Mr. “Bond, James Bond” is known for his skintight suits, quirky drinks, and iconic cars. While 007’s latest cinematic adventure, Dying Can Wait, has been in theaters since October 8 after months of delay, we caught up with whoever designed the Aston Martins and Land Rovers we see on screen, not Q but Neil Layton of Auto Action Developments, Ltd and action vehicle coordinator for the 25th Bond film, to ensure a spoiler-free discussion.
From the rally to Quantum of Solace
Layton’s story begins in 1996, when he joined ProDrive, an engineering and motorsports group that became famous around the world for its work with the Subaru Rally Team. He rubbed shoulders with figures like Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen, who are among the greatest rally drivers of all time. Layton got involved in World Touring Cars and British Touring Cars before being approached by Ben Collins, the man in the white racing suit named Stig and a backup driver at Quantum of Solace, to build the Aston Martin DBS from the 22nd Bond movie. Layton went on to work on Skyfall, Specter and now Die Can Wait.
“My first movie was a James Bond movie, so you could say I was lucky enough to come in from the top,” Layton jokes.
What does an action vehicle coordinator do?
“My role as the Action Vehicle Coordinator is to work closely with the stunt team,” says Layton. “They plan the chase or the movie stunt, and then they come to us and say ‘we wish these vehicles could do this, that and that.’ “
Layton and his team then acquire and build the cars. He has had control over all the vehicles that we see on the screen, whether they are moving or parked and parked. This often involves working closely with the automakers supplying the vehicles for the film. In the case of Die Can Wait, that means Jaguar Land Rover, Triumph, and Aston Martin were in the know.
“For example, we built the DB5 hand in hand with Aston Martin, for many reasons, but the main one was the timeline,” Layton said. “We had six months to make eight replica cars that had to look like a DB5, but they had the performance of a race car and were solid like a rally car. “
Ten Aston DB5s for the shoot
Stunt vehicles must be able to go down stairs, do jumps, and perform handbrake drifts and turns. Layton explained that it was a major engineering project carried out in close collaboration with Aston to determine which engines, differentials and gearboxes to use, and how to customize the suspension and steering settings required for each stunt. At the same time, the visual styling and bodywork also had to be refined.
“You only see a DB5 in the movie, but we actually had 10. We had two main cars – one was correct on the outside and the other on the inside,” says Layton. “Then we had two device cars, which were fully equipped with front and rear devices. We also had two “wagons” that we could drive remotely. “
Remote controlled cars
A capsule car is a vehicle used to film the main actors behind the wheel, which is driven remotely by a stuntman, usually in a capsule mounted on the roof, just outside the frame. Layton participated in the development of the Gemini remote control system used in these cars. It allows the specialist to control the direction, the accelerator, the brakes or the handbrake of a vehicle, “be it a boat, bus, truck or car”, remotely and even wirelessly, up to 500 meters away, with Force Feedback calibrated. If they wanted, team members could remotely drive a Gemini-equipped stunt car around the curves of a mountain, then throw it off a cliff and completely destroy it, all at once. To Die Can Wait, however, was only used with a rooftop stunt driver.
“So we had four stunt cars in place, not only as backup insurance in case a stunt went wrong, but also to ensure continued damage to the body,” says Layton, who is returning to his DB5 fleet. “We don’t actually shoot in the order that the damage occurs on the film. Sometimes we start with the damage and when the filming ends we find a sharp and clean car. Another challenge, therefore, is the logistics and the amount of spare parts that we have to transport at all times. “
Layton continues, “So this in itself is a huge, massive project. And this is just one project among many. We also have KTM and Triumph motorcycles that do jumps and off-road. And then, of course, we were also interested in Defenders. “
The new Defender exclusively
These vehicles turned out to be particularly tricky, as the new Defender had not yet been unveiled at the time of filming. Layton and his team, therefore, had to work under the greatest secrecy.
“We had the first eight cars to roll off the production line, so we were under an embargo that prohibited us from revealing any information about the car. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, we didn’t have CAD drawings. But we had to design and develop roll cages and safety systems that we could bring to Land Rover and fit into the vehicles, ”Layton says. “We were not even allowed to take vehicles off-site and into our secure facilities here at Auto Action Developments. “
The job is not limited to building the car, an action vehicle coordinator must also support the stunt team on the test track during the planning stages and most importantly on set during filming.
«If l’on watering the scene d’ouverture avec l’Aston Martin, par exemple, nous sommes à Matera, in Italie – une ville vieille de près de 3 000 ans – et les conditions de surface de la route changent au cours de the day. If the wind blew, fine dust particles would settle on the sandstone slabs or stone slabs that were there. During the day he could have grip and the next minute he had none. So to keep the cars in tune, we were adjusting the type of tires, the pressure, and the shocks. We also used a famous carbonated drink that we sprayed on the road to add grip to the motorcycles and cars that were chasing them. “
Goodwin has always assumed that stunt vehicles are treated rather roughly and few of them survive production, but it turns out that with proper planning and execution, that’s not necessarily the case. He asked Layton how many of the various Astons and Land Rovers built had survived production and the response was surprising.
“All cars, whether they are Land Rover Defender or Aston Martin, have survived. So there were no total losses, with the exception of the Range Rover SVRs chasing Bond in his Toyota. Send one over a rock wall, causing him to suffer several barrels. We did two takes on this subject and those two vehicles were the only total losses. “
“The vehicles are prepared, then we test them, of course, not only to achieve this trick, we go above and beyond to make sure that we can keep repeating, repeating and repeating (Editor’s note involving cheats),” continues Layton.
“All the stunts you see in the movie were done for real, there are no visual effects. So it is not a CGI or VFX edition. The Defender leaps through the air a distance equal to that of three trucks. Similarly, the Aston Martin skidded dynamically through the streets of Matera – it was all done for real. Motorcycle jumps, Bond shots … it was all done for real, and there was no CGI to create the stunts. “
Dying Can Wait, starring Daniel Craig, has been in theaters since October 8.
CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance
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