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How 007, his stunt team and a small armoury left the shopping centre shaken and stirred...
From the Evening Standard (June 17, 1997)
By Judith Keeling
James Bond eased himself into the leather armchair in M's office and idly wondered where his next dangerous assignment would be. Moscow or South America, perhaps, or the bustling streets of Tokyo?
M fixed him with that familiar steely gaze, then named a place which Bond had never visited or indeed heard of -- Brent Cross shopping centre.
After filming in Thailand, Mexico, the French Pyrenees, Hamburg and Florida, 007 and the cast of his new film have now moved to an overspill multi-storey car park in Brent Cross.
It may not be the most exotic location on the list, but the scenes being filmed are within a stone's throw of the North Circular, will form some of the most dramatic action sequences in the new £40 million Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.
Three weeks of filming will be condensed into several minutes of thrilling car chases which end in Bond's rented BMW 750 being fired at by a rocket, plunging off the car park roof and ending up a crumpled wreck in a Hamburg street.
The car is Q's latest piece of electronic wizardry and can be driven by Bond by remote control using a mobile phone which is also capable of opening locks and analysing fingerprints.
Yesterday, as shoppers lingered over the clothes rails of nearby Fenwick, gun shots, thick smoke and the screech of car tyres issued forth regularly from the fourth floor of the car park behind.
A bazooka fired occasionally from the floor below and at one point the entire crew of more than 150 technicians and stunt men had to be evacuated from the building when the fire brigade was called to a stunt involving the three blazing crashed cars.
Neither 007 Pierce Brosnan nor his co-stars Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh were on the set at the time of the fire. Film spokesman Geoff Freeman said "We were filming a stunt which involved setting fire to three crashed vehicles but it created more smoke than we anticipated. No one was injured but the smoke was seen by a member of the public who called the fire brigade. We were all evacuated from the car park but the shops were not evacuated. The smoke was very thick, too thick for our extractor fans to cope with."
A spokesman for London Fire Brigade said the blaze was brought under control very quickly.
The small fire provided only a short hiccup in the shooting, which began under the direction of veteran stunt Co-ordinator Vic Armstrong at 7.30a.m. Meanwhile, back on the set, in a corner of the car park lies a pile of smashed-up cars which took the whole week to shoot to Armstrong's satisfaction.
"The most difficult task, by far, is being original," said Armstrong, who has worked on more than 200 films as either a stunt man or stunt co-ordinator, including acting as a double for Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
"We haven't gone for a big stunt at the beginning of the film like they usually do in the Bond films because there is such an expectation that it might not come up to scratch," he said. The film begins, instead, with a long action scene in the snowy French Pyrenees in which Bond is involved in a fight, steals a plane and gets in some early target practice in a shoot out.
One of the most impressive stunts happens in the crowded streets of the Vietnamese city of Saigon, as Bond and his leading lady are chased by a helicopter as they weave nimbly over roof tops on a 1200cc BMW -- the motorbike equivalent of performing circus tricks with a double-decker bus.
At one point the bike crashes through an upstairs window, leaps over a helicopter hovering in the street and lands on the roof of a building on the other side of the road. The stunts are all being shot with meticulous attention to detail. The car park has been hung with German signs and filled with left-hand drive cars, complete with German licence plates. The "baddies" are filmed time and time again screeching around the car park in their dark coloured Mercedes, firing shots at Bond's car.
Different lenses are tried and the driving becomes apparently wilder and wilder as stunt driver Jim Dowdall, who drove the tank through the streets of St. Petersburg in GoldenEye, sought to produce exactly the 40-second footage required.
"We've put in false walls and these are cars provided by the production company so that if we hit anything, there won't be any problems," said spokesman Geoff Freeman.
Behind one of the false walls is an arsenal of weapons, under the strict supervision of armourer Charlie Bodycomb.
Bond himself is being issued with a new Walther P99.9mm, to update his traditional Walther PPK 7.65mm weapon. The bad guys, however, get meaner-looking weapons -- sub-machine-guns, automatics fitted with grenade launchers and riot shotguns.
"The hoodlums in Brent Cross this week will be carrying MP5K sub-machine guns, CAR15 5.56 automatics with M203 grenade launchers and 12-shot riot shotguns," joked Bodycomb.
Should be a lively mission thought Bond, as he closed M's heavy panelled door behind him.
Brosnan unhappy as feuding breaks out on set of new movie.
From Daily Mail [London], (May 27, 1997)
By Anne Shooter
To James Bond, saving the world is all in a day's work. Nobody does it better.
