Stunt coordinator Lee Morrison is no stranger to working with Daniel Craig’s James Bond — not only has he worked with the actor on all five outings as the spy, he previously he was his stunt double as well.
For “No Time to Die” in theaters, Morrison didn’t just work closely with Craig, he also collaborated with director Cary Fukunaga about working action into the film while keeping story at its center. One key sequence sees Bond riding a motorcycle in a small Italian town, jumping onto the cobbled stone streets as he tries to get back to Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine at the hotel.
Here Morrison talks about the stunt work in the film and his relationship with Craig.
What discussions did you have with both Daniel and Cary about the bike sequence?
We went back and forth trying to design that sequence and get all the story points in too. That was important to Cary and Daniel, fulfilling this journey. He needs to get back to Madeleine as quickly as possible. Daniel thought it would be a good idea to get on a motorcycle. Rather than him being chased, it’s about him wanting to get back to Madeleine.
What’s the choreography that goes into planning a sequence like that?
It was Daniel driving for a certain amount of sequence but the surface in Matera, Italy is the worst I’ve ever shot on. The stone is ancient so we thought it would be bad to shoot in winter, so we shot there during the summer. I put road burners on the road, but we found it to be really dry and the surface was worst. The polished sandstone was treacherous and slippery. We also had to get permission to shoot on the footpaths and stairs so we could ride at high speed.
You’re not just dealing with the treacherous surface, you’re also dealing with uneven roads. What went into filming the sequence where he rides the bike up the steep hill and avoids the procession?
The jump onto Guillermo Square was originally going to have him transfer to another building, but we couldn’t get it built in time. The story came from Cary and Daniel late in the day and I worked with Mark (Tildesley, production designer) to design a stunt that was story-driven and justify him going out there. It was important not to do action for the sake of action.
The motorcycle jump scene took three days to shoot. We had two days getting the lead-up and then the jump to the square. On the day of shooting, the wind played a huge factor. I was monitoring the wind conditions because that jump, as you jump up, you’re not traveling very fast for the flight. The wind was coming off the square and it was going in the wrong direction and it pushed the stunt driver away from the landing and he fell a couple of times during rehearsal. I had to constantly watch the wind making sure it was suitable for the jump and then the clouds came in, and it would start raining which would make that surface treacherous.
What discussions were there around doing donuts in the square when Bond and Madeleine are being shot at?
That came from sitting down with Cary, Daniel and Chris Corbould (special effects supervisor). We wanted this moment to play out where you see Daniel realizing he’s been betrayed and double-crossed, and he’s willing to let them get shot at. Chris is someone I’ve worked with for 20 years. We wanted to play with the first few rounds being fired while Bond is absorbing the situation.
We needed to scout a location that basically put them in that position during the chase – Safin’s guys have him cornered. We called it Donut Square. We knew he’d do this donut, engage the guns and smoke machine.
How have you seen CG change your work?
I started my Bond career working with Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”). Every time you read on the written page, “a collapsing house or “we crashed,” I know we are doing it for real. As a previous Bond double, I know it’s going to be doing. We use effects to enhance what we are doing. Chris will always argue the point that we try to use as little as possible. That is what you expect of Bond. He’s not a superhero and hasn’t got superpowers. That’s what we need to identify – he’s an exceptional man and well trained in a lot of areas. The most important thing to me is giving Daniel’s Bond a lot of credibility and showing the injuries and showing the slightly older Bond.
We spoke early on about designing action around what he was capable of. Daniel and Cary were clear on wanting to tell the story of where he has come from to where he’s at and that’s what makes this story so emotional.