By Craig Leask
There are certain things that every James Bond film needs to be a hit: iconic theme songs; outlandish gadgets used to escape tight situations; sexy, scantily clad women to entice the hero; shockingly silly one liners; and of course, beautiful cars. Back in the 1960’s, when the world was much smaller, James Bond cars were cool. Bond drove an Aston Martin DB5, a car you didn’t see in North America. Not only was the car unique and exotic, its concealed gadgets were way ahead of its time: machine guns, automatic bullet deflector screens, oil ejectors to thwart pursuers, and ejector seats. Today, in the world of product placement, James unfortunately tends to drive BMW’s. The features are now much more sophisticated and include features such as invisibility, as demonstrated in Die Another Day (2002). My brother Dan has let me know that in the next installment of the Bond franchise (targeted release date of April 2020) it has been reported that James will be driving the yet to be released all-electric Aston Martin Rapide E.
Although all these elements are essential to the success of a Bond film, there is no element I look forward to more than to see the over-the-top evil lair of Bond’s nemesis. These bases are not just overly elaborate hideouts in really cool locations, they are full-on command centers housing extensive armies and implements of world domination and mass destruction. These lairs were architectural masterpieces of seemingly unending proportions and housed vast assortments of cutting-edge technology, self-destruct capabilities, and even their own internal transportation networks.
For this article I have gone through the full list of Bond films in order of occurrence (to date) and will concentrate my efforts on the most elaborate and, in my opinion, the best of the evil lairs.
Dr. No. (1962)
As the first in the Bond series of films, Dr. No set the bar very high when it came to creating the lair of Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), especially when one considers that the movie was created and filmed in 1962. Being the first Bond film, director Terence Young based Dr. No’s subterranean lair quite closely on its description in Flemming’s 1958 book. Without knowing it at the time, Young was setting a very high standard for future Bond films to follow. In the movie Dr. No the fictitious Crab Key is an island located off the coast of Jamaica and owned by the title character, a Chinese scientist. On the island, Dr. No was running an operation based upon the use of powerful radio beams to interfere with U.S. missile launches, causing them to fail and crash. The beam was powered by an underground nuclear reactor concealed within his massive subterranean complex, which ultimately leads to the villain’s demise. The No lair, was constructed into the bowels of the existing mountain on Crab Key. The inside was immense with a complicated structure supporting elaborate guest quarters, an impressive main room sporting an enormous full wall aquarium, and a high security prison. Aside from these areas, there is also the main control center based around an open nuclear reactor and a network of sophisticated monitoring equipment. Dr. No’s secret factory, protected by radar, boat patrols, and armed guards with sniffer dogs, was actually a real-life bauxite factory by the name of Kaiser Terminal, located in Jamaica near Ocho Rios. The director was able to film the coast in such a way to make it appear to be an isolated island. Numerous location shots were filmed throughout Jamaica, with interior shots predominantly completed in elaborate sets constructed on D Stage at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK.
From Russia with Love (1963)
In From Russia with Love, the evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organization has implemented a complicated plan to steal a decoder that is the key to accessing Russian state secrets which will irrevocably unbalance the world order. Although there is no evil villainous lair, the action constantly moves throughout Russia, Istanbul, England, Italy, Yugoslavia and aboard the Orient Express.
Goldfinger, the third of the Bond installments, is based upon the evil Auric Goldfinger’s (Gert Fröbe) plan to target Fort Knox with a nuclear bomb under a plan called “Operation Grand Slam”. While essentially making U.S. gold reserves radioactive and thus useless, the plan ultimately makes the balance of the world’s gold supply exponentially more valuable. Goldfinger’s own vast gold supply would thus render him the richest man in the world. Being a supervillain, Goldfinger’s evil doings are sustained by his own private support group, including: a private golf club, a car crushing facility to dispose of less than desirable people, an all-female piloted air force led by “Pussy Galore” (Honor Blackman), a murderous sidekick by the name of Oddjob (Harold Sakata), and a kick ass lair. Tucked conveniently away from Goldfinger’s private aircraft runway, his breeding stables and his private prison, the Goldfinger lair contains a high-tech boardroom table, fireplace, pool table and modern furnishings. But, with the flip of a few switches, the welcoming space becomes a formidable control room, containing cutting edge monitoring equipment, detailed models, maps and schematics, and a fully functional command center with the ability to launch any necessary evil plan. Aside from being equipped with an industrial laser, conveniently designed to cut MI6 agents in half, the room can also be completely sealed and filled with deadly gas when required. The exterior scenes of Goldfinger’s lair were filmed at the Stoke Park Golf Club, Buckinghamshire, England. For his company, Auric Enterprises, filming was completed at Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., Ennetbürgerstrasse, Switzerland. As with many Bond films, the Goldfinger lair was filmed on elaborate sets constructed at D Stage, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK.
