ROGER MOORE IS AGENT 007
This latest mission for James Bond takes the superspy into the heart of India and the soul of Germany for truly incredible adventures during this, the biggest Bond year of them all.
By RICHARD HOLLISS
The view was magnificent as I looked at India. A Maharajah's temple of marble and gold lay in front of my eyes, an air of mystery, of foreign menace surrounding it amidst the summer heat.
I was looking into the heart of India.
But I was in England—in Pinewood Studios, nestled not in India, but in Buckinghamshire, on the set of the newest James Bond mission, Octopussy, just a few days before Christmas.
In "India," it wasn't snowing.
But the film crew was frantically shooting interior sequences for the thirteenth Bond epic (exteriors were actually filmed in India). Time was running out for 007 and company, with production a few days behind schedule... and a June 17 release date already promised to a world hungry for another James Bond adventure.
Filming actually began on August 10,1982 on location in West Berlin. There, Roger Moore, as the indefatigable superspy, and Robert Brown, portraying Bond's boss M, went before the cameras in front of International Checkpoint Charlie, the infamous hub of East-West tensions. The scene, inspired by Bond creator Ian Fleming's short story "Berlin Escape," was particularly harrowing to film; guards on both sides of the fence watched the shooting, armed with real guns.
The tensions are almost as real in Octopussy, which moved to Pinewood Studios for principal photography six days later. The motion picture mixes elements from three Fleming short stories ("Octopussy," "Berlin Escape," "Property of a Lady") with new material developed by a trio of screenwriters: George MacDonald Fraser, author of the famous Flashman books, Bond movie series veteran Richard Maibaum (STARLOG #68) and the film's executive producer, Michael G. Wilson.
The storyline involves an East German Circus troupe, The Kremlin, a crooked Indian potentate, a priceless Faberge Egg, an army of beautiful women, twin killers, and, obviously, James Bond. His assignment is simple: discover who killed Agent 009... seduce the most deadly woman in the world...recover a valuable, stolen object d'art... and if there's enough time: prevent World War III.
It's the sixth Bond film for Roger Moore, the debonair actor who has specialized in heroes like Ivanhoe, The Saint and Sherlock Holmes. He's joined by the lovely Maud Adams, playing the title role as Octopussy after previously essaying a villainess who menaced Moore in The Man With The Golden Gun. Co-starring are Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan, Bond's principal adversary; Kristina (Moviola) Wayborn as the mysterious Magda; Kabir Bedi as the villainous Gobinda and Steve Berkoff as Orlov, an insane Russian General. Also back are series regulars Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny) and Walter Gotell (KGB's General Gogol). The film also boasts the usual bevy of Bond beauties—a very athletic and very sexy group dubbed "Octopussy's Girls".
The film's main location was really several thousand miles away in the actual Udaipur, India, where lensing centered around a magnificent white marble palace on the banks of Lake Pichola. After several weeks in India, cast and crew returned to England for location work at the Nene Valley Railway between Wansford and Orton Mere, Peterbrough during mid-October. There, filmmakers completed a key sequence in Octopussy involving 007 and the baddies in a cat-and-mouse game of death in and around a train. Nene Valley provided exactly the type of engines and rolling stock needed by Octopussy director John Glen, each one built to international loading gauge specifications.
Aircraft play a major role in this adventure, when, in true superspy style, Bond pilots a spectacular mini-jet called the Acro-star, apparently the only one of its kind in the world. This Bede Jet is just over three meters in length, is powered by a microturbo TRS 18 engine and boasts a top speed of 310 MPH. The Acrostar accomplishes some very astounding feats when it has no place to fly except through a band of enemy soldiers and an aircraft hangar.
Chatting with a Producer
Accompanied by unit publicist Geoff Freemann, I
walked to the giant administration building, the nerve center of Pinewood Studios. Upon entering, each visitor must pass through the main entrance portal, a huge 16th-century fireplace. Along the main corridor is producer Albert R. ("Cubby") Broccoli's office. Broccoli is the man behind the whole 20-year cinematic saga of James Bond and recently won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award for his contributions to the media.
Here, in another spacious office, I met Michael G. Wilson, the film's executive producer and co-writer. Wilson is an amiable man who has worked his way up the management ladder of Eon Productions (sole licenser for the Bond films) since joining the firm as a legal-administrative capacity in 1972. His enthusiasm shows when speaking about his latest venture.
"Octopussy is a spectacle," he says. "It's basically still a fantasy product, but more realistic. The first three Bond films, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, were certainly classics of the cinema. And I have no qualms about being compared to these pictures, I want to see Octopussy listed in that league."
