Staff at the Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the James Bond film Goldeneye.
Originally released at UK cinemas on November 24, 1995, the 17th Bond film had two important scenes filmed on the NVR involving a Russian military train, 007 in a tank trying to stop it, and the daring rescue of a Bond girl!
Armed with his notebook, and non-exploding pen we sent our ESP-ionage agent off to uncover some hidden stories from 007’s Goldeneye adventure. Here’s his report…
A GOLDEN-EYE WITNESS
Twenty years ago as cinema audiences eagerly awaited the introduction of Pierce Brosnan in his first film as James Bond, NVR’s Brian White was one the first people from Peterborough to see 007 put through his paces. Brian was a ‘golden’ eyewitness when the James Bond cast and crew arrived at the NVR in April 1995 for a two day shoot.
“There were roughly 30 people from the film crew involved and they were all absolute experts in all they did. The train they used was an old British Rail class 20 diesel locomotive with a couple of coaches. It was transported by road from their film studios on a low-loader up to Wansford and when it arrived it looked very, very impressive. They camouflaged it perfectly to fit in with the film.”
The old British Rail diesel locomotive was transformed to resemble a Soviet military train, and was overseen by the Goldeneye Production Designer Peter Lamont who worked on 18 Bond films including Octopussy (the first Bond filmed at the NVR in 1982). His Bond film credits run from Goldfinger to Casino Royale. The only film he missed was Tomorrow Never Dies, but I think we can let him off than one, because at the time he was working on Titantic, which won him an Oscar!
“They first filmed a short scene at the old sugar beet factory (now part of the Sugar Way housing estate, Woodston). In the film you see some of the characters getting on the train as it leaves. The main sequence was further down at Castor, Mill Road Bridge which they designed to look as if it was a real tunnel rather than just a bridge.”
In the film the train hurtles down the track passing through the Ferry Meadows station that was decorated to look like a stretch of railway in St Petersburg. At the Mill Road Bridge, Castor James Bond is hiding in the tunnel in a tank and fires at the train in an attempt to derail it. When it fails, and just sets fire to the engine he leaps from the tank just before the train crashes into it. However, the film’s original plans to crash the train into a real 36 ton Russian tank were quickly altered as Brian remembered.
“Our structural engineer wasn’t keen on them crashing the train into a real tank as it would have caused a lot of damage to the track and the bridge. In the end, the tank used was a fibreglass shell. For the collision of the train into the tank, and the explosion they used a model and special effects back at their film studios.”
The Train v Tank models were made by special effects designer Derek Meddings who’d worked on numerous Bond films, and had famously made the miniature of the Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.
The scenes filmed on the NVR formed part of a thrilling ten minute action sequence in Goldeneye and although Brian didn’t get to spend any time with Pierce Brosnan on set, check out this rarely seen 20 minute BBC documentary ‘A Day in the Life of Goldeneye’. Originally shown in November 1995 it contains behind the scenes footage of the filming that took place at the NVR and is a must see for any James Bond fan.
Interestingly, although Goldeneye was Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film, it wasn’t the first time he’d acted on the Nene Valley Railway. In 1988, two years after he’d had to turn down the role of 007 due to contractual obligations to American TV show Remington Steele, Brosnan made this advert for Diet Coke on the NVR.
The advert cost a reported $1 million to make and premiered on television during the commercial break in the 1988 American Superbowl. It sees Brosnan play an un-named action hero, not a million-miles away from James Bond, but with a thirst for Diet Coke instead of Vodka Martini!
In an interview with the American press on February 20, 1988 to promote the film The Deceivers that he was in, Brosnan mentioned the filming of the advert on the Nene Valley saying – “That was me walking on top of that train. It was going 40 miles an hour. If I’d fallen off that sucker I’d never have done the Deceivers.”
On its release in 1995 Goldeneye became a global hit. It’s worldwide cinema box office receipts were $355,978.00 which made it the most successful Bond since 1979’s Moonraker took $210, 3000. With Martin Campbell as director Goldeneye rejuvenated the franchise and proved there was a still at place for 007 in a post cold-war world.
A decade later when the long-term producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson looked to reinvent James Bond for the 21st century, they turned again to Campbell to ease the transition and herald in the Daniel Craig era. Campbell’s second Bond film as director was the stunningly brilliant Casino Royale, but his first Goldeneye was the film that made it all possible.
Meanwhile NVR’s Marketing Manager Jerry Thurston is justifiably proud of the railway’s association with James Bond. In the station office is a plaque presented to the NVR as part of the ‘007 Days of Bond’ relay to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bond and to coincide with the Bond 50 Blu Ray release.
As Jerry took me into the yard where the Goldeneye train was originally loaded onto the rail tracks at Wansford station, he talked enthusiastically about the latest film SPECTRE that he’d recently seen at the cinema.
“I thought it was a great Bond film. After the sort of week I’d had, it was two hours of pure escapism and just what I needed. I saw it with my 15-year-old son and it kept us both thoroughly entertained. Big action scenes, bits to make you laugh and the part I really liked was the day of the dead scene which immediately made me think of Live and Let Die. It had everything you wanted and when it finished we went out for a big blow out meal to celebrate!”
And with praise like that, I get the sense that if the Bond producers ever come calling again, Nene Valley Railway will be more than ready to oblige.