The titular bad guy in Thunderball is Largo (Adolfo Celi) the cat stroking leader of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Largo resides in a Bahamian estate called Palmyra. In reality the real-life pastel home on New Providence Island, Bahamas is called Rock Point, once owned by a Philadelphia banker by the name of Nicholas Sullivan. Although most of the action takes place under water off of the Bahamian coast, many expensive scenes were filmed at the residence and around the pools. For the movie, one of the pools was stocked with large sharks, effectively used by Largo for the elimination of enemies and those who have betrayed him. Rather than a pimped-up lair, Largo has the Disco Volante, a yacht designed with the ability to jettison its aft section, to allow the conversion of the ships bow into a hydrofoil for speedy pursuits or escapes. It’s customary for the climax of a Bond film to involve the spectacular deconstruction of the evil lair, in this case the Disco Volante runs aground on a reef following a chase scene resulting in a massive explosion. The action is mostly underwater, with fight scenes filmed in numerous locations: Clifton Bluff, Nassau Harbour, Nassau, Lyford Cay, New Providence Island, Bahamas and off the coast of Miami Beach. Thunderball was awarded a Best Special Effects Oscar in 1966 for the film’s extensive use of underwater photography, which was exquisite for its time, and for the explosion featured in the movie’s climax which was so large that the reverberations shattered the windows of nearby buildings.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
In You Only Live Twice, the mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), new Chief of the evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organization, is determined to instigate global warfare through his use of a mysterious rocket ship designed to seize manned Russian and U.S. space missions orbiting earth. The goal of the plot is to have the two sides blame each other, thus create escalating tensions which would lead to a full-on nuclear war between the two super powers. The resulting destruction of both countries would pave the way for China to assume the dominate position as the sole superpower of the world. The initiative was code named Bird 1. In this installment of the Bond franchise, production design mastermind Ken Adam created perhaps the greatest villain’s lair ever. Blofeld’s lair is a massive subterranean complex constructed within the crater of a volcano, hidden under an enormous retractable metal roof which, from the air, resembles a natural lake. In addition to the protection provided by the camouflaged roof structure, the base was also hidden by a radar jamming system that cloaked the base and covered the various rocket launches required to support the Bird 1 project. Finally, the base is also protected by a self-destruct device wired to the volcano ensuring an eruption will destroy the compound and all evidence of the project’s existence. Aside from the Blofeld’s over-the-top living quarters, protected by a piranha filled pond surmounted by a bridge, the lair had everything including: its own private transportation network, rocket launch facilities, helipads, obligatory control center, and living and training quarters for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s private security outfit. The exterior of Blofeld’s lair was filmed at Japan’s Mount Shinmu-dake, Kirishima-Yaku National Park. The Hotel New Otani, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-Ku in Tokyo was utilized for Blofeld’s company, Osato Chemicals Headquarters. All interior sets constructed for Blofeld’s volcano lair were constructed on the backlot of Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England. The construction of the lair set alone cost a staggering $1 million U.S. in 1967, which was larger than the entire budget for Dr. No (1962). The Mount Shinmu-dake volcano recently erupted in 2011.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the evil mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), who escaped at the end of You Only Live Twice (1967), has a new lair, far from his previous volcano lair in Japan. In this Bond installment Blofeld’s lair surmounts the Bernese Alps in Schlitthorn, Switzerland, in a circular, aluminum clad building accessed only by helicopter or cable car. Hasty retreats were accommodated via immediate access to ski slopes and a conveniently located bobsled run. The remote mountaintop lair was ideal for Blofeld to carry out his “Virus Omega Project”, providing everything from security to high end accommodation for himself, his henchwoman Irma Bunt, and a number of scientists, guards and beautiful women with allergies. Aside from providing luxurious living quarters, the lair’s purpose was predominantly to house a subterranean laboratory for the development of deadly viruses and toxins. Although not one of my favourite Bond films, the lair certainly is spectacular and one of the best of the franchise. In reality Blofeld’s lair is known as Piz Gloria, a rotating restaurant 3000 metres above sea level in the Swiss Alps. The restaurant was still under construction when the 1969 film was made, providing an ideal location to adapt as needed to fulfill director Peter R. Hunt’s vision. Designed by local architect Konrad Wolf, the still-operating restaurant completely rotates every 55 minutes to take advantage of the unobstructed views.