Of course, that earlier trio of 007 adventures relied far more heavily on the novels penned by Ian Fleming; today's entries in the series tend to de-emphasize their literary origins. "That's because the basic material begins to wear thin," Wilson says. "We stuck closely to the books in the beginning, but we were finally forced to inject whole
new ideas in later movies. In the case of The Spy Who Loved Me, the Fleming Estate would only give us permission to use the title on the condition that we didn't use anything else from the book. It was in Fleming's last will. He didn't want that book made into the movie."
When Octopussy premieres this summer, it will compete for box office attention not only with another Bond film, Never Say Never Again (see page 16), but with such science-fiction spectaculars as Return of the Jedi and Superman III. Wilson isn't worried. "We're not an effects picture," he says. "We use effects, illusions rather, but we hope an audience will not be fully aware of them. Some movies are creating a whole world that doesn't exist, so audiences go along to see how well you create that world, how well you execute the effects.
"We hope our audience will not be aware of our effects. Miniatures will be used, but some models, like the jet plane, are actually full size. There are even some of the usual Bond gadgets, but, as a writer, I feel that any gadget which is used should have a general utility. Sometimes, it's nice to write in one that doesn't work, so Bond must use wits and his physical courage to get out of trouble."
(Photo: Russia's top leaders meet in a pseudo-Kremlin war room created by Octopussy production designer Peter Lamont.)
As in the past, this latest Bond film concerns both topical issues (detente, fear of nuclear weapons) and somewhat lighter aspects. For example, there's a circus—complete with clowns, human cannonballs and elephants—and a female stunt team composed of professional dancers, acrobats and British Gymnastic team members.
"Everybody is so closely involved in writing the screenplay that when the writers leave, the director and producers can easily agree on virtually every scene. It was decided earlier on to make the women who appear in Octopussy not only very beautiful, but very beautiful in the way that they move... athletically."
In succeeding years, each James Bond • adventure has taken almost two years from inception to distribution and, according to Wilson, costs have multiplied more than four times since 1972. "That's a great deal of money," Wilson explains, "when you remember that Diamonds Are Forever was a $7 million picture... only 11 years ago."
Dining with a stuntman
Then, it was time for lunch, and with true Pinewood hospitality, I was invited to dine with Octopussy's action sequence coordinator Bob Simmons. A veteran stuntman, Simmons has taken falls in the past for both Sean Connery and Roger Moore. "I've worked for Albert Broccoli from the very beginning," he admits, "when the first Bond film,
Dr. No, cost less than $175,000 to make. Fortunately, though costs have increased, we still have the great teamwork now that we had then."
Between mouthfuls of celery and cheese, Simmons detailed how he begins work on each Bond movie "First, the script is presented to me," Simmons says. "I start by broadening out the visual ideas as Cubby and Michael allow me to elaborate. I've never had any opposition from them on anything I do. Everything can be worked out, if you give it plenty of thought. Nothing is left to guesswork.
"Simple stunts are often the most difficult, and yet you have your own set of rules. Many people swear by airbags for stunt falls. I disagree, and gave them up years ago, preferring instead to use a specially designed rig. And as far as stunts go, this film, Octopussy, will top the last one." Unbelievable? Probably not—especially after moviegoers get a glimpse of this action extravaganza and one extremely thrilling sequence in which James Bond and his opponent [two stuntmen] battle to the death in mid-air...hand-to-hand...on the outside of an airplane.
Curiously enough, the dangers Simmons and his team encounter are of secondary consideration. The most difficult stunt he must accomplish is, "Mainly getting the money for doing them." Simmons smiles and then adds, "Cubby says, 'Look, I can't replace you if I lose you. But I can always get another stuntman'." As lunch ends, Simmons explains the afternoon's shooting. "Today, we're finishing off one of the main scenes in Octopussy's boudoir. Bond is reading The Bible to her when three muggers wearing loin-cloths leap into the room. In the script, we have a set of thugs, a set of muggers and a set of goons. We give these sets of villains a different name for each sequence in order to prevent complications during shooting, like getting the thugs mixed up with the goons. This afternoon, the muggers arrive and a furious battle ensues."
Visiting Stage B, I was back in the interior of an Indian palace. Above me was a beautiful, colored glass ceiling; around me, the grandeur of India. At one end of this truly immense set was a massive, and very luxurious, bed, seductively shaped in the form of a giant octopus. At the other end, in a small hallway, Simmons, director Glen, Maud Adams, Roger Moore and crew were squashed together, preparing the stunt-filled scene.
Director of photography Alan Hume gave explicit instructions to a cameraman holding a handheld camera and work began. The cameraman darted about the actors as Moore tackled a vicious-looking mugger, karate chopping his neck and throwing him into a rather large fishtank—occupied by a baby octopus, an Octopussy. To get the right angle, the scene was lensed five times. Makeup women rushed in between the takes to clean up the actors while other crew members repaired damage to the set. Moore stood, smiling. At 54, he remains quite agile, leaping about with utmost precision. It's a carefully coordinated fight which definitely has a Simmons look to it, as Roger Moore demonstrates the dangers of being Bond.
