In the driving seat
THE Bond girl. Beautiful, independent and more often than not dangerous, providing movie-goers with some of the most memorable big-screen moments of all time. Remember Jill Masterson's golden body in Goldfinger or Honey Rider emerging from the sea in Dr No? Or the moment in GoldenEye when Xenia Onatopp flashes a smile and roars past Bond in her red Ferrari 355?
What made that particular moment so memorable was not just the high-octane road race but the fact that the car was being driven by a woman. Never before had one of Bond's girls had an equally important relationship with a car as the spy himself. What's more, Xenia went on to win the race.
When the curtain goes up on the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, this month, that theme will be revived. But this time his beautiful sidekick, Camille – played by Olga Kurylenko, the Ukranian supermodel-turned-actress, – will be driving not some exotic Italian machinery but the new Ford Ka. I've been granted privileged access to the film set in Panama and I'm standing in front of Olga's car, just one of three prototypes in existence.
The new Ka – set to become the next "big" small car for the city streets when it is launched in January – might not be the most exotic piece of kit to appear in a Bond film, but it's in tune with current thinking: it's hydrogen powered and small, just as sales of city cars are booming. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric logos are splashed over the bonnet and boot. They are also the logos for Greene Planet, the eco transport business run by the film's arch villain, Domin Greene, for whom Camille works.
Closer inspection reveals that the cars have been thrown together at minimal notice to make the set in time for filming. The grill is a fake, neither wing mirror nor any of the interior electrics works, the glove box door is fixed in place and hides no glove box, and the interior door handles are hand-painted gold, which is flaking off. The rear windows are only glued in place as they are constantly being removed to allow cameras access for interior shots.
However, thanks to the ministrations of the technicians, it looks flawless – just like that 355.
Until that bright red Ferrari burst on to our screens, relationships between two of the most important things in James Bond's world – cars and women – had been kept separate. Jill Masterson's sister, Tilly, made a fleeting appearance in a Mustang in Goldfinger. And in For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore's Lotus self-destructs so that he has to resort to the Citron 2CV belonging to his girl of the moment, Melina Havelock, to make their escape.
This scene typifies how women and cars were seen in the Seventies and Eighties: the chase begins with Melina at the wheel, but after just a minute she crashes, so Bond takes over. The Bond girl might have constantly challenged the sexual status quo, but never behind the wheel.
GoldenEye, in 1995, marked a departure when Barbara Broccoli joined her brother Michael on the production team. Pierce Brosnan was the new Bond, M was played by a woman and a new type of Bond girl emerged. No longer were they on the sidelines watching Bond's Lotus (as in The Spy Who Loved Me) emerge from the sea. They were in the driving seat. And they won car chases.
In the original script, Bond, in his Aston Martin DB5, was supposed to beat Xenia. But while shooting the scene a stuntman crashed the Ferrari, damaging it badly. Ferrari agreed to pay for the repairs only if the script was changed and the Ferrari driven by Xenia emerged victorious. Finally, Bond was beaten by a girl.
Thirteen years on and in Quantum of Solace Camille parachutes, takes part in speedboat chases and fight scenes and – of course – drives her Ka. Just as competently as Bond himself.
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