Saving his next film, however, might prove a daunting prospect even to a man of his caliber.
Constant disagreements on the set of Tomorrow Never Dies are said to be leaving the cast and crew more shaken than stirred and Pierce Brosnan - making his 2nd appearance as 007 after the hugely successful GoldenEye -- has told friends of his unhappiness.
Costs have rocketed from £44 million to £56 million, according to insiders, and are likely to soar even higher in the race to be ready for a Christmas release.
Director Roger Spottiswoode and scriptwriter Bruce Feirstein seem no longer on speaking terms, and crew members have been threatening to resign. Said one: "I don't see how we are ever going to finish the thing.
"All the happiness and teamwork which is the hallmark of Bond has disappeared completely. We have got ourselves locked into an impossible situation, the like of which I have never witnessed in more than 30 years in the industry."
The central dispute is over the script -- about a megalomaniac media mogul who tries to trigger a third world war in order to boost TV ratings. The original was written by Feirstein, co-writer of GoldenEye, which grossed £219 million.
Spottiswoode was said to have been unhappy with it and replaced him with Daniel Petrie Jr., writer of Beverly Hills Cop.
But the producers, the late Cubby Broccoli's daughter Barbara and stepson Michael Wilson, were furious with the Petrie version and insisted on reinstating Feirstein just two weeks before filming was due to begin in April 1.
He is now said to be rewriting the script day by day from his hotel room.
One senior crew member said: "Feirstein and Spottiswoode seem to have such a mutual disregard that they never speak. Feirstein feels his original script should have gone ahead. Spottiswoode wanted to film Petrie's script.
"What we are getting is an awful mishmash with changes virtually every day. The actors don't know if they are coming or going. Pierce, to his credit, has remained calm about the whole thing, as has his co-star Michelle Yeoh. They are there until the end and have to make the best of it.
But other senior actors like Dame Judi Dench and Jonathan Pryce are said to have been horrified at the changes. They learn whole sections only to find they have to relearn lines the night before filming."
The film appears to have had problems from the word go. Plans to shoot it in Vietnam hit trouble, so work moved to Phuket. Then Jonathan Pryce, who plays the villain, is said to have clashed with Spottiswoode over his role, parts of which had to be rewritten.
Insiders say his screen wife Teri Hatcher, star of TV's Superman, was annoyed that her part was smaller than expected, so that had to be rescripted too.
One source traced many of the problems to pressure from the Hollywood studio MGM/UA to met the Christmas deadline, which means filming had to begin on April 1.
"We were nowhere near ready," said the source, "and we all fear for the future. If we miss the deadline and go in January or February next year when the box office would be down, or if the film is a disaster, this could be the end of Bond."
HONG KONG (AP) / (May 21, 1997) -- James Bond's new leading lady, Michelle Yeoh, won't be doing her own stunts on the set of the latest 007 movie, even though she wants to, a Hong Kong newspaper reported today.
Tomorrow Never Dies' includes a scene in which the Malaysian-born actress beats Bangkok traffic by jumping from rooftop to rooftop on a motorcycle, the Oriental Daily News reported.
Yeoh wanted to do the scene herself, as well as descend the facade of a 44-story skyscraper hanging onto a banner, the paper said.
The newspaper quoted Yeoh, who usually does her own stunt work, as saying Director Roger Spottiswoode ruled it out as too dangerous.
The film stars Pierce Brosnan as 007 and Jonathan Pryce as a villainous media mogul.
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) / (May 15, 1997) -- Only James Bond could devise a way to beat the most notorious traffic jams on the planet.
"Go by roof," said Pierce Brosnan, who was in Bangkok Thursday to begin filming a daring rooftop motorcycle chase for Tomorrow Never Dies' the latest 007 movie.
The movie will be the most expensive Bond film ever, producer Michael Wilson said. He wouldn't divulge total costs, but said the 2-week shoot in Thailand alone would cost $4 million.
The film, about an evil magnate trying to use the media to destroy people, co-stars Hong Kong film star Michelle Yeoh.
Asked to compare Brosnan with Jackie Chan, the popular male star she has teamed up with for several movies, Yeoh said there was no comparison.
"Pierce is handsome and suave, while Jackie is cute and funny," Yeoh said. "When women see Pierce they swoon, when they see Jackie they giggle."
BANGKOK (Reuter)/ (May 15, 1997) -- Pierce Brosnan, known for his role as suave British intelligence agent James Bond, has found exotic Thailand a hot location. Too hot.
