BY STEPHANIE MLOT
Technology is as much a part of any James Bond film as an Aston Martin, scantily clad women, and 007 himself—shaken, not stirred, of course. But the newest Daniel Craig-powered title, Skyfall, takes tech to a new level, while still keeping things classy.
Photo: For Your Eyes Only - The vital role tech has played in the James Bond saga continues in Skyfall, as Q (Ben Whishaw) and Bond (Daniel Craig) demonstrate.
Gadgets abound when Q, the new, young Quartermaster, sends Bond along his merry way with new field equipment, including a biometrically encoded Walther PPK, which is coded to Bond’s palm prints and lets him, and only him, fire the gun. There’s also a radio transmitter to trace Bond’s whereabouts.
Q boasts during his first meeting with Bond that he can “do more damage on my laptop in my pajamas” than the secret agent can do in a year in the field. That same principle is demonstrated by the filmmakers, who worked with top-level cameras, computers, and stunt equipment to produce Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie.
The movie’s stunt coordinator, Gary Powell, chatted with PC Magazine about the technology used in front of and behind the cameras, how advancing technology has shaped the Bond universe, and what it’s really like to work with classic icons of 007 history.
Photo: The Living Daylights Skyfall stunt coordinator Gary Powell made full use of available technology in plotting out the film’s action scenes.
Could you talk a little bit about the technology that was used in the cars in the movie, and the role that plays in the film?
One of the biggest pieces of technology we use is this thing called the pod, which basically sits on top of the car, and allows the stunt guys to drive the car while the actors are inside it, acting. And it allows us to make the cars go a lot faster, put them more right on the line doing action. You have to [make sure] the actors inside are totally safe; they’re concentrating on their acting. All the mechanics inside the car [are] connected, so if they pull the steering wheel the wrong way, it’s not going to affect the car or anything like that. For us, that is a huge help, because we can put the camera in better places, [and] we can put the actors in better action scenes.
How important was it to have the car technology, particularly the Aston Martin, in the film?
It’s a flashy piece of Bond history. The diehard fans love it when that car turns up, and the new ones—it’s an introduction for them. We’ve got new technology now where we can still put that car there with the machine guns and all that sort of stuff, and it really just adds to the film. It’s actually one of our favorite parts of the film when that car turns up. It sort of becomes a James Bond film totally.
"We can put the camera in better places, and we can put the actors in better action scenes."
Did you want to add machine guns to the cars from the beginning?
It developed as we went along. There were sort of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that got put together. We’ve got the car there, and it’s like, “Right, what can we do with the car?” Ideas were thrown on the table. It sort of just made sense to put it there. Bond fans are gonna love it. And also, we can get inside the car now, because the cameras are smaller now, whereas years ago the cameras were massive, so you could never have done this sort of dialogue interior car stuff that we can do nowadays. There are tracking vehicles where we can be outside the cars while dangling Judi Dench inside. Modern technology obviously really helps out in numerous ways.
Are you a lifelong Bond fan?
I have been, for a long time. The first one [I saw] was Diamonds Are Forever (1971). I didn’t really know what a Bond film was then; I can just remember it being sort of a really cool film.
Photo: The World Is Not Enough Two scenes of Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall.
Bond’s in that little space pod driving across the desert, getting chased by cars. I just thought it was brilliant. It wasn’t until The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) came out [that] I understood what a Bond character was.
Was this something you ever thought could become part of the Bond films, or were you surprised at how much technology you were really able to work into this?
It’s just these illusions, really. Even back then, there was technology there. CGI’s gotten better, so that helps us to do things. Cameras have gotten better. Stunt equipment has gotten better. Cars have gotten better. When you watch the older stuff and you see some of the stuff they’ve done, you actually sort of think to yourself, “Wow, how did they do that, without having the technology we’ve got nowadays?” In a way it’s getting easier for us, but what makes it hard is the audiences who are now getting clever, so you’ve got to try to be one step in front of them.
What’s it like for you to be able to work with cars that are just so classic?
We’ve had the Aston Martins on the last couple of films. On Quantum of Solace, we had seven brand-spanking new DBSes, which we smashed to pieces. That’s quite a nice thing. When you first turn up at the studios, and it’s just covered, so it doesn’t get dirty, you can’t get near it. It’s as big a character as James Bond. When they put those sort of things in it, it’s quite special. It’s not just any car, it’s the DB5 from Goldfinger. There is a bit of sort of film history involved in that. It’s a nice piece of machinery to have on the set.
"Audiences are now getting clever, so you’ve got to try to be one step in front of them."
Are there any particular pieces of technology that you use on a daily basis?
We use video cameras a lot now, because everything we do is video, in the rehearsals and all that because it helps. Everything I do I video and I show it to the director, and he can see what it roughly looks like on camera, and we can change it, make it better. When we’re actually shooting it on the day, it limits what we have to shoot, so we’re not wasting time and money. Modern-day cameras are real helpful, because the quality is so good. Years ago, it was a bit dodgy, it was a bit grainy. You get something like a Canon 5D now and it’s like it’s film quality, so it really does help out.
[Source: PC Magazine. Dec 2012, p28-32. Copyright © 2012 ZDNet. All rights reserved.]