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Although the evil billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), has an oil rig off the coast of Baja California as the base of his operations, there isn’t really a true villain’s lair in Diamonds are Forever. It is learned that on the oil rig Whyte is stockpiling diamonds to be used in a lethal laser satellite designed to destroy large targets on land, sea, and in air from space. The oil rig for the most part is fairly standard. What there is, however, is Whyte’s kick ass winter house in Palm Springs where Bond is confronted by female bodyguards Bambi (Lola Larson) and Thumper (Trina Parks). The house used at Whyte’s winter home is in reality the Elrod House in Palm Springs, designed by architect John Lautner, for interior designer Arthur Elrod. Located at 2175 Southridge Dr, the 8,900-square-foot residence completed in 1969 has five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, a large gym, and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool separated by a retractable curved glass wall which opens at the touch of a button. The home is dramatically situated on a rocky ledge, incorporating naturally located boulders as walls and dividers between rooms supporting the Lautner design trademark, blurring the lines between exterior and interior spaces. A design concept he learned during his apprenticeship under Frank Lloyd Wright
Live and Let Die (1973)
In Live and Let Die 007 is sent to stop a diabolical yet brilliant heroin producer by the name of Dr. Kanaga (Yaphet Kotto ). He is armed with an intricate organization, a mechanical armed thug named Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris ), a thug with a mechanical arm and Solitaire (Jane Seymour ), Kanaga’s dedicated psychic tarot card reader. Kananga’s plan is to produce and distribute two metric tonnes of heroin at his San Monique Island base and is protecting his operation by exploiting the locals’ fear of voodoo and the occult. With the heroin Kanaga plans to flood the market with free heroin in an effort to drive all other drug cartels out of business hiving him a monopoly of the heroin market. Kanaga’s lair is more functional than sinister and is not loaded with high tech implements of destruction. The San Monique Island base was filmed in various locations throughout the island of Jamaica and the underground lair was actually filmed in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, in the very real Green Grotto Caves.
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
The Man with the Golden Gun follows James Bond (Roger Moore) as he hunts down three-nippled villain Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and his ever-faithful servant, Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize). Scaramanga is a paid hit man, using a solid gold revolver assembled from his ball point pen, cigarette lighter, and a cuff link to assassinate his targets, for which he is paid $1 million per kill. As with most evil doers, Scaramanga built himself a lair. Not only is his lair a beautiful and well-stocked place in which to live, it has also been designed to house his Solex, a generator which obtains energy from the sun to power the electrical generators to power the compound. As ayou olyn added benefit the Solex unit – it can also be used as a laser weapon capable of destroying large targets as demonstrated when Scaramamga uses the unit to destroy Bond’s sea plane. Scaramanga has plans to sell the Solex technology to the highest bidder which would allow for the destruction of larger targets at great distances. Finally, the completely concealed lair also includes a fun house mirrored maze within the complex, used as a challenging hunting ground to practice shooting, using unsuspecting adversaries as targets. Scaramanga’s lair was ultimately destroyed when Bond’s female counterpart Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) caused the electric generator room’s guard to fall into an open vat of liquid nitrogen. This act upset the stability of the equipment, causing the compound to self- destruct, eliminating the lair and the unique island. What makes the lair in The Man With the Golden Gun one of the best in the franchise is the setting – Scaramanga’s hideout is located within the 66-foot tall Ko Tapu, a tiny limestone columned islet in Phang Nga Bay, on the tip of the Malay peninsula. The area was used again in the filming of the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Ko Tapu, has since been incorporated into a marine park so the islands can be better maintained and protected from erosion.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
In The Spy Who Loved Me villainous Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is obsessed with the ocean, to a point where he is utilizing his wealth to steal armed nuclear submarines and use them to provoke a nuclear war between the superpowers. The resulting holocaust will destroy the surface world, allowing Stromberg to create and rule a newly formed rule an underwater kingdom. In the typical style of director Lewis Gilbert, who tends to push things to a comical level, Bond is able to thwart Stomberg’s plan with the help of Russian agent, Agent XXX, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) and a 1976 Lotus Esprit S1 with the ridiculous capability of submerging and converting into a submarine. Gilbert continues to push the limits of reality in his direction of the Bond franchise in Moonraker (1979). Stromberg is a successful businessman who owns a shipping company and a chain of laboratories, all focused on supporting his passion for all things related to the ocean. In support of his diabolical plan, Stromberg has two ocean-based lairs: his fully equipped floating city, Atlantis, located off the coast of Sardinia, Italy which has the ability to fully submerge for protection and detection avoidance: and a one-million ton supertanker, Liparus, which is used as his mobile headquarters away from Atlantis and for its ability to “swallow” nuclear submarines. As an interesting detail which supports Stromberg’s tie to the water, he happens to have been born with webbed fingers. For filming, enormous scaled models of Stromberg’s lairs were created and filmed at Coral Harbor, Nassau, Bahamas. A little tidbit on Bond’s submarine car: following production wrap in 1977 the working studio prop was lost until 1989 when it was purchased as part of an auction of storage containers which unknowingly contained the lost vehicle. The new owner paid $100 for the container’s contents, (which included the famous car) and 24 years later he sold at an auction for $977,000 to Tesla owner Elon Musk. Musk purchased the car with the intention of working with his company engineers to realize the cars full functionality as portrayed in The Spy Who Loved Me.