The Irish-born actor, visiting the Thai capital to film Tomorrow Never Dies, said the city's daytime temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit have knocked him out.
Brosnan's first words at a press conference that drew big laughs from the media were: "Water, water. Hot, hot, hot, hot really."
"We were filming ... on a motorcycle in part of Bangkok, which was very colorful and very hot," he said.
One scene calls for Brosnan's character to ride across Bangkok rooftops on a motorcycle, a feat he said frustrated commuters should not imitate to beat the city's notorious traffic jams.
Tomorrow Never Dies producer Michael Wilson said his crew originally planned to shoot the movie in Vietnam, but the team was forced to shift the location to Bangkok because of problems with the Vietnamese authorities.
Bangkok's triple-digit temperatures during the past month has pushed power consumption to a 30-year high as Thais retreat to air-conditioned rooms to escape the heat.
By Jamie Portman
Southam Newspapers (St. Catharines, Ontario), April 24, 1997
Pierce Brosnan has started major work on his new James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, and he promises the script will deliver the same kind of spectacular action and daredevil thrills that characterized the 1995 GoldenEye, his first foray in the role of Agent 007. But there's a part of him that wishes it would be a different kind of Bond movie, more in the tone of the earliest entries in the series.
Brosnan is the first to admit that Bond has given his career a massive boost, and he's excited by a storyline in which the power of the media becomes a lethal weapon the international villainy. He has already done the pretitle sequence - long a trademark for the Bond films - in the French Pyrenees at one of the world's few high-altitude airfields.
Even so, Brosnan still nurses the hope that one day he'll do a 007 film less reliant on big visual effects and more concerned with plot and character. As an example, he cites Sean Connery's 2nd Bond film, From Russia With Love, which was notable for its lack of splashy visuals and for its strong narrative line and carefully defined characters.
During media interviews for the GoldenEye, several of the film's producers admitted From Russia With Love was their favorite Bond film but wondered whether '90s filmgoers, acclimated to spectacular thrill after spectacular thrill, would buy that kind of product.
Brosnan clearly thinks it's worth a try.
"I've told the producers I would like to see a more interior piece, showing the workings of James Bond's mind, a piece that is more character-driven to help us find out what makes him really tick."
In the new entry, Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh will play 007's ally with Teri Hatcher supplying the romantic interest and Jonathan Pryce as the villainous media giant who wants to take over the world.
From Daily Mail [London] (April 25, 1997)
by Baz Bamigboye
Tensions are mounting on the set of the new Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Several of the leading cast members are unhappy with their roles.
Film villain Jonathan Pryce has clashed with the film's director Roger Spottiswoode, claiming that his character lacks depth and bears no resemblance to the role as it was first described to him.
His screen wife Teri Hatcher, star of TV's Superman, is just as livid. Having flown in this week from the U.S., she has discovered that her part has been reduced to 3 small scenes.
As a result, she has complained vigourously that it was not the role she had signed on the perform. For once, these are not just the whinings of temperamental movie stars. They are valid criticisms of a picture that at the moment, is said not to be up to scratch.
New script writers have been hired urgently to beef up and re-write several scenes featuring Pryce, Hatcher and Pierce Brosnan, who is making his second outing as 007.
Mr. Brosnan has observed to friends that, so far, filming has been a total shambles and certainly not as enjoyable as GoldenEye, his 1st outing as 007, which grossed more than any of the previous Bond movies.
Until a few days ago, the production was shooting in Germany and there were several bitter and vocal run-ins between the actors and the production team.
From New York Daily News (March 10, 1997)
Rush and Molloy column
Did Chinese operatives sabotage James Bond's latest Far East mission? In a plot twist worthy of Ian Fleming, Vietnamese officials have blocked the next 007 movie from shooting in their country - supposedly because the script off ends friends in Beijing.
For 2 months now, producers of the 18th Bond thriller have been laying the groundwork for what was to be Hollywood's first major invasion of Vietnam since American troops pulled out in 1973. But last week, word came from Hanoi that the visa for the MGM picture had been rescinded.
"The Chinese put pressure on the Vietnamese to kick them out," claims one source who believes Beijing got wind of the new Bond storyline. It deals with corrupt Chinese generals who do the bidding of a Rupert Murdoch-like media tycoon. In real life, it happens that Murdoch and the Chinese government have a major satellite deal. This wouldn't be the first time China has frowned upon Tinseltown entertainment. Disney execs are already concerned that the company's long-term interests there could be jeopardized by Martin Scorsese's movie about the Dalai Lama. Bond spokesman Gordon Arnell insisted the Vietnamese had no problem with the 007 script, but hadn't bargained on the crew and equipment needed for the movie's pyrotechnics. "They just found us a bit too ambitious for what's still a rather sketchy infrastructure," said Arnell.
