It’s amazing what one phone call can do when it’s between the right people. In the case of director Sam Mendes’ big James Bond debut Skyfall, one such moment between him Chris Corbould, the longtime special effects coordinator for the Bond franchise. Thanks to a last-minute phone call between the two men, one of the most impressive moments in the fan-favorite Bond film ran off the rails and into 007 history.
During the No Time To Die home video press junket in London last month, I was able to speak with Mr. Corbould about his work throughout the James Bond movies at large. Working in the special effects department since The Spy Who Loved Me, his talents have constantly given the Bond franchise its flair of visual artistry. But as he shared in the story that saw him literally throwing a train at Daniel Craig’s Bond, such thrills aren’t merely crafted to wow audiences with spectacle. Explaining how he created an iconic moment at the request of Sam Mendes, here’s how Chris Corbould designed the tube scene in Skyfall:
Magic definitely seems to be part of the equation, as the balance between where the story should go and what thrills are required isn’t always an easy feat. That sort of pressure is only greater when the series in question happens to be the world of James Bond, where the words “over the top” mean an entirely different thing. In the case of Skyfall’s foot chase through the tunnels of London, a crashing train was the cherry on top of the intense person-to-person action.
As Daniel Craig’s 007 chases the villainous Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) through the London Underground, there’s a moment where it looks like our hero has caught his prey. Of course, since Silva is one of the best James Bond villains to have ever been, the former MI6 asset gets crafty with how he avoids capture. This results in an entire train falling into an abandoned station, distracting Commander Bond with the task of running for dear life. That process culminated in the following moment, which you can watch from the film itself:
Chris Courbould’s work, particularly as described above, almost sounds like it appeared to him out of thin air, but naturally that’s not the case. As with anything in the James Bond legacy, there’s a process that’s in place to plan things out at the start of Skyfall or any installment in the longest running series in cinematic history. Further committing to the heart of his efforts lying in the DNA of what makes up any given film, Mr. Corbould laid down the essential beats for every new Bond movie’s effects work:
While he may not necessarily plan to top himself, Mr. Corbould’s special effects wizardry has done just that with the last two Daniel Craig Bond films. Breaking a Guinness world record for the largest explosion in the history of film was the first title that his work had brought home, thanks to the destruction of Blofeld’s lair in Spectre. But then, after some slight prodding by a colleague, Chris Corbould saw himself break another record with the most high explosives in one take for No Time To Die’s gigantic finale. Neither instance robbed the story of any meaning, but gave one hell of a kick to the moments they punctuated in this modern run of stories. The world records just happen to be rather huge perks.
The series is currently at an important junction, as the Craig era of James Bond will now give way to whomever gets cast in the next iteration of the role. What won’t change is the precision that Chris Corbould and the rest of the 007 franchise team will bring to the table, whenever that new chapter begins to unfold. Built on that solid foundation, who knows what sort of adventures Mr. Corbould will cook up in the name of challenging the next Commander Bond?
No Time To Die can be rented or bought through physical and digital media. If you’re looking for a larger than life experience, you should check your local theater listings, as an IMAX re-release is currently underway for the 25th James Bond movie. As for the upcoming movies throughout the year, you’ll have to board the official listing of 2022’s cinematic landscape at the next convenient station.