Sitting in with a Designer
Another man is responsible for the breathtaking visuals surrounding me: production designer Peter Lamont. A break in the filming allowed us to retire to his office, where, amid an incredible array of models and paintings for the movie's key sequences, Lamont discussed his involvement with Octopussy and James Bond.
"My friendship with Eon Productions goes back to Goldfinger when a friend asked me to help on the picture as a draftsman," Lamont recalls. "At that time, I hadn't even seen Dr. No or From Russia With Love, but I certainly enjoyed my first assignment for art director Peter Murton and production designer Ken Adam. I drew Fort Knox.
"Next, we did The Ipcress File. For Thunderball, I took a crash course in scuba diving to do all the underwater sequences in the Bahamas. Then, I progressed to assistant art director and chief draftsman on You Only Live Twice. I took over during the work on the volcano sequence. And of course, there was a lull when Sean Connery left."
Ken Adam departed the series to work in America, Lamont became production designer, in sole charge of Moonraker. "We based all the designs in Moonraker on the Space Shuttle," Lamont says, "because we felt it was very topical. We were even shown through the Enterprise. Unfortunately, audiences entirely missed the point of all those designs because the movie was released a year before the shuttle took off."
The problems of designing Octopussy are decidely more down-to-earth. "Octopussy's boudoir took quite a long time," Lamont explains. "Once we had settled in Udaipur and the script was approved, I started researching the interior design, consulting reference books on the subject. We began to build that set in early October, and the whole project, depicting all of the luxurious
architecture, took eight or nine weeks to complete.
"Octopussy's bed is made from polystyrene. Once we approved the shape, the whole thing was strengthened with wire mesh soaked in plaster, then rubbed down, primed, sealed and covered with red ochre, which we rubbed down to give the impression of wood."
Apart from this unusual bed, Octopussy and her henchwomen also occupy a rather spacious love barge. "The whole idea came from the ceremonial barge," Lamont says. "The original has been scrapped, but we got permission from the Maharana Udai Singh to construct our barge from two which were no longer in use. Once decorated with all the ornate splendor, we had 10 lady rowers, as well as a large outboard motor fitted beneath."
Photographs adorn the wall of Lamont's office. One, in particular, emphasizes the political tensions displayed in this movie mission. "It's the Kremlin set," Lamont says. "I modeled it after the Palace of Congress. We built a hammer and sickle design into the floor and an eliptical table on a movie floor. It was possible to swing it around to face a giant war map, listing all the Eastern block tank visions, illuminated via back projection.
"When we get the script, we produce a labor program, with an estimate on each set. The one on Stage B, Octopussy's boudoir, cost in the region of $20,000 to design and build. However, since labor costs are the main concern, it's sometimes cheaper to use real materials."
One of Pinewood's landmarks is the colossal 007 soundstage constructed originally to house the submarine sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me. In Octopussy, it plays home to the courtyard of the Monsoon Palace which Lamont designed and built.
"The film demanded a courtyard and heli-pad," the production designer explains, "although we couldn't persuade an Indian helicopter pilot to land there on our Indian location. He maintained it was too small. That was a shame since the Indians use old Russian helicopters. Deciding to shoot the scene here at Pinewood instead, we knew we would end up with the usual Jet Ranger helicopter.
"After building the heli-pad at Pine-wood, however, we managed to secure a Russian-built helicopter used for ferrying supplies to oil rigs in the North Sea. Most of the giant set on the 007 stage had to be cannibalized in order to build the outdoor helipad. A set of that size would normally need perhaps as many as 120 men to build it."
Lamont sighs. Another long day toiling On Her Majesty's Secret Service is ending. With a few final words to Peter Lamont, I leave his office and Pinewood Studios and the immense soundstages where the adventures of 007 are coming to life. In one day, I traveled far, thanks to the delights of one spectacular motion picture, through England to Germany and into the darkest heart of mysterious India on location with James Bond and Octopussy
(Photo) Right: Q and 007 (Desmond Llewelyn and Roger Moore) land in the courtyard in a hot-air balloon. It's all part of the magic of moviemaking. The palace is actually located on Pinewood's 007 soundstage.
(Photo) Below: A realistic Indian bazaar can look a bit bizarre. The real thing doesn't come equipped with arc lights, cameras and film crew.
RICHARD HOLLISS is a freelance writer based in Great Britain. This is his first article for STARLOG.
[Source: Starlog Magazine #71 (June 1983) P.56-59,61)