An official with the Vietnamese culture ministry said permission was denied for "many complicated reasons."
Bond location scouts have since found sets in Thailand. Due to get rolling in April, the film stars Pierce Brosnan as Bond and Jonathon Pryce as the Murdochian mogul who threatens to blow up Hong Kong. Roger Spottiswoode is directing the closely guarded script, first drafted by Bruce Feirstein. The new Bond girl will be Michelle Yeoh, Hong Kong's top "chop socky" star.
The title of the movie is due to be announced today. Among the rumored names: "Shamelady," "Avatar," "Shatterhand," "Aquator," and "Zero Windchill." We hear the most likely is "Tomorrow Never Dies." We'll see.
From South China Morning Post (Feb. 11, 1997)
by David Cohen In Los Angeles
Shooting for the next James Bond film does not begin until April, but new Bond girl Michelle Yeoh Choo-kheng has already made quite an impression on 007, Pierce Brosnan.
"She's a beautiful woman, naturally, for Bond. She's a great mover, and a beautiful actress, a wonderful actress," said Brosnan, in Los Angeles to promote his latest non-Bond film, Dante's Peak.
"I can't say enough nice things about her actually. I thought she was a really centred person. She seems to have a good way about her as an actress. She's serious and committed about her work."
Yeoh, most recently seen in Hong Kong in the film Ah Kam: The Story of a Stuntwoman, will be more than a damsel-in-distress.
"She plays a kind of female Bond. She's his Chinese counterpart. Enough said there," he said, offering an early peek of the film's secret storyline.
Brosnan, who plays a volcanologist in the disaster thriller Dante's Peak, met Yeoh in London late last year, where she and several other actresses tested for the role.
"You know whether the actress is up to it or not," he said of the auditions.
"It's pretty obvious after the first few takes, and you say, 'that's the one.' " The decision, however, was not his.
"I can only voice an opinion and say this girl is great. It's not up to me. I'm not the producer. I'm just a hired hand."
Brosnan, nonetheless, is keeping a close eye on the story of the still-untitled Bond film, to be directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
"I've seen some pages. More than last time. It's good. It's tight. And the story has a finer edge to it. I think that's good. "I think Martin Campbell did an outstanding job on GoldenEye. It was a great sleight of hand in many areas, but I thought the story was hard to sell."
James Bond is being shaken, if not stirred, as preparations for the 18th installment of the film franchise inch forward without a start date, without firm locations, without completed sets and without a final script.
The suave British secret agent regularly saves the world from catastrophe, but his mission has taken on an added importance since it could determine the fate of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Inc., the struggling studio that makes the Bond films.
MGM revived the franchise in 1995 with GoldenEye, starring Pierce Brosnan as the series' 5th incarnation of Ian Fleming's sexy spy. The film grossed $350.7 million worldwide, making it the most successful Bond picture ever.
Resuscitating Bond has been a top priority at MGM the past 6 years. Getting "Bond 18" off the ground is especially fraught with urgency now, as studio management strives to prove itself under the new ownership of Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. and Australia's Seven Network.
But after the death of Bond producer Albert (Cubby) Broccoli in June, the urgent question is whether the franchise's revival was a fluke or a repeatable phenomenon.
Brosnan is aboard to reprise his starring role, but Goldeneye director Martin Campbell opted not to return and is now making Zorro. Anthony Hopkins was tentatively set to play a villain, but dropped out. Meanwhile, several locations have fallen through and the script process has been tortuous.
Neither United Artists production executive Jeff Kleeman nor Eon Productions, now headed by Broccoli's daughter Barbara and his stepson Michael Wilson, would comment. Sources close to the project insist that Bond 18 is on track to begin in the first quarter of 1997, as previously announced.
The world's most successful film franchise began in 1962 with Dr. No, starring Sean Connery. The Bond films were produced with unusual autonomy by former casket salesman and Hollywood agent Broccoli (with onetime vaudeville impresario Harry Saltzman until they parted company in 1974) through Eon Prods. MGM's United Artists banner owned distribution rights.
The early Bond pictures cost relatively little (less than $1 million for Dr. No). Even after budgets climbed, a tightly knit crew was able to wring efficiencies by working consistently on one picture to the next. At the height of the series' popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Broccoli's team warmed the hearts of Bond fans by setting 007 loose every other year.
