An Exclusive Behind the Scenes Look at the Latest James Bond Film No Time to Die
An interview with the special effects supervisor on the 25th James Bond movie
Before movie franchises had superheroes leaping around in tights, people fighting with light sabers and chasing Muppets across the galaxy there was a movie franchise about a guy. Not just any ordinary guy though but one that did things the rest of us could only imagine. Because of him the world has been saved from evil countless times; we have our vodka martinis shaken, not stirred, we drive legendary cars, have cool gadgets, and we always get the girl (at least in our dreams).
James Bond was a character born from the mind of Ian Fleming, himself a British intelligence officer in WWII. Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale introduced the world to British Secret Service agent .007 in 1952. Now, 59 years after the first Bond movie, Dr. No which premiered in 1962, the latest Bond film is hitting screens after a pandemic delay of over a year.
No Time to Die marks the 25th installment in the franchise. But it also marks the end for Daniel Craig, the most recent actor to play Bond. He took over the role of the most well-known British spy in the world in 2006 in Casino Royale and four films later No Time to Die will be the last time he shows up as “that guy,” James Bond (humorous side note: Craig played “Joe Bang” in the 2017 film Logan Lucky; a movie in which I appeared briefly in the background of two scenes).
The actor waves the green flag for a NASCAR race in Charlotte on the weekend No Time to Die is released in America
Daniel Craig may be the most visible element on the screen when moviegoers watch No Time to Die, but without the people behind the camera much of that they see would not be possible. When Craig, aka Bond, shoots his way across the big screen, there are no real bullets flying, but most everything else you see really happens, or you believe they do. And that’s in large part due to people no one will see on the screen, people like Charlie Noble.
Noble was the special effects supervisor on No Time to Die, the person responsible for making the things the filmmakers imagine come to life on the screen. And I got a chance to spend a few minutes with him a couple of days before the film made its debut in London.
No Time to Die isn’t the first movie for Noble; the Emmy Award winner has worked on such films as Captain America: The First Avenger, Wonder Woman 1984, Captain Phillips, Bridge of Spies, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout to name just a few.
He also contributed to another Bond film helping with the special effects for Goldeneye in 1995. For this latest Bond film however, Noble is the one supervising all the visual effects. He said he’s always been a fan of the Bond franchise.
“Of course, I mean, who isn't,” he said. “I grew up with them; they were huge events when I was a kid. Going to see a Bond film was just a big thing. I have very fond memories of growing up with it.
Gallery: Bond Through the Years
“Obviously, it's a huge honor to be to be involved in this in this franchise. I was brought on in pre-production by VFX producer, Dan Barrow who I worked with in the past on Jason Bourne and Captain Phillips. And I was just super excited to be working with him again. We had great fun in the past.”
Being a consummate professional, Noble said he tried to treat the production as just another movie but admits there was a bit or pressure being such a big part of a Bond film.
“You try and give your best to the director and to achieve his vision, get it on the screen,” he said. “But obviously you know, yes, it is slightly more a higher profile with this show.”
There are always certain elements in every Bond film: guns, lots of action, and of course cars. James Bond is famous for driving the Aston Martin DB series, the most famous being the DB5 which Bond first drove in Goldfinger in 1964. For this latest film, Bond is again behind the wheel of a DB5. With all the cars in the movie for anyone involved in special effects creating the story’s vision sometimes means a car, or two, might be damaged along the way. A handful of DB5’s were built for the action scenes and each was tricked out for the shot they appeared in.
“Obviously,” Noble said chuckling. “When you get the real thing to play with you've got your kid gloves on you don't you don't set your coffee on it.”
One of the techniques used in movies is replacing one vehicle for another without actually using it in real life. In 2010, Noble used his skills on Green Zone a war movie starring Matt Damon. Not only did Noble and his crew recreate Baghdad out of a desert in Morocco, but several scenes featured soldiers exiting Blackhawk helicopters. With no access to real Blackhawks, Huey’s were used for the actors to exit from, then Blackhawks added in post-production using CG.
That technique was used in No Time to Die.
“We did have to replace one car and one Aston with another Aston, seamlessly done by Johnathan Faulkner at Framestore,” Noble said. “And I'm not sure if I can say where that happens, but it was nicely done. One Aston was felt to be not as suitable for the terrain it was on. So we switched it out for another Aston and it looks seamless. Beautiful.”
Other vehicles used in the film include Land Rover Defenders and Discoveries (old and new) and even a Toyota Land Cruiser.
While the advent of CG allows filmmakers, and people like Charlie Noble, to create just about anything they want, much of the action seen in No Time to Die really happens. And despite that fact that this is a Bond film, there were no huge differences in the way the action scenes are done than the other films Noble has worked on.
“Apart from the just the ambition of the sequences themselves,” he said. “Everyone wants to push it and push it to the limits, and this is no exception. Lee Morrison (stunt coordinator) and his team did an amazing job with the vehicles. They came up with two spectacular car chases and hats off to the Jaguar, Land Rover team as well for the amount of punishment that the Defenders and the Discoveries took in in the chases over the Norwegian Tundra. I mean, pretty amazing.”
Now that all the scenes are done and the movie is out, Noble says there isn’t really one scene that he’s most excited for people to see.
“I think there's so many beautiful locations and some great scenes and great car chases, some great stunts,” he said. “I think there's just so much in there. It's all pretty exciting to be honest with you. You know, I can't really pick a pick a favorite, like ‘which is my favorite child’. I can't tell you that.”
Charlie Noble’s career is far from over. But no matter which movies he works on, after leaving his mark on the 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die, he’s left his thumbprint so to speak, on a series dating back to 1962. A pretty satisfying way to add to the legacy of the worlds most famous characters.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I'm very honored to be part of the franchise, and I very much enjoyed the whole process.”
That process resulted in the fifth James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig in the lead role. And after seeing the movie myself on the day it debuted in London, I can say with certainty that while it may be the last one with Craig, it definitely won’t be the last movie with a .007 taking on bad guys and saving the world. Look for a 26th installment of a James Bond film, and probably many, many more.
Time now for a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, of course.