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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gary Powell Sets the record straight on Quantum of Solace Driving Action

James Bond may be one of the few people in the world who knows the identity of the Stig. That's because for the new 007 film "Quantum of Solace" out November 14, actor Daniel Craig practiced on that famous "Top Gear" track, with the Stig riding shotgun.

Fans who hoped there would be a car chase with the venerable DBS in "Casino Royale" will have their wish granted in "Quantum of Solace." The supercar offers an adrenaline-filled opening sequence in a movie that trumps the first film in action and stunts. In fact, Craig does a lot of driving this time -- from cars to an old power boat, an old jet, and a motorcycle.

London-based Gary Powell, who had the hefty job of stunt coordinator on this Bond flick and "Casino Royale," dispels some media mistruths about the making of both with Motor Trend Online.

Remember the rumor that Craig only drives automatic? On the "Top Gear" track, Craig ripped through the Follow Through on the manual DBS. While he was far from being a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, Craig still gives many celebs and drivers of that track a run for their money.

"He was flat out in the Aston Martin going through that thing at 130 mph," Powell says, adding the Stig was very helpful. "He gave some really good one on one instruction. Everyone laughed about it because the press says 'Oh, he can't drive.' I'd love someone that can't drive do 130 mph around the 'Top Gear' track in an Aston Martin DBS. Anyone can drive a car, but the DBS as you know, they're not the easiest cars to drive, they've got so much power. If you don't know what you're doing in it, you end up going the wrong way."

Powell explains in the last film the rumors came when the old DB5, the only one in the Bahamas, was an automatic. "The press was sort of going, 'He can only drive an automatic!' just like doing the press thing, they always exaggerate, rather than just asking someone why isn't it a stick shift?"

Powell says although Craig also prepped on the "Top Gear" track for "Casino Royale," this time the Stig joined him as his instructor. "We just gave him basic skills because we're going totally different speeds than the public would in that car. Daniel really did put it through its paces and he wants to be able to drive it properly."

But when asked if Craig met the guy behind the helmet, Powell's reply was a coy, "The Stig is as much a secret agent as James Bond is.

"Quantum of Solace" picks up where "Casino Royale" left off. It starts out with some enticing shots of the DBS and the sound of that V-12 engine and goes into an epic car chase that will not disappoint.

"This one is a proper car chase," Powell says. "The last film, you think it's going to be a car chase and just when you think it's starting to happen, the car rolled over. This is totally opposite."

This time the DBS mixes it up with Alfa Romeo 159s. There were seven DBSs and nine Alfa Romeos used to create that scene. Powell adds there were two Land Rovers, the one that gets smashed up and thrown over a cliff had its engine and gasoline taken out so it wouldn't create a needless explosion.

Powell said in the last film the DBS was still a prototype. "It was early in its development," Powell says. "The cars we had on this one were the proper DBS. So we had what you can go buy in showroom."

Except that these cars were outfitted with roll cages and plating on different parts of the cars. Powell said airbags were removed "because when you're doing the car chase and your cars smash into each other, the last thing you want is an airbag going off in your face." Driving on different gradients also chewed up the rear suspension and axles, so they changed the rear axle a few times.

"We played about with the suspension because we went on different terrain," Powell says. "Because an Aston Martin normally rides four inches off the floor and we were going through this quarry where there were huge potholes, we had to jack it up as best as we can."

The crew also had to create more tread on the tires. "The film starts off on tarmac mountain road and we end up in a marble quarry, so both the Alfas and Aston -- we changed the tires when they went to the quarry. For the Aston Martin there is only one brand of tire that they make for that car. We had the tires the car comes with and probably 30 sets of tires, but cut our own treads into the tires."

Olga Kurylenko who plays Camille, drives the eco-friendly Ford Ka as well as a classic Volkwagen Beetle. Range Rover and Jaguar get screen time, as well as what are supposed be hydrogen-powered Ford Edge SUVs used by the mysterious Greene Planet organization in the movie.

Powell is a polite British man, but bring up the well-publicized crashes during the filming of "Quantum of Solace" and he vehemently wants to straighten out the media mistruths. In addition to the stunt DBSs, the film also had some publicity DBSs, one of which ended up in Lake Garda in Italy (it has since been purchased by a collector). Powell said that accident had nothing to do with the car chase scene.

"That car has nothing to do with the filming of James Bond," Powell says. "It was there to do publicity. It was being driven from one place to another and unfortunately it ended up in the lake and the press being the press glorified it and added a bit to it and it was totally untrue."

Then there were the Alfa Romeo crashes. "Unfortunately, the press get there and they see these crashes," Powell says. "Crashes are part of the film. The cars are supposed to bloody crash. Every time they see a crash, they say, 'Ooh, the car's had a crash, quick, they've had an accident.' The car's supposed to crash, that's the whole idea of the freaking car chase."

Powell says the report of an Alfa Romeo balancing on a cliff was also incorrect. "It hit a wall, it certainly wasn't balancing on any cliff," Powell says. "That was part of the chase but unfortunately someone got hurt."

He is referring to the accident with stuntman Aris Comninos in an Alfa Romeo, which was part of the car chase. "Unfortunately, a stunt guy got hurt, not through any person's fault. It was a very small mechanical failure that caused Aris to have an accident. Everyone's done what they were supposed to do. It was supposed to be a crash scene, so the devastation everyone sees in the photograph was supposed to be there."

Powell says every precaution was taken. "We try to make it as safe as possible, but unfortunately accidents happen just like a billion dollar space shuttle blows up because of a two dollar ringlet. If the job weren't dangerous we wouldn't have a job."


Unknown November 14, 2008 at 6:28 AM  

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