WhoCanFixMyCar have retraced some of the early 007 car chase scenes to see where James Bond would have ended up if he had been steering a real car.
In the older Bond films, instead of hitting the road to stage a real car chase, most of these scenes were actually filmed in a studio, as you can see in the image below.
This was due to the fact there were many places that it was practically impossible to take a full film crew, such as Times Square or other busy urban areas, due to the costs and restrictions in place at the time.
Credit: London Audio Visual
Also, this was well before the invention of image stabilisation, meaning camera crews couldn’t simply rig their camera to the side of the car and the image would come out smooth and crisp like today. With this being the early days of Hollywood, this technique threw up some rather comical challenges, the biggest of which was that the direction of the steering wheel turned by the actor or actress would rarely match the movement in the background. This would mean if the car was really being driven in the direction it was supposed to be via the steering wheel, it would have taken a completely different route than we see onscreen.
The team at WhoCanFixMyCar thought we’d retrace some of the early 007 car chase scenes to see where Bond and his accomplices would have really ended up if he had been steering a real car! The red routes below show where the car would have ended up if the steering input was real, and the white routes show the path the car takes according to the background and wider filming shots of the scene.
When people think of the first Bond car, they think of the Aston Martin DB5. But in fact, it was the modest Sunbeam Alpine that Bond put through its paces in Dr. No. The chase begins when, after leaving the apartment of Miss Taro, an enemy spy, Bond finds himself being pursued by an assailant.
The rear projection used in this chase is perhaps one of the most famous ever images of Sean Connery and Bond in general, making its way on to the cover of some versions of the DVD when it was released. Connery “controls” the car well in the opening of the scene until he stumbles upon some tight curves and hairpins, and then the chaos begins.
We pick up the action as Bond is about to launch the ejector seat after he had famously been rather comically threatened with a life-changing laser beam injury. As Bond finds himself outside Goldfinger’s car factory, there are a lot of tight corners and long straights, making it easier for the rear projection to keep up with what is going on.
However, as the car turns left before Bond vertically dispatches of his captor, he forgets to turn left on the steering wheel in his Aston Martin DB5, and it knocks the rest of the car chase totally out of sync!
After Bond is stranded in the middle of nowhere, he is generously picked up by a stranger on the side of the road. Unbeknown to him at the time, it is actually an agent of Spectre called Fiona Volpe. During the ride to Bond’s hotel, Volpe tries to scare him by driving at incredible speeds through the forest while they chat, testing him to see if he could hold his nerve.
The road is relatively straight, but this doesn’t stop the same old issues rearing their head. During the first right hand turn, the steering wheel remains turned even though the car is now on a straight. This means the rest of the journey is thrown off course and in reality, they would have ended up miles away from where they wanted to go had they been driving a real car.
After leaving a meeting at Osato Chemicals & Engineering, where Bond was discovered to be an undercover spy and in possession of a gun, Mr. Osato orders him killed. Luckily, as the bad guys were about to dispatch of him, Aki pulled up in the now famous convertible Toyota 2000GT and whisks him to safety.
The tracked action begins just as Aki calls Tiger, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, for assistance – the kind of assistance that involves a helicopter and a large, car sized magnet. Overall, Aki does well to match the movements of the steering wheel with the rear projection. The only issue is she tends to favour turning right on straight roads which means they end up a little off course.
This is the third chase on our list that Bond wasn’t behind the wheel. James and his soon to be wife Tracy are trying to escape the clutches of Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s goons, and since they are in the Alps during ski season, things start to get a little… slidey. As Tracy battles to steer the car against the snow and ice, the chase starts to go west when they enter the icy back roads.
As they emerge, the car takes a long, sweeping right as if to show the car was going over or under the road they had just been on, which in itself doesn’t make sense as their is no bridge or tunnel! But as the car turns right, Tracy turns left on the steering wheel leaving the couple, by the end of their journey, basically back where they started!
By 1974, you’d be forgiven for thinking the franchise would be getting a little better at the rear projection technique, but you’d be very, very wrong. The Man With The Golden Gun’s car chase begins with Bond picking up Sheriff JW Pepper, a Bond cult hero, in a car showroom and chasing Francisco Scaramanga through the streets of Thailand.
We tracked the direction of both the projected background and the motion of the steering wheel all the way up to the famous corkscrew jump at the end of the scene. With the exception of the chase in Goldfinger, which went astray because of one bad turn, this car chase is perhaps the most perplexing. Bond would have ended up travelling in a totally different direction should the way he was steering be believed!
The use of rear projection was in Bond films all the way up to License To Kill in 1989, although they had begun to master the technique as time went on. Nowadays, the Bond producers use CGI to fill any gaps in the surrounding environment. It seems to us that out of the 3 car chases that James Bond was driving, and the 3 that his female accomplices were at the wheel, Bond messes up far more! With Thunderball and The Man With The Golden Gun being by far the worst examples.
To create the graphics above, we tracked Bond’s journey through the background of the car and compared that to the movement on the steering wheel. Of course, the movements of both of these can be seen as subjective. However, we plotted the route of each as accurately as possible, but more importantly we wanted to have a little fun!