“I’ve had some optional extras installed”
Aston Martin V8, The Living Daylights (1987)
From the opening shot of the opening Bond movie Dr. No (1962) where three “blind” assassins trundle on a mission of murder across traffic before cowering in a private members club car park, James Bond’s onscreen romance with automobiles was a given. Instantly part of the machismo, panache and kinetic pace of 007, these various fold-up planes, model trains and high-end automobiles are now Bond’s necessary co-stars, sidekicks and maybe even love interest. In 2012’s Skyfall, the fiery death of the Aston Martin DB5 was lent nearly as much impact as the onscreen death of Bond’s wife Tracy forty or so years before. It was certainly as shocking. Maybe. And an earlier reveal in a London lock-up got the biggest cheer in many a screening of Skyfall, including a right royal applause on premiere night.
“I hope my back end will stand up to this!”
Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
So it now makes perfect sense for 007 creative house Eon Productions to celebrate Bond’s various vehicular speeding bullets with the London Film Museum’s newly launched exhibition, Bond In Motion. A collaboration between both parties (following a highly successful and extended run at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu through 2012 and 2013), Bond In Motion is the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and a rich pageant to some of cinema’s most iconic cars. And planes. And motorbikes. And jet packs. And speedboats. And underwater tow-sleds. And that crocodile submersible thing.
“No, some men just don’t like to be taken for a ride”
Kindly invited by Eon Productions and the London Film Museum to a recent preview of Bond In Motion, the day quickly grew faster than an Aston Martin’s self-inflating tyre with surprise reunions, typical Bond glamour, some welcome bubbly and a possible nugget or two of news about October 2015’s Bond 24. Granted a quieter session of grace to fully take in the whole exhibition before the world’s press descended like Japanese ninjas, it was a welcome opportunity to chat to the gathering Bond alumni, particularly top Eon archivist and the ‘M’ of the various Bond exhibitions travelling through the globe, Meg Simmonds. Added to that production designer Peter Lamont, stunt driver and 007 fan Ben Collins (who currently doubles for Daniel Craig and took part in the frenetic Italian road chase in Quantum of Solace), Casino Royale‘s Caterina Murino (who does not have a fear of hammocks as I first queried but does admit they are awful for reading in), current Moneypenny and all-round car wrecker herself Naomie Harris, husband and wife stunt legends Vic Armstrong and Wendy Leech, 007 producer Gregg Wilson, special effects head Chris Corbould (who was able to answer another pressing query of mine – namely, ‘did we do our Christmas shopping last year at the same place?’ … we did), actress Maryam D’Abo (Kara, The Living Daylights), writers Robert Wade and Neil Purvis (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough) and soon to be three-time production designer Dennis Gassner (following on from Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall).
Amidst all the fantasy apparatus and Q-Branch hardware, this Bond author chose instead to not chat to Peter Lamont about his favourite Bond car or maybe even the prop that caused him the most design grief. No, this Bond film author chose instead to take the opportunity to chat about the Octopussy bed (all spray-painted polystyrene and destroyed not long after filming… criminal, I know). Cutting a far too youthful gait for someone in his eighty-fifth year, the now retired Lamont (Titanic, Aliens) was glad to have gone out on 2006’s Casino Royale, which he suggests is one of his best Bonds. That film’s presence is certainly marked in Bond In Motion by one of the Aston Martin DBS’s used for that film’s record-smashing multiple roll, and the curious magic-shattering add-ons necessary to make it happen.
The different phases of Bond production design – all perfectly underlined by Bond In Motion – have always held a fascination. Not just for me, but cinema audiences, design students, new directors and cineastes the world over. Ken Adam’s influence on design (and not just cinema) is immense. Globally renowned architects often cite him as an influence, his bombastic war rooms and HQs are no longer a retro fantasy (The Avengers Assemble and Inception certainly owes him a debt – or an apology), Apple’s flagship stores ape his style, and material contradictions and angular excesses are all over the likes of London’s Canary Wharf tube station.
To witness Mr Adam arrive – and equally cutting a far too youthful gait for his ninety-three years – to a warm welcome from Peter Lamont and current 007 designer Dennis Gassner was a moment to treasure. Clearly, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson couldn’t have been happier to mark such an exhibition with three generations of 007 designers in attendance and some of the most famous examples of all their work flanking proceedings.
And of course Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson were on hand to proudly talk up Bond In Motion for the press, the legacy of all these cars, their own favourites and what the likes of CUB 1 means to the Broccoli family and the history of Bond film production. Naturally the question of 007’s immediate future came up and the astute pair were traditionally coy. However, Wilson confirmed that Bond 24 – Daniel Craig’s fourth spin of the wheel – will feature a brand new Aston Martin. Writer John Logan is indeed hard at work on the script with Daniel Craig crucially inputting as before, the process of casting a villain will begin in earnest in the next few months, the production is based at Pinewood Studios and the film is based on an “original story”. Broccoli declared how this is “the fun bit” – where casting, story arcs, choosing the various creatives and heads of department, planning the stunts and feel of the film is debated and planned to get into enough shape for the commencement of principle photography in the Autumn.
