On Location With Die Another day

  After the action had been repeated, 2nd Unit Director Vic Armstrong walked over and talked to his AD (Assistant Director) Terry Madden and his DoP (Director of Photography), Jonathan Taylor. We approached the directors’ area to watch as the next scene was rehearsed. Bond stunt double George Cottle, a member of the famous circus family, grappled with a Korean hovercraft pilot, played by Ray De-Haan, whilst his co-pilot lay slumped in the rear seat. A ‘Giraffe’ crane camera mount was used to film the action from above, with two further camera positions covering other angles. Vic wandered over and said ‘Hi’ to us, and apologised for not meeting with us sooner. Well, since we could see he was busy working, we didn't want to interrupt him! He asked if we wanted to see the monitors, so we joined him at the video screens which were relaying the camera views. As he directed the scene with help from his assistant, his DoP, his AD, and his cameramen, we watched the action unfold on the screens.   

Terry Madden Vic Armstrong Dave Bickers
Assistant Director 2nd Unit 2nd Unit Director Bickers Action Vehicle Driver

    When stuntman George Cottle, as James Bond, grabbed the pilot around the neck and wrestled with him, the hovercraft rotated and two explosions shot out from nozzles at the front of the vehicle. Vic signified ‘cut’ by drawing his finger across his neck, as his voice could not be heard over the din of the engines. Terry Madden waved his hands and a red flag to Ray De-Haan, who switched off the engine, and silence reigned. Vic went over to speak with his crew and the effects technicians (which included his son, Bruce) who rigged the explosives and discussed how he wanted the two explosions to occur at slightly different times, to give the editor more options for the scene.

   Sitting back in his directors’ chair, Vic told us how the production was progressing and other matters. Vic expressed genuine surprise when he spoke of hearing about his BAFTA Special Achievement award, due to be awarded later in the month. After last years OSCAR Technical Award, what more was there for this man at the top of his profession to achieve? Sir Vic, perhaps? He said more 2nd unit filming would take place later in Iceland and Alaska, and that he had worked many times with his stunt coordinator, the American George Aguilar. George had appeared in Vic’s directing debut, ‘The Joshua Tree’, and been stunt coordinator on his previous films ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘Shadow Conspiracy’. For this opening sequence he had decided to use stuntmen who were experienced motorcycle riders, since the hovercraft were steered using handlebars, not wheels. The big fans at the back of the craft were started by pulling on a cord, rather like starting a lawn mower engine, and the noise and draft they created was considerable at close range. As the next take was ready, Vic rejoined us to watch the scene on his monitors, before signifying ‘cut’ once again. 

   The tapes were rewound, and the different views played back on his monitor, each one met with his approval. Speaking with his AD, he explained how he wanted another take of the action, but without the smoke effects and explosions this time, a ‘clean’ image for the SFX department to work with. He told us that the explosions from the front of the hovercraft were to be married to missiles created by the special effects team later. Terry went back to talk to the cameramen, and the action started again. Once again Vic seemed very pleased with his team’s work and went over and shook hands with his crew. He and Terry discussed the location for the next days’ filming, so as the equipment was in the process of being packed away we said our goodbyes and wandered off to catch a lift back to the production base. Four of the 2-man hovercraft were being loaded onto the back of a lorry, and we caught up with them later being driven back undercover at base camp. As we walked back to the car, we briefly said ‘Hello’ to Dave Bickers who has filmed many Bond films from his action vehicles over the years. We hope to interview Dave and his son Paul for STUNTS magazine sometime in the future.

   I spied a van with ‘Griffon Hovercraft’ painted on it’s side, and after further investigation discovered that they had supported all the hovercraft utilised for filming. The large hovercraft was a Slingsby 2200, which is used by the military forces of many countries, including the British Royal Marines. It is capable of 35 knots under full load (up to 26 passengers and crew), and is 12.7m in length, 6.1m across the beam.

   The smaller hovercraft is based upon an Osprey 5 model, 4m in length, 2.3m wide and capable of speed’s up to 50mph. Griffon supplied 2 drivers and technicians to work with the EON special effects team to modify the hovercraft for use in the film. Sixteen of the smaller craft were supplied, to be used at Pinewood studios as well as on location. No doubt most will have been completely destroyed by the time filming is complete.

   It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces from my time on the Thames Boat Chase 3 years ago, and once again get the opportunity to watch such a professional group of experts at work, creating action, suspense and adventure in this special BOND 40th Anniversary Year. Roll on November 2002!

   Many thanks to the 2nd Unit team, especially Vic Armstrong and Roy Alon, for inviting us along and making us feel so welcome. The chicken nuggets and hot tea were most welcome. Also a big thanks to stuntmen David Foreman, Paul Heasman, Ray De-Haan, George Cottle, Seon Rogers, Peter Miles, Tony Smart and Derek Lea.

 Coming soon. An exclusive STUNTS interview with Vic Armstrong.

 Words and pictures ©2002 D.J.Williams All rights reserved. Not to be used without permission. 

More photos of the hovercraft can be seen at  


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