One of the film’s biggest stunt sequences was filmed near Loch Laggan (Picture: Nicole Dove/ MGM)
The last time James Bond was in Scotland, his childhood home was being blown up in Skyfall. Today, MI6’s finest agent is back in the Highlands. Loch Laggan, to be precise, about 90 minutes from Inverness.
In truth, this rugged rural terrain is doubling for Norway, as Bond and Madeleine Swann – the French psychologist last seen driving off with 007 at the end of 2015’s Spectre – are chased by villains in Range Rover SVRs.
Yes, Bond is back. The 25th 007 movie, No Time To Die here, finally.
‘We feel that this is quite different than some of the previous ones,’ says series producer Barbara Broccoli. ‘There’s always a sense that we’ve got to top what we’ve done. It’s certainly very emotional.’
No wonder, after multiple Covid-induced delays and a difficult production that saw original director Danny Boyle depart, a set-wrecking explosion at Pinewood Studios and star Daniel Craig need surgery after hurting his ankle in Jamaica.
It’s been the long goodbye, with Craig set to bow out after five hugely successful films that began with 2006’s series reboot Casino Royale.
‘I have always been very happy with the way the 007 films I’ve been a part of have turned out,’ says the 53-year-old.
‘It’s been a lot about the relationships and how those relationships affect him [Bond] and how they change and steer his life. Whether it’s with the villain or whether it’s the people he works with, this movie has tackled that head on. And the biggest themes are love and trust. You can’t really get much bigger than that.’
Craig has been filming in Scotland with Léa Seydoux, who is returning as Swann. On my visit conditions are very… Celtic.
It’s pouring and I’ve just been given a standard-issue silver canister: mosquito repellent. Midges and Scotch mist won’t stop the stunt team completing one of the film’s biggest action sequences, though.
‘We’re now establishing the loch,’ says stunt coordinator Lee Morrison, pointing to the horizon. ‘That’s when Safin will appear in his helicopter. If you can picture a wolf hunt or lion hunt in the Serengeti…’
Barbara Broccoli was keen to sign up Rami Malek even before his Oscar win (Picture: Nicole Dove/MGM)
The mysterious scar-faced Safin is Bond’s nemesis in No Time To Die, played by Rami Malek, the actor’s first major role since winning the Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
‘We all wanted him before the whole Oscar thing, we were all desperate to get him,’ reveals Broccoli when I catch up with her later at Bond HQ – well, Pinewood.
But who is Safin? And why is he wearing a broken Japanese Noh mask in the trailer? Broccoli is keeping mum. ‘He’s a really bad guy,’ she grins.
On set, there is no sign of Safin but a camera helicopter hovers by the water’s edge, capturing the action as Bond’s gold Land Cruiser Toyota runs his foes off the road. There are – apparently – 44 cars on set today, with the stunt team driving the vehicles at speeds of 60mph.
‘It’s not just another high-speed car chase,’ says Morrison, who has worked on every Craig-era 007 movie. ‘It’s very story-driven. It’s a very intimate scene. There’s
a lot going on inside the car between Bond and Madeleine. And it gives Daniel and Léa lots of time to have their moments.’
The film begins with a retired Bond.
‘He’s made a definite run for the hills,’ says Craig. ‘He’s trying to get out.’
It doesn’t last. Quicker than you can say ‘Goldfinger’, he’s on a mission to Cuba, which sees Craig encounter his Knives Out co-star Ana de Armas (as CIA agent Paloma) and Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch (as a new 00 agent).
It may be the most female-led Bond yet, with Killing Eve’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-scripting. ‘She’s a phenomenon,’ says Broccoli.
‘She brought a lot to it, particularly the Britishness, such a vital part of this.’
Broccoli calls No Time To Die the ‘end of an era’, with Craig now hanging up his tux.
‘I don’t think we’ll get him to come back again,’ she sighs, knowing her next task is to find an actor (Tom Hardy? Regé-Jean Page?) to replace him. ‘I can’t think of anybody,’ she says.
Craig is delighted to go out on a high, though, with what he feels will be Bond’s most epic adventure yet.
‘If this isn’t the time to use the expression “go big or go home” in a Bond movie,’ he says, ‘I don’t know when is.’
No Time To Die is in cinemas from today