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The real Q: James Bond special effects guru reveals the secrets to 007’s stunts

Chris Corbould has put the bang into 15 Bond movies, from The Spy Who Loved Me to No Time To Die. He discusses the challenge of keeping fans guessing while protecting 007’s legacy.

James Bond is famous for his spectacular stunts and gadgets, and for close to 45 years Chris Corbould has been helping 007 achieve his mission of blowing audiences away.

No Time to Die is Corbould’s 15th Bond film. His first, in 1977, was the one where Roger Moore proved that nobody does it better. “My claim to fame on The Spy Who Loved Me was that I built one of two ski poles that turned into a gun,” Corbould says.

Over the years, his role has grown. On No Time to Die, Bond’s 25th outing, he is special effects supervisor and vehicle supervisor. He works closely with the writers, director and producers to develop the action sequence opportunities that the storyline presents.

“I believe the most important things in any Bond script are the screenplay, characters and locations,” Corbould says. “Once you’ve established that then the action starts.”

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Although it’s worth keeping many of the set pieces top secret until you’ve seen the film, No Time to Die’s trailer (which has been doing the rounds for a Covid-extended amount of time) features a plane/submarine, gunfights in Cuba and a car chase featuring a stalwart of the series.

“There’s a very exciting sequence with the Aston Martin DB5. I was so happy that it wasn’t the DB5 in its normal cameo role, just driving into the sunset or looking pretty. It was back in full combat mode.

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Chris Corbould on the set of Spectre. Image: Columbia/EON/Danjaq/MGM

“We had lots of discussions about whether the DB5 should remain true to how it was in Goldfinger, with those original weapons and gadgets, or whether we should update them. Cary Fukunaga, the director, made the decision that it’s a bit of both.”

That conversation reflects a wider one about the Bond films. How to keep the character modern and relevant, while also true to his roots.

“There are a lot of boxes that have to be ticked in a James Bond film for the diehard fans,” Corbould explains.

“’The name’s Bond, James Bond’ is going to be in every film. There is a legacy, a lot of nostalgia involved. People in Britain and around the world have grown up with James Bond.

“They remember fantastic feats – the guy skiing off the side of a mountain and a Union Jack opening as a parachute. There are so many iconic moments, it’s ingrained in our mindset. The British public really take Bond to their heart and feel part of it.

“But you can’t just keep reproducing the same material so you have to keep to the tradition but with a twist that keeps it interesting and exciting for audiences.”

Since the character’s big-screen debut in 1962, film trends have come and gone. The current one is superhero movies. Bond may be a superspy but he doesn’t have superpowers. Are there rules the production team have to follow to make sure the action feels real?

“There’s no spoken set of rules but James Bond is based in reality. Whenever I’m dreaming up a sequence, I have to believe in my own head that is possible. It might be edging on the borders of reality but for the audiences to believe it, it has to be doable. You can push it so far, but as soon as you go past that borderline it becomes unbelievable.”

Over the years has there been tension when each film tries to outdo the last?

Die Another Day was a pinnacle point really,” Corbould says of Pierce Brosnan’s 2002 swansong, which included an invisible car and an infamously sludgy CGI surfing scene.

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“Some of us felt we pushed the CGI boundary too far,” Corbould continues.

“The producers realised themselves that we probably had gone too far. Hence the Daniel Craig era, where it went back to basics. A really gritty thriller feel rather than the fantastical way we went on Die Another Day.”

And now the mission is over for Daniel Craig. But Corbould has ensured he’s going out on an all-time high.

“This is going to be a truly special Bond. On an emotional level, it’s way beyond any other Bond I’ve worked on.

“You’ve still got all the action, the set pieces, the cars, the gadgets that audiences love but it’s taken the whole storyline to a new level as far as I’m concerned.”

This article is taken from an interview in the latest edition of The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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