"They were one of the most efficient producing teams in history," Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin said.
Broccoli was a hands-on producer intimately involved with every aspect of the picture, from script stage onward. Studio involvement was kept to a minimum.
But after 1989's Licence to Kill starring Timothy Dalton, an imbroglio broke out between MGM and Danjaq S.A. -- Broccoli's Swiss holding company which controls rights to the series. Legal wrangling over those rights held Bond hostage 4 years until MGM, then under co-chairman Alan Ladd Jr., put the 17th installment of the series into development.
Cliffhanger scribe Michael France was penning GoldenEye in May 1993, while two other writers were assigned to work separately on scripts for future sequels. It was routine, said Bond production veterans, for two or three scripts to be in the works in order to crank out a Bond every 2 years.
"When you get up to 17 in one series," longtime Danjaq spokesman Charles Juroe said at the time, "you do things differently. You don't wait until 17 is a success to say, 'Oh, we'd better do another one.' This 2-year cycle does not give Danjaq the luxury to wait another 10 or 11 months down the line to get started on the next one. They've learned to be ahead of the game. When United Artists says they're ready to do another one, they're expected to have one ready."
That principle, along with those scripts, appears to have fallen by the wayside. And Bond has encountered several setbacks, such as losing a studio in which to shoot.
Eon was set to film Bond 18 at Leavesden, the abandoned Rolls-Royce factory north of London where Eon crews hammered together sound stages for GoldenEye. Leavesden was for sale and the production company had an option to buy. But before it could move, the 1 million-square-foot-property was sold to Third Millennium, a Malaysian company.
Still, Eon and UA were in talks with Leavesden about Bond 18, but were again beaten to the punch, this time by George Lucas, who plunked down a deposit and secured the facility for the next Star Wars installment.
Leavesden Development Corp. executive Mark Pinkstone said discussions continued with Eon about using 400,000 square feet still available. When it became clear the Bond shoot would overlap with Leavesden's plans to redevelop that part of the site as an entertainment complex, Leavesden offered to delay that project if Eon would compensate it. Talks broke down.
Eon now is improvising soundstages at another derelict industrial site not far from Leavesden, dubbed Frogmore Studios. Time also has been secured at the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage, the large space at Pinewood Studios that was booked but never used for GoldenEye, due to scheduling problems.
Although no deal had ever been struck for Hopkins to star, the actor expressed an interest in playing a Bond arch-nemesis when the revival got under way in 1993. His enthusiasm was still strong, sources said, on the basis of the original script handed in this summer by GoldenEye co-scribe Bruce Feirstein and approved by Calley. But in the past few weeks, Hopkins opted instead for a role in Zorro.
That film is shooting in January in Mexico under Campbell, whose deft execution of the patented Bond formula of action plus humor plus girls was well-received. The fact that he has not returned for a second go has had some industryites questioning why Bond's producers failed to nail him down.
It appears the decision was Campbell's. "Martin just didn't want to do 2 Bond films in a row," says his agent, Martha Luttrell, at International Creative Management.
Eon and UA agreed to bring Roger Spottiswoode aboard in mid-September. The director has a few unsuccessful action pictures under his belt, including Under Fire and Air America, and one successful comedy, Turner and Hooch. He was widely praised for directing And the Band Played On, the AIDS drama for HBO.
After a month on the job, Spottiswoode convinced Eon and UA to fly seven Hollywood screenwriters to London for a weekend brainstorming session. "I would describe it as fun," said Robert Collector, one of the invited scribes put up at London's pricey Athenaeum Hotel.
"No one was paid," Collector said, "and it was made clear to everyone that no writing was to be done. It was a free weekend in London."
The weekend paid off for one of the writers. A close friend of Spottiswoode's, Nicholas Meyer (who penned The Seven Percent Solution and directed the second and sixth Star Trek pictures), was hired to perform rewrite chores. With original scribe Feirstein still slated to do a final polish, Spottiswoode's brainstorming session did not bring the production any closer to a start date.
Meanwhile, Spottiswoode has been spotted in Vietnam and other exotic locales in search of sites for Bond's exploits. Designers at Frogmore are sketching sets. And Hollywood talent agents report that Bond's casting directors are making offers to actors with availability in February or March.
Assuming 007 is possessed of his usual luck, Bond 18 stands a decent chance of keeping the franchise on its year on-year off schedule by making it to the screen for Christmas. But with lean days ahead at the box office, MGM may be wishing that James Bond arrives sooner than Santa.
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