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Die Another Day
20th Anniversary 2002-2022


Beyond The Ice - Die Another Day 20th Anniversary 2002-2022

KEVIN HARPER looks back at the production of Die Another Day, released 20 years ago as the twentieth entry in the long-running Bond series, celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2002. Starring Pierce Brosnan in his fourth and final James Bond film, Die Another Day quickly went on to become the most successful instalment of the 007 franchise. Despite its box-office popularity, fans and critics thought the series had reached new levels of incongruity, with the producers moving too far into science fiction territory!

GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and The World Is Not Enough (1999) Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007

After an absence of six years from cinema screens Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond in GoldenEye (1995), reinvented the series for a whole new generation, and had the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War as its backstory. With a new 007 successfully established, the filmmakers then looked again to contemporary headlines and created a story featuring a megalomaniac media mogul who aims to start a war between China and Britain - with the help of a corrupt Chinese military official and an assortment of cyber-terrorists and minor henchmen. In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Bond is aided by Wai Lin played by Michelle Yeoh, an actress who had risen to stardom after starring in a series of Hong Kong action films where she performed her own stunts. The World Is Not Enough (1999) continued the tradition of strong female leads (with the possible exception of Denise Richards as the incongruous nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones!) and kept its storyline rooted in reality to a large degree. The usual action and stunt sequences were kept within the realms of believability, and relied largely on practical effects to achieve them. However, at the start of the new millennium the world had changed dramatically following the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, and cinema itself was undergoing a digital revolution of its own. So when it came time to develop a storyline for Pierce Brosnan’s final film of his four-movie contract, the screenwriters once again looked to the political landscape, and an early outline by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade featured the mine-laden 38th Parallel that divided North and South Korea as a potential setting for the story, with Bond held prisoner and tortured for three years before returning to active duty. The scenario echoed the ending of Ian Fleming’s penultimate James Bond novel YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1964), which had Bond lost behind the Iron Curtain, coming back to England as a Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashed Russian operative assigned to assassinate M at the start of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1965). Some elements of the early draft made their way into the final script for Die Another Day (2002).

BOND 20 now in productions | Director Lee Tamahori with Pierce Brosnan Die Another Day (2002)

New Zealand-born Lee Tamahori was assigned to the project in July 2001, and became the fourth new director the series had employed following the uninterrupted five-film run of John Glen throughout the 1980s. Principal photography on BOND 20 began on Monday January 14th, 2002, on ‘B’ Stage at Pinewood Studios, where the scenes in M and Moneypenny’s offices at MI6 were filmed. The same week saw Pierce Brosnan film scenes for the virtual reality shooting range sequence, followed by those in Q’s laboratory with John Cleese – newly promoted to the role following the death of long-serving and much-loved actor Desmond Llewelyn. The filming of establishing scenes at MI6 took place just over 40 years since Sean Connery and Bernard Lee had their first on-screen meeting in Dr. No (1962). As the cinematic James Bond franchise was celebrating its 40th Anniversary this was an ideal opportunity to acknowledge this milestone in Die Another Day, which is littered with references to the other Bond films, and also links to the literary world of James Bond. This began in Q’s underground laboratory, which appeared to be a museum of the gadgets from earlier films and allowed Pierce Brosnan to indulge in some none-too-funny business and inept quips at the expense of the new Quartermaster. Many of the gadgets seen in the laboratory were those kept in storage at Pinewood from previous films; whilst others such as Rosa Klebb’s supposed poison-tipped shoes seen in From Russia With Love (1963), were remade for the film, as was the ‘Thunderball’ jet pack. Much like the scene in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) with James Bond (played by George Lazenby) in his office with gadgets from earlier films, the Die Another Day variation simply serves to acknowledge the fact that this is the same series, but with another actor linking the current iteration to his predecessors.

Perce Brosnan as James Bond/John Cleese as Q in Die Another Day (2002)

The next film in the series Casino Royale (2006) would be the first to stand alone, and was followed by four more with the same lead actor that created their own alternate universe, but included several cinematic touchstones to remind audiences they were still from the same stable. The ‘in-jokes’ in Die Another Day appear to have been parachuted in from a Roger Moore film, and although filmed early in production, Gustav Graves parascending in front of Buckingham Palace doesn’t appear until over an hour into the finished film, at which point the story had already begun its downward spiral, culminating with the introduction of an invisible Aston Martin V12 Vanquish!

Toby Stephens as Sit Gustav Graves Die Another Day (2002)

On January 21st, 2002, the main unit moved to Aldershot to film the opening pre-credit sequence set in North Korea. Much of this spectacular action sequence featuring the hovercraft chase was directed by stunt co-ordinator Vic Armstrong, whose final Bond film this would be. Having been associated with the series since You Only Live Twice (1967), Armstrong had served as stunt co-ordinator and second unit director for Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and The World Is Not Enough (1999). Actors Will Yun Lee as Colonel Moon [a nod to the title character of COLONEL SUN (1968) by Kingsley Amis], and Rick Yune as Zao joined the production for the opening sequence.

Die Another Day pre-credits sequence - Will Yun Lee, Rick Yune and Pierce Brosnan

ABOVE: (top inset) Will Yun Lee, Rick Yune and Pierce Brosnan on location in Aldershot for the filming of the pre-credit sequence overseen by stunt co-ordinator Vic Armstrong. (bottom left) Rick Yune in makeup as Zao. His character spends the majority of the film with diamonds embedded in his face after he is caught mid-blast when Bond triggers an explosion during the pre-credit sequence. (bottom centre) Will Yun Lee as Colonel Moon and Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (bottom right) at Pinewood Studios on a blue-screen stage filming insert shots for the Hovercraft chase in Die Another Day.

At the end of January the production returned to Pinewood Studios to film scenes of Bond being tortured whilst a captive in the North Korean prison, much of which was cleverly integrated into the main title sequence designed by Daniel Kleinman, making Die Another Day the only film in the series where the titles actually contribute to the storyline, rather than being standalone entities. For the scene set in Havana where Bond meets Raoul (played by Mexican actor Emilio Echevarria) the interiors were filmed at a house in Stoke Newington, London where eagle-eyed viewers can spot Pierce Brosnan pick up the book Birds of The West Indies, in a none-too-subtle nod to the volume by American ornithologist James Bond, whose name Ian Fleming had appropriated for his secret agent hero in 1953. Pierce Brosnan had earlier injured his knee during the filming of the hovercraft chase and slipped whilst filming on the Havana Clinic set, and was out of action for several weeks. The actor underwent surgery on his knee causing the first unit to shut down production whilst he recovered. In the meantime, scenes involving American actor Michael Madsen, and those with Judi Dench and Colin Salmon were completed. Shooting around Brosnan continued throughout February 2002, with rehearsals for the sword fight involving Rosamund Pike, and a small unit filming at the Eden Project in Cornwall, which would double as Gustav Graves’ facility in Iceland.

Emilio Echevarria (Raoul) and Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) on location at a house in Stoke Newington, London | Michael Madsen as Damian Falco Die Another Day (2002)

ABOVE: (left) Emilio Echevarria (Raoul) and Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) on location at a house in Stoke Newington, London where the interiors of Raoul's Havana office were filmed. (right) American actor Michael Madsen as National Security Chief Damian Falco in Die Another Day (2002).



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