For me Moonraker represents the first of many movies in the Bond franchise where the director (in this case Lewis Gilbert) seems to have lost focus on the story and tries, in an almost cartoonish way, to compensate by creating over the top action, gadgets and lair(s). Bond’s Venetian gondola, for example, when pursued turns into a speedboat, then morphs into a hovercraft, which he casually drives through St. Mark’s Square.Villain Sir Hugo Drax’s (Michael Lonsdale) evil plan involves construction of a space station to house his own Aryan race. This new and pure race will repopulate the earth once he has succeeded in launching his plan for global genocide and eliminated every last earthling. To continue with the over the top approach Drax, of course, cannot have just one lair, he has many. His over-the-top mansion, filmed at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Seine-et-Marne, France (exteriors) and Château de Guermantes, Seine-et-Marne, France (interiors); his lavishly ornate lab concealed within a Venetian glass factory, where orchid based poisons are developed for the elimination of human life, filmed at Venini Glass, 314 Piazzetta dei Leoni, St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy and at Ca’ Rezzonico, Fondamenta Rezzonico 3136; his space shuttle plant and research facility, filmed at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 4, Paris (office interiors), France, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA (exterior shots); the earthly headquarters of Drax’s organization, housed within ancient temple ruins in Guatemala, filmed at Pyramids of Tikal, Tikal National Park, Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And finally, his Moonraker Space Station, which was a set constructed at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Although there is no real evil lair in For Your Eyes Only villain Kristatos does have a pretty sweet hideout in his St. Cyril’s monastery hidden in the northern mountains of Greece. For the shoot, the real-life monastery Agia Triada, Meteora, situated in the Peneas Valley region of Greece, was used. Agia Triada, meaning “Holy Trinity”, and Meteora meaning “suspended in air”, is an Eastern Orthodox monastery dating back to 1475, situated at the top of a rocky column over 400 meters in height. During filming, the resident monks were so incensed that the monastery was being used for the movie, that they hung flags and their laundry in the windows in protest in an effort to spoil location shots.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
The villain in Never Say Never Again is Max Largo, who has a plan to steal nuclear warheads from the Americans to use against them in targeted strikes. Although there are a lot of location shots and underwater scenes, other than his yacht Largo does not have a proper lair.
As with a number of Bond films, the villain in Octopussy, exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) does not have a true lair, but instead has a nine-story residence in the Aravalli Hills above Udaipur. For his residence, the real-life marble Monsoon Palace, (also known as the Sajjan Garh Palace) was used. Constructed in 1884 as an observation facility to monitor monsoon clouds, the building was re-purposed by the Mewar royal family for use as an escape and hunting lodge following the completion of its construction. The Monsoon Palace is managed by the Forest Department of the Rajasthan Government and is now open to the public.
A View to a Kill (1985)
In A View to a Kill Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) has a plan to detonate nuclear bombs in tunnels deep below San Francisco to trigger massive earthquakes along the San Andreas fault lines. The plan is that these earthquakes will permanently flood silicone valley, allowing him to corner the market on microchips. Although Zorin does not have an official lair, he does have a blimp and an historic chateau (France’s Château de Chantilly) and stables containing an underground laboratory (Grandes Écuries, Chantilly, Oise, France)
The Living Daylights (1987)
Although there is no true lair in The Living Daylights, arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) does have a spectacular residence in Morocco. The Forbes Museum, in Tangiers, Morocco was used for filming.
