Here's What a Real Day of Filming The Grand Tour is Like
It’s a cold November morning. There is frost on the grass outside my house. My alarm goes off. I grab my tickets and run to the car, and begin the three-hour drive towards the Grand Tour tent.
When we arrive in the quaint Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton (literally a stone’s throw from Jeremy’s house) we park, walk across an extremely muddy field and join the back of an extremely long queue. We stand out in the freezing cold for what feels like hours. Eventually, we reach the front of the queue.
‘Do you have phones on you?’ The attendant, who looks no older than twenty and is decked head-to-toe in Grand Tour and Amazon branding, asks us. ‘Well, yes,’ we reply. Wrong answer.
Back to the car we trudge. When we make it back to the front of the queue again, we move on to the next attendant, who proceeds to pat us down and then usher us through to the Audience Tent, where we will wait until filming begins. It is clearly not big enough for the number of people in it – and more are still coming in.
The tent wasn't actually this small, of course. But with over 200 people in it, it was very crowded - Image credit: GoOutdoors
There are chairs dotted around the edge of the tent, but none are free. There are picnic tables and wooden benches, but those are all taken, too. Standing it is.
Everyone is in now. A lightly-bearded man stands on a chair and introduces himself as Matthew, Audience Manager. He assures us that we won’t be standing in the freezing tent for too long (where the heating is broken, of course) but that while we wait, we should have a go at the Grand Tour Quiz – the winner will receive some signed merchandise.
If you're interested, this is an image from the British panel show Have I Got News For You from 2010, in which Jeremy threw a pen at co-star Ian Hislop - Image credit: BBC
Even though I’ve already bought every single item of merchandise on sale, and I’m attempting to eat two enormous breakfast sandwiches at the same time, I do the quiz. I complete it in thirty seconds, and I’m certain I’ve got everything right (I did, but I didn't win the signed merch). I smugly look around at my fellow audience members, bewildered by the questions, and demolish my breakfast sandwiches.
The sandwiches didn't look as good as this. They came from a van, after all - Image credit: Splendid Table
I spot an opening at one end of the tent, with a security guard standing by it. I push my way through the crowds and stand as close to the opening as I can possibly get. However, with an extremely cold breeze coming through, this is by far the coldest part of the tent.
The security guard wasn't anywhere near as intimidating as these guys - Image credit: The Japan Times
About three hours pass. That’s not an exaggeration. I can’t feel my hands. Matthew tells us that there’s been a technical problem with the lighting in the tent, which is the reason for the delay. He tries to comfort us by informing us that we are the 200 successful applicants out of over 1 million who applied to be on the show. It doesn’t work.
After what seems like an age, the security guard finally opens up the side of the tent. I sprint out, and am at the front of the queue, outside the real tent.
When Matthew takes me inside the tent, I immediately feel a gust of warm air from the many heaters, positioned just out of shot. He takes me all the way around to the far corner of the tent. Gradually, the rest of the audience fills up the tent, with a lucky few being randomly selected to sit on the hay bales at the front.
When everyone is in (and I am literally shaking from anticipation – and the sudden temperature difference, of course) Matthew jumps up onto the stage and informs us that ‘the boys’ would like to come out to say hello before filming begins.
Jeremy, James and Richard walk into the tent and up to the stage. Jeremy waves dramatically and loudly shouts ‘Hello!’ several times. Richard smiles broadly and shakes audience members’ hands. James trails behind, being very quiet and keeping his hands in his pockets.
Jeremy addresses the audience. ‘Hello, everybody! Now, there’s one thing I won’t be able to say in a minute, so I’d better get that out of the way now – FUCK.’ The audience laughs and cheers. As he talks, Jeremy crams a surprising and genuinely impressive amount of swear words into each sentence.
He proceeds to tell us what we need to know about Season 2. He tells us the story about how Celebrity Braincrash came to be and explains the new feature, Celebrity Faceoff.
He also tells us about the ‘running jokes' we'd need to know about, by pointing out James's short hair and reminding us all about Hammond's near-death earlier that year. Richard responds by reminding us of Jeremy’s “pneumonia”, which is greeted by loud laughter and cheers from the audience.
It then descends into chaos, with the three presenters hurling insults at one another. Richard is short and has a stupid beard, James is old and slow, etc. to which Hammond and May replied with ‘shut up, you fat ape’. All the usual.
The filming itself went very smoothly. There were a few pauses, such as when Jeremy asked for a ‘zesty drink’, which he poured into his mug (San Pellegrino Limonata, if you’re interested – he got through about five cans during the filming). James and Richard just got water, of course. And we had to have a half-hour break after Conversation Street, when Jeremy was ‘literally gagging for another nicotine patch’.
There were very few retakes. All-powerful director Brian Klein boomed out his instructions through the speakers, presumably stationed in a reinforced nuclear fortress somewhere.
One part of Conversation Street took a few takes to get right. When Jeremy presents Hammond with his broken watch from his crash, he holds up the engraved glass case to the camera, so that we can read it. His shaking hands and appalling attention span meant it took forever to get a shot of him holding it still and up to the camera for long enough.
At the end of a long day of filming (one and a half hours, at most – less than half the time we spent in the freezing tent that morning) James says ‘Pub?’ to which Jeremy and Richard reply, in perfect symphony, ‘Yes, I think so, don’t you?’
On Series 2 Episode 3, the Christmas special entitled Bah Humbug-atti, if you pause it at exactly 10:28 you can see me, crammed into the corner of the tent, clapping furiously at James’s film.
So, there you go. A day in the life of the Grand Tour. If you like breakfast sandwiches and you're not worried about getting pneumonia (the real kind, not Jeremy's kind) then I'd strongly recommend you apply to attend a Season 3 filming when Amazon opens up the application process later this year.