1. Bond's Journey Down The Thames, Part 2

    By daniel on 2002-01-02

    This is part two of a special report on James Bond's London which author Gary Giblin created exclusively for The two parts deal on the filming of the Pre-Title Sequence in The World Is Not Enough. All of this material comes from James Bond's London, and as you'll read below, it has been shortened for Internet purposes. To read the full material which I do strongly advise, you'll have to get your hands on James Bond's London from Spy Guise.

    I'd like to thank Gary for all the help he has offered on the matter. Stay tuned for more exciting information on James Bond's London. I'd also like to thank David Williams from BondPix for supplying some of the photos for this article, it's greatly appreciated.

    Part One of this report can be found by clicking here.


    Prepared especially for by Gary Giblin

    As a film location buff, especially a London film location buff, I was thrilled to learn in early 1999 that the British capital was to feature prominently in the opening of The World Is Not Enough. Fortunately, I had contacts at both the London Film Commission (which helped coordinate the shoot) and on the production itself, so I could accurately detail the film’s amazing pre-credit boat chase for the book James Bond's London. Here, exclusively for, I have excerpted portions of the book for readers who would like to retrace Bond’s hectic ride down the Thames, and through the city’s historic Docklands.

    Note that the book itself contains detailed directions to all sites.

    St Saviour’s Dock

    This narrow inlet on the south bank of the Thames provides a convenient means of segueing from the river itself to the enclosed–and more manageable–docks of East London during The World Is Not Enough boat chase. Here, on the eastern side of Tower Bridge, Cigar Girl passes Butler’s Wharf and the striking new Design Museum, then abruptly swerves into the tiny inlet. Bond shoots past St Saviour’s Dock, does an about face, then follows the Sunseeker Hawk 34 down what is, in fact, a dead-end. Where the two boats emerge is actually Millwall Docks–some two miles down the Thames! The buildings along this “muddy creek”, as Time Out London calls it, are in fact renovated warehouses that now serve as blocks of luxury flats.

    Millwall Docks

    The two large docks in the Millwall area of the Isle of Dogs were completed in 1868, their name recalling the windmills that once stood on the adjacent bank. As with the West India Docks to the north, Millwall docks provided a safer, more controlled environment for several of the more hair-raising stunts in the pre-credit boat chase of The World Is Not Enough. Our first glimpse of the Docks–actually the southeast corner of Millwall Outer Dock–occurs immediately after the footage of Bond and Cigar Girl speeding down the narrow St Saviour’s Dock, near Tower Bridge. One by one, they emerge from beneath the footbridge here, with Cigar Girl then stopping to fire her big gun at Bond. Bond–actually stuntman Gary Powell–proceeds to undertake a stunning barrel roll over the back of the Sunseeker, taking out the lovely’s lethal accessory. Close-ups of a wet Pierce Brosnan barrelling down on Cigar Girl were actually filmed in Royal Victoria Dock, to which the action then switches for shots of the pair weaving among stationary boats and the explosion of the Wyvenhoe. Then it’s back to Millwall Inner Dock for the sequence where Cigar Girl and Bond approach the very low Glengall Bridge. Cigar Girl makes it just as the lifting bridge is closing; Bond–Powell again–manages to squeeze through after the bridge has closed. The footage of Brosnan actually submerging the Q Boat was also shot at the Royal Victoria Dock. From here the action jumps–almost logically, in fact–to West India Dock.

    Royal Victoria Dock

    After his “barrel roll” over Cigar Girl’s Sunseeker Hawk and before the “low bridge” bit, both filmed at Millwall Docks, Bond has a near miss with a stationary boat and watches his antagonist incinerate an old sailing barge called the Wyvenhoe. These bits and more were staged here at Royal Victora Dock for the opening boat chase of The World Is Not Enough. Prior to filming, rehearsals and special effects testing were conducted in the small Pontoon Dock, near the North Woolwich Road. Later, in addition to the near miss and explosion, second unit director Vic Armstrong filmed Cigar Girl firing at Bond in the Q Boat, as well as the latter itself darting between the plumes of water, all along the southern edge of the dock. Then, on May 14, 1999, director Michael Apted brought the first unit here to film close-ups of Pierce Brosnan getting splashed by the explosions and briefly submerging the Q Boat, also along the southern edge of the dock. This footage was then edited into the Glengall Bridge sequence, which Vic Armstrong shot in Millwall Docks. Of his memorable stint in the water, Brosnan noted on The Tonight Show (November 4, 1999) that he had “a wetsuit on underneath and then I had the James Bond suit and the tie, but I had these big kind of galoshes underneath, which is kind of half Bond, half duck!”

