James Bond movies have come to symbolize many things to filmgoers, from classy rides and extravagant action sequences to nifty gadgets and ridiculously hot women. Another recurring theme throughout the 007 franchise is the use of exotic geographical settings to enhance the danger and intrigue inherent to Mr. Bond’s line of work; think of the films as a series of violent travelogues. To celebrate the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary (the the newest 007 adventure, Skyfall, hits theaters next month), we’re looking back on the suave MI6 agent’s worldly exploits over the years.
Over the course of 23 films, James Bond has traversed the globe to take on some of the most despicable villains ever created. Bond’s destinations have somewhat depended on the actor playing him. Sean Connery, the first Bond, neatly divided his time between Europe and the Caribbean, with quick stops in Kentucky and the Far East along the way. Roger Moore, who played 007 more times than any other actor, broadened the commander’s worldly sensibilities (and killed a lot of bad guys) during visits to South America, India and Southeast Asia. Timothy Dalton stopped by five continents in just two films, Pierce Brosnan scoped out post-Cold War Russia and China for the first time, and Daniel Craig has gotten his passport stamped (so to speak) in less prominent countries like Madagascar, Montenegro and Bolivia. And poor George Lazenby – he only appeared in one 007 adventure, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it was the only film in the series to be set entirely within Western Europe.
In reality, 007 film crews have shot in 35 different countries – an impressive pedigree, unless you consider this averages to less than two per movie. With the exception of Great Britain and the United States, France has served as a shooting location more than any other country (seven different films). The Bahamas have also been utilized six times – though the series’ most iconic beach scene, which found Ursula Andress emerging from the water much to Bond’s delight in Dr. No (1962), was shot in Jamaica. Italy has also been used six times (including three trips to Venice), followed by runners-up Spain (five), Germany (four) and Turkey, Mexico and Switzerland (all three). Canada, long-regarded as a country where shooting movies is relatively inexpensive, has only been used once – as a stand-in for the Austrian Alps in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
This is not the only time in the series’ history that one country has ‘played’ another. Turkey stood in for the Soviet Union in From Russia with Love (1963); 007 crews didn’t visit Russia until the Brosnan era, years after the Soviet Union dissolved. China stood in for Japan in You Only Live Twice (1967), but pivotal scenes set in China from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) were actually shot in Thailand. While Octopussy (1983) was mostly shot in India, the climactic aerial scene was filmed above the Utah desert. And though we should applaud the Craig-era Bond films for taking the franchise to new (throat) stomping grounds, it should be noted that scenes from Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) set in Madagascar, Montenegro and Bolivia were actually shot in the Bahamas, Czech Republic and Chile, respectively.
World landmarks have figured quite nicely into the Bond franchise, as well. Agent 007 has fought a villain atop the Golden Gate Bridge in A View to a Kill (1985), foiled a plot to destroy Fort Knox in Goldfinger (1964), engaged in a foot chase near the Egyptian Pyramids in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and (in a scene that echoes Team America) fought a henchman inside the Venice Museum of Glass and destroyed ostensibly millions of dollars’ worth of priceless art in Moonraker (1979). For the record, Bond has also traveled to an underwater city, deep space and a really fake-looking hotel made of ice (though establishments of this nature actually exist).
Then there’s Republic of Isthmus, the fictional South American country where the third act of Licence to Kill (1989) takes place. Because much of the movie’s plot concerned a cocaine kingpin who essentially buys out his country’s government, producers were somewhat concerned that using a real-life nation might ruffle a few feathers in post-Noriega Latin America. Still, it’s interesting to note that a North American country (Mexico) stood in for Isthmus City when filming commenced. Political concerns also plagued shooting of The World is Not Enough (1999). Soon after a complete set was erected in Istanbul, a nearby bombing incident led to nationwide civil unrest, so producers decided to pull out of Turkey altogether and relocate to Spain. The crew must have enjoyed the Spanish lifestyle, because a downhill skiing chase slated for the French Alps and an opening sequence planned for Havana were both scrapped and shot in Spain instead.
But hey, it’s the movies, and things are not always as they seem. After all, only two Bond actors, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig, are actually English – Connery is Scottish, Brosnan is Irish, Dalton hails from Wales, and Lazenby was born in Australia.
By Brad Nehring