Source: SF Film Finland
Photos: 007.com, Sölden.com, Splash News
Exotic and glamorous settings have for many years been synonymous with
the James Bond films, and Spectre sees the world-famous secret agent once
more travel to a host of memorable locations. “When you’re dealing with
Bond, there is to some degree a need for aspirational location photography,”
did go to Turkey and China, the majority of the film was set in the UK.
“In Spectre, however, the story allowed us to go further afield and we wanted
the locations to look incredible. That didn’t necessarily mean they had to look
beautiful and sun-kissed all the time, but they did have to look magnificent or
frightening or eerie, and that’s exactly what we got.”
The 24th Bond film opens in Mexico City amid a wild Day of the Dead
celebration. “I hope these scenes will be memorable,” says Mendes of the
pre-title sequence. “Certainly, the Day of the Dead is raucous and vibrant.”
The Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, especially in
the Central and Southern regions. It brings together gatherings of family and
friends who pray for the departed and bid to aid them in their spiritual journey
after death. Traditionally, it begins on October 31 and ends on November 2.
“For this section of the film I wanted something sinister and celebratory, which
you can only get with something like the Day Of The Dead,” says Mendes.
The Day of the Dead sequence took four weeks to prepare and features more
than 1,500 extras that were worked upon by over 100 make up artists. Each
extra was given one of eight different looks, with the skeleton brides and
skeleton grooms among the most visually striking. The filmmakers used
traditional Mexican colours for the textiles involved and purchased more than
two million different gems to decorate the costumes.
Producer Barbara Broccoli explains, “Sam Mendes was really excited by the
idea of doing the Day of the Dead and he really inspired all our heads of
department. And [production designer] Dennis Gassner did extraordinary work
with the maquettes and the puppetry.”
The filmmakers shot in three different locations in Mexico City — The Gran
Hotel, Plaza Tolsá and the Zócalo, which is the main square in the centre of
“The Mexican crew felt very honoured that this ceremony was being put on
film,” adds producer Michael G. Wilson, “so they all contributed enormously to
making it look as spectacular as it does.”
Another spectacular location in Spectre is the Italian capital, Rome, which
showcases a breath-taking car chase. This sequence speeds through the
Eternal City at night, Bond and his enemy racing supercars past a clutch of
iconic monuments. They zoom alongside the River Tiber, zipping past St.
Peter’s Square and the Coliseum.
“I wanted to go to a great European city at night while it was deserted,
somewhere with a great sense of history,” says Mendes. “I wanted an
atmosphere of darkness and foreboding. Rome is particularly suitable if you
also take in the 1920s and 1930s Fascist architecture, with overtones of the
“We didn’t want that terracotta, soft light that we as tourists see when we go
there to look at the fountains,” the director continues. “We wanted something
darker and scarier at night time.”
Rome also appears in daylight during a funeral scene and the filmmakers
again opted for a forbidding location, choosing the Museum of Roman
Civilization with its towering columns. Located in the Piazza Giovanni Agnelli
in the south of the city, this impressive site is temporarily closed in preparation
for redevelopment work, thereby giving the filmmakers free rein.
Moving away from the heat of Mexico and the powerful architecture of Rome,
Spectre also heads into the Alpine landscape, sending Bond to a snow-bound
location for the first time since 2002’s Die Another Day. The filmmakers chose
three locations in Austria — Lake Altaussee, Obertilliach and Sölden.
landscapes,” says Mendes, “and it doesn’t get much more dramatic than
8,000 feet up in the Alps.”
Lake Altaussee is located in the district of Liezen in Styria, below the Loser
Plateau. There is a small village on the shores of the lake, which is home to
just under 2,000 people. Altaussee is said to have the biggest salt deposits in
Austria, which are still mined today.
Obertilliach, meanwhile, is a municipality in the district of Lienz, in the Austrian
state of Tyrol, and it is home to some of the impressive stunt work in Spectre’s
middle section. With its Alpine climate, the area suffers harsh winters but
enjoys plenty of sunshine. Originally an agricultural area, Obertilliach today
depends on tourism and is said to be a popular destination for biathletes and
cross-country skiers as well as for hikers, mountaineers and paragliders.
The third Austrian location, Sölden, is a municipality in the Ötztal valley of
Tyrol and it boasts the Ötztal Glacier Road, which is the third highest paved
road in Europe.
Sölden the home of the stylish ICE-Q restaurant, which the filmmakers use for
the Hoffler Klink, a vital location in the Spectre story where key characters
meet for the first time. The ICE-Q is at the top of the cable cars that feature in
a tense scene with Q (played by Ben Whishaw).
According to production designer Dennis Gassner, the ICE-Q structure had
the perfect clean and clinical Alpine aesthetic for the Klinik, and its position
atop the 3,000-metre Gaislachkogl Mountain made it especially attractive. “It
is a wonderful location,” he says.
Standing in stark contrast to the cold and snowy Austrian landscape are the
locations in Morocco, in North Africa, which include the city of Tangier and the
Sahara desert outside the town of Erfoud in the east of the county.
“We discussed a lot of African landscapes,” says Mendes, “but the scenes
required a desert landscape and also a city. We wanted the characters to
head south because this part of the story is like a roadtrip in a way.
“The characters involved meet in Austria and head south down through
Northern Morocco, through Tangier and then down into the Sahara.”
Tangier is a Moroccan port city on the Strait of Gibraltar. It has been a
strategic gateway between Africa and Europe for thousands of years. It is
here that the audience witnesses an important shift in the relationship
between Bond and another important character.
For the desert scenes, meanwhile, the filmmakers headed to Erfoud, a
gateway to the Sahara Desert and a popular destination for filmmakers,
having played host to films as diverse as March or Die (1977), The Mummy
(1999) and Prince of Persia (2010).
In Spectre, Erfoud hosted what might well be the largest explosion ever
committed to a movie. The team brought in 8,000 litres of kerosene to fuel a
massive blast that occurs as the movie heads towards its climax. According to
special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, this is most definitely the biggest
explosion of his career. “It was complicated to plan and to pull off but it was
more than worth it,” he says.
No Bond film would be complete without time spent in London, whether at the
MI6 offices or out on the city streets. Bond visits Whitehall early in the film and
then finds himself embroiled in an action sequence that plays out against a
number of London landmarks, such as City Hall, the home of the Mayor and
London Assembly, which stands in for the interior of the Centre for National
Security, a pivotal location in the film.
As with a number of other Bond films, the River Thames also plays a
prominent role, with the action unfolding under the shadow of Lambeth
Palace, Tate Britain, the Houses of Parliament, County Hall and The London
Eye. A number of bridges along the river also feature, including Vauxhall,
Lambeth and Westminster Bridges.
“There is a large chunk of this film that is dependent on London for its
canvas,” says Mendes. “In fact, all five locations serve the story really well. I
hope that audiences will enjoy seeing them on screen.”
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