    West India Docks, Canary Wharf and Blackwall Basin

    Recent editions of the Time Out London Guide describe the West India Docks area as having a “toytown look from the Docklands Light Railway”, while “at ground level it looks more like the set of a James Bond film.” Indeed. But the “epic buildings” of Canary Wharf represent a relatively recent transformation of an area once dominated by London’s commercial shipping industry. After the closure of the the docks themselves in 1980, the area was developed as a sort of mini city, centered on the massive Canary Wharf Tower (a.k.a., One Canada Square), which at 774 feet is the tallest building in Britain and the fourth-tallest in Europe. (The tallest, at 981 feet, is the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt.) The result is visually impressive, if somewhat jarringly “American”. (Cesar Pelli, architect of the Canary Wharf Tower, also designed New York’s World Trade Center.) Of course, the Cinematic Bond is himself something of an Anglo-American hybrid, so it seems only fitting that he should make an appearance beneath this symbol of the new, high-rise London. Thus, for The World Is Not Enough, Vic Armstrong’s second unit crew came here to shoot the sequence in which Cigar Girl crashes through a police boat (a balsa wood “stunt double” covered with the fiberglass shell of an actual police craft), detonates a yachting fuel station, and then speeds off beneath the Trafalgar Way bridge and out into Blackwall Basin. (This occurs immediately after the Glengall Bridge sequence at Millwall Docks.) Blocked by the fiery wreckage, Bond consults his onboard map of the Isle of Dogs (which indicates that he is in the river itself, near Canary Wharf Pier), figures out a way to head her off at the pass (so to speak), then performs an about-face and speeds back past Billingsgate Fish Market (the red building on the right). The next leg of his journey actually takes place several miles upriver at Tobacco Dock, Wapping, although according to the map, Bond will be passing through the very West India Docks he has just left!

    Tobacco Dock
    Wapping Lane, E1

    Doubles as: West India Docks, Isle of Dogs, London in The World Is Not Enough.

    Having been temporarily thwarted by Cigar Girl (see West India Docks), Bond consults his onboard map and decides to cut across the Isle of Dogs to intercept his prey near the Millennium Dome). The route, as shown on the map, will take him through the West India Docks, which, of course, is precisely where he is sitting as he maps out the interception! To further complicate things, he won’t really be traveling through the West India Docks, but rather through Tobacco Dock–some two miles upriver! Confused? Well, don’t be. These geographical sleights of hand don’t seem to bother Bond in the least. He simply pilots the indestructible Q Boat up Tobacco Dock’s Ornamental Canal, crashes through a specially-constructed “London Canoe Club” shed, sails over Wapping Lane, lands on the other side of the road and then continues the chase through the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, some 30 miles away! Watch for the red double-decker buses in Wapping Lane–they were also used in the Chatham footage to link the two disparate sequences. The cut is a clever one and, as supervising art director Neil Lamont justifiably opined, “It works very well indeed.”

    Trinity Buoy Wharf
    64 Orchard Place, E16

    Once owned by Trinity House (the English lighthouse authority mentioned in the novel Moonraker), Trinity Buoy Wharf not only contains London’s only lighthouse (built for experimental purposes in the 19th century), but also marks the spot where Bond reenters the Thames in The World Is Not Enough boat chase. Here, adjacent to the Chainstore, a refurbished Victorian-era warehouse, the TWINE crew recreated the marquee portion of “Viktor’s” restaurant (an homage to second unit director Vic Armstrong) through which Bond steers the Q Craft during the land leg of the chase. The first part of the restaurant sequence was filmed at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent; the shots of Bond going through the tent and shooting back out into the Thames, here in Leamouth.

    The Millennium Dome
    Drawdock Road, SE10

    Given all the media attention surrounding its cost and construction, the content of its exhibits, the strains it would place on the public transport system, etc., not to mention its place in the record book, it’s no wonder the Bond filmmakers chose to incorporate the admittedly impressive-looking locale in The World Is Not Enough. Here, after the dramatic chase down the River Thames, Bond has his final showdown with the deadly Cigar Girl. The action picks up from Trinity Buoy Wharf, directly across the river, where Bond reenters the water following his cruise through the London Canoe Club and Viktor’s Restaurant (see Tobacco Dock and the Historic Dockyard [James Bond’s Britain] in Chatham). Cigar Girl heads for shore, ditches her boat, which Bond’s torpedoes promptly incinerate, then commandeers a convenient hot-air balloon, poised for ascent. Bond pilots the Q Boat up out of the water (using the wrecked Sunseeker as a ramp), dives for one of the balloon’s ropes, watches helplessly as Cigar Girl destroys the balloon and then crash-lands, more or less safely, on the dome itself. The sequence was filmed here on location, as well as at Pinewood Studios (JBB). The studio footage combines full-sized mock-ups with John Richardson’s exquisite miniatures.

    So there’s your quick trip down the Thames, courtesy of James Bond. Now, I can’t promise you a ride in the Q-Boat ride or a balloon ascent over the Millennium Dome, but I can promise that with James Bond’s London you can literally “follow in the footsteps” of the world’s greatest superspy.

    My personal thanks go out to Dave Williams for his able assist in documenting the TWINE river locations and for kindly supplying photos for this article and James Bond’s London.

    On behalf of I'd like to extend my most sincere thanks to Gary Giblin and all the people at SpyGuise who have made our reporting on James Bond’s London possible. Stay tuned for more material on the book including a second review (this time by me) and an interview with Gary Giblin.

    And remember, you can buy James Bond’s London from Spy Guise for only US$20.