then the term “jet set” really meant something. James Bond’s freedom to book a plane at a moment’s notice and decamp for Turkey, Japan or Switzerland had a definite “wow” factor.
“The famous ‘Dr. No’ scene of Ursula on the beach (in the Caribbean), it was a great visual,” Waye says.
But with 101 million Americans holding passports and international travel more common, the “Dr. No” beach scenes “nowadays wouldn’t have such an impact,” he says. Recent Bond pics have featured more challenging settings, such as Kazakhstan (doubled by Spain), the Chilean desert and North Korea (shot in Hawaii and Britain) — still places people have never seen, but not dream vacation spots.
Speaking from his office in Turkey, where he returned from retirement to manage a location for “Skyfall,” Waye recalls shooting “GoldenEye” in Puerto Rico (subbing for Cuba) on the Arecibo radio telescopes. “They were stunningly visual massive receivers and of course virtually no public would ever get to see that.” Such locales don’t always impact the plot. The Greek monastery in “For Your Eyes Only” provides a dramatic backdrop but did little to propel the story.
The Bond franchise’s taste for such eye candy has been imitated by other action pictures, says Waye. Since “many more films are going around the world looking to get the visual,” he says, competition for fresh locales has become more intense.
“Movies like ‘Ghost Protocol,’ they’ve gone to exotic locations like India, Dubai and Russia to do action sequences. … They’re out to do what ‘Bond’ was doing for years: incorporate stunts with stunning visual locations.”
CG environments and backgrounds have become a substitute for lengthy location shooting, even for the Bond pics. But Waye says using CG “affects the visuals of the film.”
“We’ve always tried to do everything for real,” he says. But sometimes the unusual locales that add edge to 007’s adventures prove too edgy for a movie shoot. “We were going to shoot in Istanbul for ‘The World Is Not Enough,’ ” he recounts. “We’d come here, we set up an office, and then there were two or three suicide bombers … we had to cancel the location and move to Spain.
“You have to be aware of the political saturation,” he says.
But for Waye, the global trek and the jet lag that comes with it are worth it: “If you shot these scenes in a football stadium,” he says, “it just wouldn’t have the same effect.”