Licence to Kill (1989)
Taking a slightly different angle to the Bond franchise, License to Kill is more of a revenge thriller rather than a typical Bond caper. In this film James Bond has gone rogue to avenge the attempted killing of fellow agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison). Villain Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) has hidden his lair under the Olympatec Meditation Institute, retreat and ministry of televangelist Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton). The Otomi Ceremonial Center in Toluca, Mexico was used as the Meditation Institute for the film. The Otomi Centre was constructed in 1988 on the Cerro La Catedral mountain in the Otomi-Mexico State Park ecological reserve. Headed by the elders of the Otomi Supreme Council, the purpose of the centre is to recreate centuries old rituals and ceremonies honoring earth, air, fire and water through offerings to the Gods.
It appears that by 1995 the Bond franchise was running out of new ways to hide a villain’s lair, having hidden them underground, in the mountains, on a yacht, a deserted island in Thailand, under water, and even in space. In GoldenEye, however, not only did writers Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein come up with a great mobile lair in the form of an armored stealth train for Alec Trevelyan to carry out his “Goldeneye” plan, they also created a fantastic lair hidden beneath an enormous radio telescope camouflaged as a fake lake in Cuba. Alec Trevelyan’s (Sean Bean) GoldenEye plan was dependent upon securing stolen codes to access a high-tech satellite weapons system to launch cyber attacks on various earthly locations. These codes would be input and communicated to the satellite via Trevelyan’s hidden radio telescope. The half-train/half-stealth fighter plane operates as Trevelyan’s personal residence and mobile headquarters when away from his Cuban base. The train was a converted old Soviet railway train updated with one-inch armor plating and, in addition to the ability to move around Russia undetected, it also contained a great self-destruct feature. For the movie the stealth train was created by combining a British Rail Class 20 diesel-electric locomotive and a pair of British Railways Mark 1 coaches, disguised to resemble a Soviet armored train and filmed at the Nene Valley Railway, Northamptonshire, England. Interior scenes of the train were filmed at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England. Scenes involving the top-secret antenna cradle used to control the GoldenEye satellites were filmed at the very real Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The 1,000-foot in diameter radio telescope was constructed inside a natural sinkhole formed over thousands of years in the porous bedrock. The observatory has a surface made up of 38,778, 3 foot by 6 foot aluminum panels, supported by a mesh of steel cables. The uniqueness of the structure and the fact that it was relatively unknown at the time GoldenEye was filmed made the Arecibo Observatory an ideal location for perfect lair.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
In Tomorrow Never Dies media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) has a diabolical plan to provoke a world war starting with Britain and China, which his media company can than cover and ultimately profit. The basis of his plan centres around launching stolen British missiles into Chinese territories, then using the power of his media empire to maneuver public opinion electing his partner General Chang (Phillip Chung-Fung Kwok) to lead China. Other than the office buildings of his media companies, Carver has developed a state-of-the-art Stealth Ship to use as his mobile lair. Like Trevelyan’s Stealth Train in GoldenEye (1995), Carver’s Ship is supported by the ultimate in Stealth technological radar-evading and absorbing abilities, special skin coatings and angular surfaces allowing for undetected movement throughout the world’s oceans and waterways. Additionally, the Stealth Ship was heavily fortified and armed including the ability to launch cruise and surface to air missiles surpassing those weapons found on resisting warships and fighter jets. The design of Carver’s ship was heavily based upon the design of the very real Sea Shadow (IX-529), a prototype stealth vessel, which utilized the design and technology developed for the F-117 “Night Hawk” stealth fighter which debuted in 1991’s “Operation Desert Storm”. For the exterior shots of Carver’s ship, a large scale miniature model was created combining the design of the Sea Shadow with the SeaCat Scotland cross-channel ferry. The catamaran-style hybrid model was developed by the movie’s special effects designer John Richardson. Filming of the model was completed in a tank in Rosarita, Mexico which was originally constructed for the filming of James Cameron’s Titanic (1997).
The World is Not Enough (1999)
Like several other installments of the Bond franchise, The World is Not Enough does not have an official lair but the evil Electra King (Sophie Marceau), an oil heiress, does have a mansion and a hideaway that is worthy (if only for the spectacular location) of an official Bond lair. For the King family estate the 1857 Kucuksu Palace in Istanbul was used for exterior filming. Ekectra’s hideaway, The Maiden’s Tower, where M was imprisoned is actually an 11th century lighthouse located on the Bosphorus Straight of Istanbul, which has been rebuilt and utilized for numerous functions throughout the past centuries. Most recently, the tower was restored in 1998 in preparation for filming The World is Not Enough.
