- The opening action sequence in the James Bond film “No Time To Die” was shot on location in Matera, Italy.
- 10 versions of the Aston Martin DB5 were used for the chase’s demanding stunts and special effects.
- To provide extra traction, the stunt team dumped 8,400 gallons (31,797l) of soda on Matera’s ancient streets.
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Following is a transcript of the video:
Narrator: This is the climax of the opening car chase in “No Time To Die.” To pull this off with hardly any CGI, the Bond crew had to figure out how to imitate bullet impacts and then line each one up with the car’s prop machine guns.
Chris Corbould: I think the beauty of this sequence is it is probably 95% for real.
Narrator: And that’s just one element of an opening sequence that involved 10 versions of the Aston Martin, hundreds of fake bullets, and 8,400 gallons (31,797l) of soda. Here’s how they did it. As soon as director Cary Fukunaga found Matera, Italy, he knew the claustrophobic paths and steep slopes were the perfect place to put 007 in peril.
Corbould: We went out to Matera probably 13, 14 times, finding locations, dreaming up ideas.
Narrator: That’s Chris Corbould, special effects and car supervisor for “No Time To Die.” While Corbould has overseen tank chases and record-shattering explosions for the Bond franchise, this shoot presented a surprising challenge: cobblestone streets. Matera’s ancient streets weren’t suitable for vehicles going 80 miles (129km) per hour. While beautiful, the roads were also slippery, with less traction compared to modern asphalt roads. So stunt coordinator Lee Morrison came up with an unusual solution. Soda. He sprayed 8,400 gallons (31,797l) of sugary soda on the cobblestone. Once dried, the sugar made the surface extremely sticky, giving the tires much better grip. The drivers could then make sharp turns, drift, and go up narrow corridors.
Corbould: I was skeptical at first myself about it, but when I saw it, it absolutely paid dividends.
Narrator: Once the roads were suitable for driving, Bond could ride on a motorcycle and execute a daring jump to reach the town square. The memorable moment was done without a green screen. Craig’s stunt double had to jump a 25-foot (7.62m) ramp going exactly 60 miles (97km) per hour and then drop down 12 feet (3.66m) onto the road above. To hide the ramp, filmmakers added this arch as a clever VFX cover. After four takes, they had the shot they needed.
The next part of the chase sees Bond hop in his Aston Martin, but the crew couldn’t use just one car for this. They alternated between 10 versions depending on the shot. Two of them were the real version, used for beauty shots. The rest were replicas. Two had driving pods on the roof, so a stunt driver could drive at high speeds while the cameras captured Daniel Craig pretending to steer; four were driven by stunt drivers inside the car for exterior shots; and two had all the gadgets built into them. One such gadget was the mine dispenser, which Bond activates here, causing this black car to flip. In reality, those mines were made with rubber, and these simulated explosions were electrical charges set to go off as the car drove over them. The flip provided another issue. Because the car was going so fast, it couldn’t be attached to a fixed point, so cables, which were usually effective, weren’t an option. So the crew needed a different approach to flip the car without losing speed. They placed a nitrogen cannon facing down under the driver’s side. When activated with the push of a button, it lifted the car into the air.
Corbould: The stunt coordinator wanted to keep it a bit more realistic and have it look like it was just lifting up onto its side.
Narrator: But a dangerous stunt like this meant they had to protect not only the stunt driver, but also the city’s old buildings.
Corbould: Some of those buildings are over 1,000 years old. And Bond has a history and prides themselves on not damaging anywhere they go.
Narrator: So they padded the buildings with protective concrete barriers, dressed up by the art department to look just like the existing architecture. This layer of protection was especially crucial for one of the sequence’s biggest moments, where Bond does a full doughnut in the DB5 while firing the car’s headlight machine guns.
Corbould: The mechanics of the revolving ones gave us a huge amount of firepower for the bullet impacts.
Narrator: Each bullet impact had to be synchronized with the exact spot the guns were pointing. The effects team couldn’t be off by even a second, or they’d risk ruining the illusion. First, they used a line lock on the car’s brakes, which helped keep the doughnuts consistent for each take. The stunt car’s hydraulic hand brake locked off the car’s left front wheel. Once the driver released the brake, the car could spin on its own.
Corbould: It’s almost like a pivot. So when you press the throttle to the floor, you’re actually pivoting around that wheel that’s locked off.
Narrator: The car also had to move in sync with the gunfire.
Corbould: We had a line where we knew the guns were lined up, and we knew that it took one and a half seconds to get from there to the next segment.
Narrator: So Corbould planted squibs simulating bullet impacts all around the square. Each of these was attached to a firing box. Because they were set to an automated timer, the devices would fire only when perfectly lined up where the guns pointed. Meanwhile, the stunts and effects team had to ensure the safety of the actors and stunt drivers. Right before going into doughnut mode, Craig and Léa Seydoux had to be seen from the inside of the car as the DB5 got shot up. So Corbould fired about 200 pellets at the windows. Each fake bullet created a bullet-hole-like shape before shattering, and the car’s windows were layered with a strong plastic called polycarbonate.
Corbould: It would break the glass, but there was certainly no way that it would get through the plastic.
Narrator: While that was happening, a crew member vibrated the car in sync with each impact. Finally, there was the Connery-era smoke screen, which Bond employs to make a getaway. The screen needed to let off way more smoke than an actual car exhaust. So Corbould took off the car’s exhaust and replaced it with injectors used to make smoke effects in movies.
Corbould: We’re using the heat coming out of the engine to make the smoke in the exhaust.
Narrator: Funnily enough, these final shots of Bond and Madeleine speeding away were filmed before any of the preceding action was shot.
Corbould: The last thing that we wanted to do was lose one of our cars in the first part of the sequence, because you never know how many you’re going to use up.
Narrator: So they ended up faking the damage. First, the crew put vinyl wraps on the car and scratched them up. Then a mixture of glue, glitter, and glass shards created the illusion of bullet holes.
Corbould: If you got really up close to them, you could probably see that they weren’t real. But, you know, the speed they were going at, they held up perfectly.
Narrator: All of this work was done for just the beginning of the movie, showing just a sliver of how much thought goes into a James Bond stunt — and how much soda, too.