Unfortunately, the gathered Eon ensemble will not be on hand when the doors properly open for the public. But rest assured, there are enough vehicular stars, shiny beauties and colourful flying co-stars on display to keep every Bond fan boy and girl, man and women completely happy. Oh, and the gift shop – don’t let me forget the gift shop! And the ‘get your own gunbarrel pose’ photo room (complete with tuxedos, oh yes).
Astutely situated in London’s Covent Garden (and a gearstick’s length from Bond director Sam Mendes’ current West End hit, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory), from the moment one steps off the street into the immersive and white gallery space of 45 Wellington Street, it is instantly apparent just how much thought and design care has gone into Bond In Motion. Multiple screens herald and celebrate 007’s car moments, Bond anthems are all around you and a 1/3 scale (but still sizeable) model of Skyfall’s Augusta Westland helicopter hangs very carefully on an equally sizeable hoist. Incidentally it was the same hoist that lowered each and every car into the exhibition space in what Bond In Motion’s very own Q – the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands – admits was a sweaty process as each car had its own weights, structural concerns and no doubt insurance premiums. And it is the very idea of logistics and planning that sees an upstairs gallery space dedicated to numerous storyboards and design thinking from Bond’s transport options over the last six decades. Including sketches and vehicle concepts by Bond production designers Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Peter Murton and Syd Cain, the collection contains some top notch examples of 007 artistry from the Eon Archive – some of which has never been seen publically before, such as all that now remains of Thunderball’s SPECTRE yacht, the Disco Volante.
“That look like a boat stuck in the Sheriff’s car there, Eddie?”
Glastron V-162 Futura, Live and Let Die (1973)
With an optional tour guide cell-phone ably guiding those that opt for the pre-ordained flow, Bond In Motion takes off proper when one ventures downwards into an underground Aladdin’s cave of 007 delights. Filling a labyrinthine space that once housed a vast flower storage warehouse (serving the Covent Garden’s famed trade) this is now the London Film Museum’s chamber of 007 secrets, an apt underground garage housing the capital’s most expensive run-arounds. Flanked by Auric Goldfinger’s beautiful 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (which Bond producer Michael G Wilson drove himself to the Skyfall premiere in October 2012) and the all-important Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II aka “CUB 1” from 1985’s A View To a Kill (which due to a familial link is one of the key players in my own Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan), this exhibition very quickly lays it cars on the table with a luxuriant bombast.
“Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances towards her, but she defended her honour with great success”
Wallis WA-116 Agile, You Only Live Twice (1967)
Of course the original factory-floor artistry of these Aston Martins, Lotus Esprits, BMWs, Cougars, Mustangs, Jaguars and Roll Royces speak for themselves. Most of the gathered vehicles here deserve their own pedestal whether they shared screen time with Sean, Roger and Daniel or not. Albert R Broccoli’s very own CUB 1 is a beautiful example of early 1960s car-tistry, regardless of her two Bond film appearances – a lush metallic zeppelin of curves, passenger head room and corners. Likewise, the various incarnations of Aston Martin’s famed relationship with Bond never ceases to amaze even the least car savvy of punters for their sleek aesthetic and low-lying finesse. Rest assured, Bond In Motion is not solely for Bond or film fans. This writer is no petrol head, but the way this exhibition presents itself, the way it allows itself and its visitors room to breathe and let these cars tell their own derring do tales is a key lure for the slightest of Bond geeks. Because this is Eon’s Bond and because their own filmmaking ethos dictates the real thing being real at all times where feasible, this collection is also a high-end reminder of the opulence and quality invested in each new film. There are no Smart cars or family friendly Skodas here. This is an A-grade ensemble of vehicles. The investment Eon pumps into its various filmic projects is no more apparent than in this exhibition.
“Ejector seat? You’re joking!”
Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger (1964)
Of course a great many of these vehicles come with – as 1987’s Bond Timothy Dalton remarks – “a few optional extras“. An added joy is seeing just how the various special effects gurus and design heads over the decades have souped up cars that are so damn cool they didn’t need accessorising. Yet this is the world of James Bond and witnessing the fantasy of that up close is a major plus point of Bond In Motion. So of course the various added missile launchers, studded tyres, ski supports and revolving number plates mark these already special cars as being just that bit more special. Take your time to study the exhibits and props. The amount of detail put into a GoldenEye train, model helicopter or a nearly throwaway Brosnan surfboard is as important to this exhibition and understanding the effort spent on Bond as the smooth fender of an Aston Martin DBS or a Mustang’s red paint job.
