DOUBLE TAP
Wheels Australia Magazine|June 2020
IT’S THE CAR SYNONYMOUS WITH 007, AND AS THE LATEST BOND FLICK AWAITS ITS CINEMA RELEASE, WE CAN HAPPILY CONFIRM THAT ASTON MARTINS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE…
VINCE JACKSON
IN A CRAMPED, unglamorous attic space, Daniel Craig is sitting on the floor, casual as you like. You can’t help but notice that he’s handsome but – no offence – not quite as smouldering as his big-screen persona; his face is covered in what resembles a grim, female-repelling case of teenage acne. To his credit though, he cracks a joke about it.

He’s down-to-earth, relaxed, and not the Daniel Craig we expected; not the guy who, a few years back, threw a high-profile celebrity strop, swearing blind he’d rather slit his wrists than make another Bond movie.

There’s a good reason for his hang-loose demeanour. This isn’t the Daniel Craig, simply a version of him, the next best thing.

Mark Higgins is a 48-year-old British rally champion turned full-time stunt driver, a job that now includes drifting, doughnuting and body-doubling on behalf of the world’s most famous fictional spy. And that hideous skin affliction? The spots are known in the trade as ‘motion capture’, a digital-dot system placed onto a stunt driver’s face during filming, allowing the actor’s mug to be grafted on later by the CGI team.

“We did use face masks in previous Bonds but they’re hard to get rid of digitally,” says Higgins.

It’s a blisteringly hot morning in the ancient, sandstone-washed city of Matera, southern Italy, back in September 2019. We’re on the set of the forthcoming Bond movie, No Time to Die, having been given super-rare, one-day-only permission to watch how 007 car stunts are stitched together.

Today’s scene, from which Higgins has taken a few minutes away to talk to Wheels, is being shot in a picture-postcard Italian piazza, albeit at a pace that would make some glaciers feel sprightly. It’s a segment that may or may not form part of the franchise’s now-signature, high-octane opening sequence (the production overlords are vague about plot details).

Bond and his iconic 1960s silver birch Aston Martin DB5 have just been chased through the skinny, decidedly car-unfriendly cobbled streets, and are now trapped in the square. The bad guys, one group emerging from an ’80s Range Rover Classic, the others a moody Jaguar XF sedan, are pummelling the Aston’s bodywork with machine-gun fire.

“It’s quite scary when people are coming at you with guns,” says Higgins, now on his fifth Bond outing. “Quite eerie when the bullets are bashing on the windscreen.”

Fortunately for him, and connoisseurs of sacred collectibles the world over, the Aston is 100 percent bulletproof. That’s because the DB5 currently being filmed is no ordinary model. It’s one of eight visually identical replica DB5s commissioned especially for No Time to Die. Built by Aston Martin’s special projects division in conjunction with the movie’s head of stunt cars, Neil Layton, each comes with carbonfibre bodywork and a steel spaceframe chassis. Modern rally suspension, transmission, and modern straight-six 268kW engine are standard, too; proper Q-cars, then.

The Aston rep, however, refuses to reveal the origin of said powerplant, and probably wouldn’t even if one of Bond’s foes put a gun to his head (see sidebar, p70).

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