GoldenEye | 1995
- DIRECTOR |
- Martin Campbell
The increasingly moribund Bond series was on the verge of retirement when it got a new lease of life with Pierce Brosnan.
The opening teaser, Bond’s spectacular bungee jump, at the ‘Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility – USSR’, is actually the Tusker Dam, Lake Verzasca, at Hittnau in Switzerland.
Bond’s race with Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), supposedly in the hills above ‘Monte Carlo’, uses the mountain roads around Thorenc, about 20 miles north of Grasse, way to the northwest. Nevertheless, Bond arrives at the Casino de Monte Carlo, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo, and it’s from the bay at Monte Carlo that Onatopp steals the Stealth helicopter. You can see the principality again as the site of the Grand Prix race in Iron Man 2.
M’s office is, finally, MI6’s real HQ, Vauxhall Cross, the spanking new building at 85 Albert Embankment on the Thames by Vauxhall Bridge. It turns up again, at the start of the river chase in The World Is Not Enough, and gets blown up in Skyfall. Pierce Brosnan turns up at the HQ as a somewhat shabbier, seedier agent in John Boorman’s film of John Le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama.
Although there is some real filming in St Petersburg in Russia, much of the tank chase was filmed on a massive set, built at the old Rolls Royce aircraft plant in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, which has since, of course, been developed to become the vast Leavesden Studio, home of the Harry Potter films and the Warner Bros Studio Tour.
Many of the other ‘Russian’ locations were filmed around the southeast of England. For instance, ‘St Petersburg Airport’, where Bond is met by Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), is actually the Queen’s Stand at Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Surrey. Built in 1992, the exclusive Stand overlooks the finishing line of the Epsom Downs course, which in June hosts the English Derby – arguably the world’s most famous horse race.
And, despite those Russian flags, the ‘Grand Hotel Europe’ is the Langham London, 1c Portland Place W1, at the top of Regent Street opposite the BBC’s Broadcasting House.
The 'St Petersburg' square, where Wade uses a sledgehammer to fix his rusty blue Moskovich, is the courtyard of the recently restored Somerset House on the Strand. The spectacular neo-classical building, surrounding a vast courtyard tucked away between the Strand and the River Thames, used to function as the registry of births, marriages and deaths. It's been reinvented as a public space for culture and the arts and, during the winter its fountain court becomes an ice-skating rink. In the summer, there are occasional outdoor movie screenings.
Somerset House later became the ‘Ministry of Defence’ in Tomorrow Never Dies. This popular filming location can also be seen in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (as turn-of-the-century ‘Manhattan’), as the exterior of ‘Devonshire House’ in historical biopic The Duchess, with Keira Knightley; Billy Wilder’s superb The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (as the ‘Diogenes Club’ where Holmes meets his older brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee); as ‘Buckingham Palace’ in King Ralph; in Shanghai Knights (where Jackie Chan invents the kung fu movie at the end of the film); as ‘Beverly Hills’ in Bride And Prejudice and is the site of the postbox explosion in Suffragette.
The interior of the ‘St Petersburg ’ church, in which Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) hides out, is St Sofia’s Greek Cathedral, Moscow Road, Bayswater, W2, seen previously as the 'Russian' church in which Tchaikovsky marries Nina in Ken Russell’s biopic of the composer, The Music Lovers, as a royal residence in Matthew Vaughn’s fantasy Stardust and as the 'Yugoslavian' church in Paul Feig’s 2019 tearjerker Last Christmas.
The exterior of the church, though, is the rear (Fulham Road side) of the 1839 chapel in Brompton Cemetery, Old Brompton Road, Earl’s Court, SW5. You might recognise this as the cemetery where Rowan Atkinson disrupts the funeral in Bond spoof Johnny English.
This extravagantly Victorian graveyard also features in arty horror pic Afraid Of The Dark, Iain Softley’s Henry James adaptation The Wings of the Dove and bittersweet romantic comedy Jack and Sarah, with Richard E Grant.
More recently it was the scene of a brutal murder in David Cronenberg’s sinister Eastern Promises, of Lord Blackwood’s mysterious resurrection from the ‘Blackwood family vault’ in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, Lord George's funeral in the same director's The Gentlemen and of a clandestine meeting in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
It would cost a fortune to build sets this grand, so the ‘St Petersburg’ council chamber, in which General Ourumov learns that Natalya has survived the GoldenEye detonation, uses the grandiose architecture of the Livery Hall of the Drapers’ Company, Throgmorton Street, EC2 in the City of London (which also became ‘Russia’ for the Val Kilmer version of The Saint, but reverts to being London for The King's Speech). The building is not normally open to the public, but for a weekend in September, Open House London gives you the chance to take a look inside some of the city's architectural wonders.