“Ever heard of Evel Knievel?”
AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
All delicately lit with aptly positioned montage screens and film friezes adding individual Bond film context, each car is often showcased with visitor access as key. Whilst petting the exhibits will no doubt be frowned upon, this is not an exercise in keeping the public at bay. With a loose theme for the various zones – water, the DB5s (there is more than one), bikes, ski-doos and Skyfall Honda bikes, the destroyed DBSs (the Daniel Craig Astons are invariably Royale-y trashed) and all punctuated with props, miniatures, random helmets, jetpacks and cool piton guns – this exhibition has its own natural flow with a breathing space between these four and two wheeled beauties and plenty of photo opportunities for everyone’s 007 fantasies. Museum head Jonathan Sands has a self-declared fondness for the Roger Moore era (good man) and there is a fun array of 1970s Roger-mobiles. Likewise, there is a lot of Connery kit, particularly showcasing the design alchemy genius of one Ken Adam. Like the quirky cousin that must be in every family photo, You Only Live Twice’s famed gyrocopter Little Nellie is of course in there too – taking pride of place in a spacious wing with various two-wheeled motorbikes, Octopussy‘s tuk-tuk, For Your Eyes Only’s canary yellow Citreon 2CV and The World Is Not Enough’s Parahawks.
Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Yes, maybe the Lotus Esprit could have been more showcased (or showboated) in the layout scheme of things, but actually its not-obvious placement creates a great “oh my – is that the Lotus?” realisations for any kid of any age to suddenly make an eager beeline for. One of the feng-shui successes of Bond In Motion is how sizing up one car offers a nearby peek of another classic from yesteryear. It’s like being at a school reunion where every conversation is interrupted by someone better to veer towards. More than one sweep through and starting at the end and working backwards is much recommended. And yes – check out the gift shop, nicely sited in one of the underground flower storage catacombs of the museum and inadvertently echoing the “new digs” MI6 end up in 2012’s Skyfall. The ladies can traipse around town with their buff boy Hollister bags, but the Bond fan boys are going to be fighting for a Bond In Motion boutique bag stocked full of mugs, DVDs, prints, clothing and pencils (who isn’t a sucker for a museum pencil?). It also houses a neat case of vintage Bond car memorabilia. And just like how the rather snazzy and kid friendly Scalectrix set available in a canteen room for all to play demonstrates, Bond In Motion straddles a careful line of history, geekery and contemporary.
And my favourite exhibit? Yes, the Astons are beyond lush and the mecha-flippered Lotus Esprit is always going to be the biggest Bond car toy made real. Diamonds Are Forever’s Mustang is – like Las Vegas itself – a bit weather-worn but still holding its sparkle and Blofeld’s Bath-O-Tub from the same film is possibly the campest exhibit in a subterranean world of machismo. But the one that kept catching this bullet catcher’s eye…? Diana Rigg’s Mercury Cougar XR7 from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Complete with a vintage rack of White Wing skis, this car is simple in its own intent and that of the film it features. No bells. No whistles. Just Steve McQueen cool.
Like a 1970s double-taking Frenchman clasping a near-empty bottle of plonk as a Lotus Espirit motors from the surf, these cars make you pause. Strikingly laid out and physically choreographed by Jonathan Sands, Eon and their respective teams, the exhibition echoes Eon Production’s sister exhibition – Designing Bond – for its insistence on leaving space to let these metallic exhibits breathe. However, it might well overtake Designing Bond on a hairpin bend for the best current exhibition celebrating cinema’s favourite son and spy. Amidst the hardware, ammo and machismo of these cars and vehicles there is an unexpected grace to this collection. But as you shift down a gear for your final lap of the exhibits, there is a private and selfish joy in standing back and surveying the biggest Bond car toy box ever opened in one place. A highly roadworthy experience from lots of careful and not-so-careful owners, Bond In Motion passes its 007 fan MOT with flying (and driving and diving) colours.
“I love a drive in the country, don’t you?”
Citreon 2Cv, For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Bond In Motion opens on March 21st 2014.
Tickets are £14.50 for adults, £9.50 for children and a family ticket is £38. The Museum is currently recommending booking ahead (especially in these early weeks) but also states how people are equally welcome just to turn up and try their chances.
With thanks to Jonathan Sands, Meg Simmonds, Barbara Broccoli & Eon Productions, Sam Fane & Sal Porter at Freuds and the team at London Film Museum. And to Remmert Van Braam, Ben Williams, Adam Bollard & Morten Steingrimsen.
For a whole car boot full of more photos of the exhibition and launch – check out Catching Bullets Facebook page.