If your dream job involves playing blackjack in the Casino de Monte Carlo while keeping tabs on a criminal mastermind, wooing a beautiful woman, and drinking vodka martinis (shaken not stirred), then you’re probably looking forward to this November’s release of Quantum of Solace, the newest addition to the James Bond franchise. November 14th may still be a ways off, but while you’re waiting, you can get your Bond fix and follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous spy with On the Tracks of 007, the first and only James Bond travel guide.
Over the course of 12 years, Martijn Mulder and Dirk Kloosterboer (with a little help from their friends) have tracked down, photographed, and catalogued the filming locations of every James Bond movie ever made. Luckily for us, their hard work is now available in a beautiful, full-color book featuring hundreds of photos and complete guides to finding the settings of all your favorite James Bond scenes. From 1962’s Dr. No to 2006’s Casino Royale, On the Tracks of 007 will take you around the world to over 370 locations in 24 countries.
Earlier this week, I interviewed Martijn by email, and below he shares his thoughts on James Bond, location hunting, and the incredible journey that became On the Tracks of 007.
There are four questions that have to be asked in any interview with a James Bond expert, so we better go ahead and get them out of the way: Who is your favorite Bond, your favorite Bond girl, your favorite Bond villain, and of course, what is your favorite Bond movie?
My favorite Bond will always be Sean Connery, although I think George Lazenby did a hell of a performance as well. Favorite Bond girl is Dame Diana Rigg as Tracy, the girl Bond marries and loses in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Christopher Walken plays the perfect psychopath as Max Zorin in the below average A View to a Kill. My favorite Bond movie is the earlier mentioned, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s a fantastic film, with a great script and a director who understood how to make a good (Bond) movie.
Your book catalogs over 370 locations in 24 countries from 22 films- a massive undertaking by any measure. What inspired you to start this project, and what kept you going for the 12 years it took to complete it?
Although hundreds of books have been written about James Bond in the past 30 years, not one deals specifically with the filming locations. I noticed in the early 90s that this was mainly because of the lack of information. Of course countries were mentioned, occasionally a specific place or house, but that was it. So I started compiling a list from what WAS known at that time. I was the very first ever to publish such a list on the then emerging internet and mostly all location information that can be found online today is derived or often copied from this list.
In 1998, I teamed up with German fellow Bond fan Dirk Kloosterboer – who sadly died in 2004 – and together we saw a potential book project looming. We started traveling, individually or sometimes together to all these countries we had found, often armed with snapshots taken from the TV screen (pausing our VCR at the right time). Careful research almost always resulted in the discovery of all the locations used for a particular film. It’s like movie archeology. It’s a fun hobby. Bond always travels to the most fascinating places, the most beautiful houses or hotels, and getting there didn’t mean taking a quick photo of the outside, no we just had to get access. Ringing the bell often worked but climbing a fence worked as well. During this journey we met so many hotel managers and property owners with interesting stories that it simply had to be written down in a book.
You have a number of top 10 lists in your book covering the most beautiful locations, the hardest to find locations, the most changed locations, and the lost locations. One thing I didn’t see was your top pick. Of all the locations you visited, which was your favorite?
Of course all the top 10 lists in the book reflect my personal opinion, so the #1 “most beautiful James Bond location” is my personal #1. Being far away from the normal tourist routes, all alone on top of the sleeping volcano Shinmu-dake in Southern Japan [the location of Blofeld’s volcano in You Only Live Twice], staring at its fluorescent green crater lake, is something I will never forget. It’s a unique location that should be visited by every Bond fan at least once in your life.
For me, the comprehensiveness of your project is made even more impressive by the fact that when you started this project in 1998, the James Bond franchise had been around for more than thirty years. How difficult was it to find some of these locations decades after they had appeared in the movies?
That actually was the most fun. I have never been much interested in the recent locations, because they are still exactly as they were a few years ago. It’s the early Bond locations (the 60s Connery-era) that were by FAR the most interesting to find. Armed with our TV-screen snapshots, we wandered through the streets of Istanbul, trying to find a street that was used in 1963s From Russia with Love and in the end it took about five taxi drivers to find it. The first four said they knew the place but took us to wrong streets. Finally one took us all the way to the other side of the city, where we would never have looked ourselves, but he was right. And even there we had trouble recognizing it. Cities tend to change rapidly. Downtown Tokyo today is impossible to match to 1967’s You Only Live Twice locations. But the bigger the challenge the greater the fun.
Any tips for fellow Bond location hunters?
Buy the book. It saves you at least 15 years of research. No, seriously, the best advice in general is to prepare well in advance. Get as much information as possible, study maps before you go, point out possible places where you think your locations might be found and bring some images from the scenes with you. If you think you know where to go to, start traveling. If you still haven’t got a clue, try sending your photos by email to local shops or tourist agencies. Most people are willing to offer a helping hand. Or when you’re “on location” ask around. Taxi drivers and other (preferably elderly) people know a lot about their city or country and how it looked years ago. And never give up! And when you’re there, just ring the bell and explain that you have a professional interest in their property. Say you’re writing a book about it or an article in a magazine. This gives you miles of advantage to regular fans.
When we next see James Bond, he’ll be headed to South America for Quantum of Solace. How far behind will you be?
Not so sure yet. As I explained earlier, recent locations will not be hard to find and are therefore not particularly interesting. The ESO site in the Atacama Desert in Chile on the other hand is so remote and visually interesting that I think a visit will not be postponed very long. Next summer perhaps?
Want to ask Martijn a question? Care to share your own James Bond experiences? Post a comment below!