Vic Armstrong, former stunt man and Action Unit director for the new James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, faced a dilemma before filming started last winter in Chamonix, France. "We couldn't make up our mind if we wanted to go with snowboarders or skiers" in the movie's signature stunt sequence, he says. After two young stunt boarders were killed by an avalanche when freeriding on their own before the production began, James Bond will now land on screen on two skis starting Nov. 19.
The secret to a compelling ski stunt is "not to be locked into anything," says Armstrong, who has worked on a half-dozen or so James Bond films, starting with a small stunt scene in You Only Live Twice in 1966. Filming on Mont Blanc, above Chamonix, the director met often with his skiers "who would make suggestions like 'let's bounce off that rock, make a tight turn there and launch off this other rock,'" he says. "As a stunt man, I believe in a lot of collaboration with our skiers on selecting the most natural lines for the stunt so it doesn't look stiff as bone china."
One of the highlights of the main ski sequence is when James Bond's stunt double, Stephan Dan, skis down a slope, hits a hidden kicker and is launched 20 feet into the air as the flames of a fireball blossom behind him. "That took some precision skiing,"
Armstrong says admiringly. Jeanne-Marie Gand likes a good explosion as much as the next movie-goer, but hopes viewers will also notice what James Bond has attached to his feet: Rossignol Bandit X skis. Gand, Rossignol's vice president of communication and advertising, works with the Los Angeles-based firm Feature This to land her company's gear in feature films or on television. The right product shot can be as valuable as a paid commercial. Unless she's familiar with the production, Gand first checks out the script to see if the "product placement" is appropriate for her brand. "Ideally, we want visibility in high-performance use," she says. "If it's an action film, that's even better."
That makes a James Bond flick a lock. The decision is not always so easy. In a scene from the 1990 film Home Alone, child star Macaulay Culkin escapes two robbers by tobogganing down a staircase and out the front door. The script originally called for Culkin to tuck the stairs on skis, but Rossignol chose not to participate, and the scene eventually evolved into a toboggan stunt. "We were concerned that kids would try to imitate the film and hurt themselves," Gand says. The movie, of course, became one of the most successful family films of all time. "Sometimes I kick myself over that one," Gand admits.