The Defender Double cab, the movie star

The Defender Double cab, the movie star

Behind the scenes of James Bond – Skyfall

While actress Naomie Harris was behind the wheel of the Land Rover in the film’s opening chase, the stunt driver Ben Collins was the one controlling the vehicle… from the roof.

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The Land Rover Defender Double Cab 110 is seen in the opening sequence of Skyfall driven by Naomie Harris with Daniel Graig (James Bond) as passenger. But in fact the car was driven by Ben Collins, better known as The Stig from BBC’s internationally acclaimed Top Gear TV Show. The Stig has collected high profile movie credentials before Skyfall: he acted as a stunt driver in The Dark Knight Rises, Quantum of Solace, Fast & Furious 6 among others.

Seven Defenders for a few minutes of film

Skyfall opens with a chase scene, shot in the famed Eminonu Square in Istanbul, Turkey. Tight streets and alleyways meant the film crew couldn’t tow a trailer carrying a vehicle while the actors were filmed inside, so Ben Collins maneuvered one of the Defenders in these tricky situations. Altogether, seven cars were modified by Berkshire Land Rover for the shooting in 2012. If you look at the photos closely you can see the crew used different wheels and tyres than the ones shown on film because of security reasons.

The team of specialists built a driver’s seat on top of the car for The Stig and although the stunt man has driven cars is many unconventional circumstances, this was the first time he sat in a cockpit on top of an off-roader. Inside the roll cage was a steering wheel, hand brake, and gas and brake pedals and a seat.

Down below, Naomi Harris sat inside the cabin and pretended to drive while having a witty conversation with Daniel Craig about whether Craig and Harris needed the rear view mirrors on a car, having broken one of them during the pursuit. According to the script, the answer is no, so the cameraman filmed as Bond’s film partner intentionally crashed the other mirror as well, the goal was to make the scene as lifelike as possible.

This is how they prepared the stunt cars

To make the Land Rovers better able to handle the demands of stunt driving — with a man in cage on the roof no less — Collins said the crew stiffened the vehicle’s suspension and widened the track. The extra weight on the roof also helped keep the Land Rover planted, but also made the vehicle more top-heavy. The engine was also modified to make it more powerful and responsive. Making things even more challenging was a delay in the hydraulic steering system and the fact that all the steering inputs were muted; a full turn of the wheel had much less effect than it might on a regular car.

There were tense moments, because during filming, the Land Rovers hit speeds of well over 70 mph.


Peter Faidt

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