Over the course of 53 years and nearly two dozen films, audiences have come to expect amazing exotic locations from James Bond movies. But the last entry in the series, 2012’s “Skyfall,” while hugely successful, was a little light on the globetrotting. Things are different with 007’s 24th adventure, “Spectre,” once again directed by Sam Mendes, which has the super spy Bond (Daniel Craig) touching down in Mexico, Italy, Morocco and the U.K.
On “Skyfall,” “we shot in Turkey and a little in Shanghai, but it was predominantly a London-based movie,” says the film’s executive producer Callum McDougall, who has worked on nine Bonds starting with 1987’s “The Living Daylights.” “I think Sam and the producers were very keen to take this back on the road again and, because of the story, the footprint could be bigger.”
“Spectre” kicks off with a pre-credit chase through a Day of the Dead celebration on Mexico City’s Zocalo Square. Shot over 10 days in November 2014, the sequence required 1,500 extras each day outfitted in elaborate costumes and makeup, along with 50 to 100 police and catering for approximately 3,000 people. With 100-150 spots in and around Zocalo Square locked-off, a helicopter flew over cast and crew, executing acrobatic moves below roof level.
Supervising location manager Emma Pill started working on “Spectre” way back in December 2013.
“I started so early because we were going to shoot the following ski season, and when you look for locations without snow, it’s quite hard to sell to the filmmakers, so you need to scout it the winter prior,” Pill says.
Pill and location manager Ali James traveled around Morocco and Europe with production designer Dennis Gassner and associate producer Gregg Wilson in search of the locations that Mendes wanted. Back in London, they presented a short list with stills and plans to Mendes and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of Eon Prods., who then visited the locales themselves.
“For every location used, (we) probably scouted 10 or 15 versions elsewhere,” Pill says.
In spite of their best-laid plans, there was only so much they could do about the weather. Fortunately, luck was on their side. They got an ample dumping of snow prior their first day of shooting on Lake Altaussee in Austria that completely melted three days after their departure. Shooting at lower altitudes in the town of Obertilliach, the production employed a snow-making team to replenish the ground cover after each day’s action had been shot.
They also avoided weather disaster in Rome, where they shot a night-time car chase that reached speeds of 100 mph.
“Wet roads would not have been helpful, as most of the streets are cobbled in Rome and have a sheen to them and would be an issue for fast-driving cars. The banks of the River Tiber, where the chase continues, also has a history of flooding when the snow melts from the mountains, so again (it required) careful monitoring by our local production and location team,” McDougall says.
That still left the usual logistics of shooting in public spaces in a busy metropolis around famous landmarks and Vatican City. The production had to wait until rush hour was over, then set up multiple camera crews and locked off up to 240 locations, leaving them with five to six hours a night to shoot before they had to be cleared off the roads.
When production moved to London to shoot a boat and helicopter chase on the River Thames in May, the big challenge was not the weather, but securing spots to place the lights for the sequence, much of which takes place at night.
“I think I know most rooftops along the River Thames now,” Pill jokes.