Die Another Day 2002
In Die Another Day Bond is up against Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a North Korean terrorist who is developing an international space weapon called “Icarus” which he plans to use against targets on earth. Graves’s goal is to use the solar beam generated by Icarus to slice a path through the minefield studded Korean Demilitarized Zone to allow the advancement of North Korean armies through to South Korea, Japan and beyond. Icarus would also destabilize the western nations by destroying any weapons fired in retaliation. For his lair, Graves has created an ice hotel/bio dome facility in Iceland, the location chosen as much for its remote location as for its ability to demonstrate the capabilities of his Icarus device uninterrupted by the regulations of opposing nations. For filming Graves’s ice hotel, director Lee Tamahori incorporated location shots in Höfn, Iceland and at the Jostedal Glacier National Park in Norway. Interiors were constructed and filmed at the newly named Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. The bio-dome sets were based upon the domes at the Eden Project, Bodelva, near Cornwall England which were constructed within a natural crater to house and analyze the world’s largest indoor rain forest.
Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale centres around a high stakes card game and the villainous Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to many of the world’s terrorists. The exterior shots of the Casino Royale were filmed at the former Kaiserbad Spa in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic and the interior shots filmed in sets built in the Modrany Studios in Prague, Czech Republic. Le Chiffre does not have a proper lair.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Although I honestly still don’t understand the plot of Quantum of Solace, Dominic Green’s (Mathieu Amalric) lair in the Bolivian desert is a spectacular piece of architecture. Green, a developer of green technology, is using his multi-national corporation to support dictators in order to obtain a share of the world’s scarce natural resources. In short, Green is an Eco-terrorist. His hotel base, identified as an eco-hotel called the Perla des las Dunas, is a linear building that forms a strong contrast to the harsh Chilean desert landscape. In typical Bond fashion Green’s Hotel is destroyed by a series of explosions set off by a hydrogen fuel tank hit by a rampant vehicle. For the shoot the real-life Auer + Weber designed European Southern Observatory (ESO) Hotel Cerro Paranal was designed and built for the use of scientists employed at the neighboring Paranal Observatory.
Although not a true villainous lair, the evil Raoul Silva in Skyfall has developed a hidden base in an abandoned island in the middle of the ocean. Silva wanted the island and was able to take it over by causing wild panic and a hasty evacuation by raising a false alarm about a deadly chemical leak. Being remote and off the grid, Silva has full confidence in utilizing the island as his command centre to launch cyber attacks on MI6. The real island used in the movie is Gunkanjima, meaning “Battleship Island” (due to its shape) and lies 10 miles off the coast of Japan. The 16-acre island was established in 1887 for the extraction of nearby undersea coal mines required to support the industrialization of Japan. The island continued to be improved and developed to support a peak population in 1959 of 5,259 miners and support staff. In 1974, the mine was abandoned as the coal reserves were depleted. The entire population departed at this time, leaving the island to slowly deteriorate. Gunkanjima was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015.
In true Bond fashion Spectre is an architectural, location rich, and action-packed feast for the senses. More espionage than Bond evil mastermind caper, Spectre doesn’t need an evil lair, but the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Walz) does instead have a kick ass home in the desert outside Marrakech, Morocco. Filmed at the Villa Dar Bianca, which was superimposed for the movie into the Gara Medouar, a circular rock formation resembling a meteor crater which has been used in many film shoots. As an aside, Spectre was awarded a Guinness World Record for the Largest Film Stunt Explosion in a movie. To get the award-winning shot, special effects coordinator Chris Corbould created the controlled explosion using 8,418 liters of fuel and 33 kg. of explosives. Interestingly enough, it was the Villa Dar Bianca which was (fictitiously) blown up.
From as far back as Craig can remember he has been passionate about architecture and the atmosphere that can be created through a well-designed building. In movies, he fulfills this passion by gravitating to films where the production infuses the location into the plot as one of the characters. Be it the long dark shadows of mysteries and haunted house films, to classics of the 40’s and 50’s set in big old houses, grand Italian plazas, or remote villages. It’s the locations Craig is drawn to, so much so that, on occasion, he has even been accused of overlooking plot failures and weak directing, having been so engrossed in the set design and location. What he hopes to accomplish with his writing is to share this passion and encourage others to see for the first time – or revisit – movies where the architecture plays as pivotal a role as a character in the plot.