Doing Laps With James Bond's Stunt Driver | Interview
Interview With James Bond’s Stunt Driver In An Aston Martin
It’s not every day you get to do laps of a racetrack in an Aston Martin. Rarer still is getting to do this and having James Bond’s stunt driver behind the wheel. I was lucky enough to recently have the opportunity to actually do just that to celebrate the DVD and Blu-ray release of the latest Bond flick, Spectre. I was driven around Eastern Creek Raceway in an Aston Martin Vantage GT by Mark Higgins, a professional rally driver and stunt driver on the latest three Bond movies. Higgins is basically living the dream by getting paid to drive fast cars every day and after our whirlwind few laps of the track, and after I caught my breath, he turned the engine off and I asked him about his awesome job…
Firstly, how did you become a James Bond stunt driver?
Through many years of rallying. It all started with Quantum of Solace for me… I’d done TV work with programs like Top Gear and worked on those sort of behind the scenes and I had a good rally career… I’ve been British rally champion three times and been involved with big teams around the world. On Quantum, in the opening scene there’s a sequence coming down the quarry which is on gravel and perfect for a rally driver so a friend of mine sort of mentioned it to me to see if I would be interested in doing it… he was involved in the team, he was the old Stig and it didn’t take me long to say yes and the rest is history really.
When you’re doing the car chase scenes, how fast are you actually going?
We do for example a shot four or five times so we might do one where we’re on our own and it’s an external camera so you can go pretty well as quick as they want you to go. So I know down the river we had the helicopter following us it was about 110 miles per hour but a lot of the time you’re restricted to the tracking vehicles around you so you may have to slow it right the way down so they can actually keep up. We’re doing what we’re directed to do and we might do an outside shot, inside shot, that side, this side and then the editor can decide what he uses later on.
What’s the most dangerous stunt you’ve pulled off for Bond?
I get asked this quite a bit and it’s really hard to pinpoint because some things that look quite straightforward are not and are more difficult, you know potentially if the speed is high. High speed through the Vatican sideways was a worry because if I got it wrong I’d be punished for the rest of my life by somebody upstairs [laughs] so that was a big pressure.
So are they mostly real blocked off streets rather than sets?
Yeah everything we’ve done, on all three films, we’ve had a location for real and it’s been blocked off. We’ll work a bit per night, half a mile every night. I mean Spectre we were there for the best part of a month for a scene which lasted maybe 4 or 5 minutes… so we’re working 6 in the evening until 6 in the morning every single night.
What is the best location you’ve driven on a Bond set?
I think Rome was pretty special because of the DB10, there’s only 10 in the world of this car so that made it very interesting. And as I said, the Vatican, nobody’s ever gone sideways through there before and I’m not sure that will happen again… that has to be the sort of highlights.
Tell me about a time when something went wrong…
Well fortunately in the filming world I’ve been very fortunate that it’s all gone to plan. In my rallying career I broke my back in ’96 and I’ve had a few big crashes when you’re competing against the clock but in a film you always drive a bit of a percentage back from your maximum whereas when you’re competing with people the old horns come out… it’s a different push.
Favourite car on a Bond set?
DB10 it has to be.. and the DB fiver. I’d like a DB5 for the weekend and then a DB10 for the weekdays travelling around.
That leads into my last question… when you’re not driving cars for Bond films, what are you driving, like down to the shops on a Sunday?
I’ve got a few little cars, I’ve got a van which I’m happy enough to drive.. my Mercedes sprinter van with the bikes in the back and I’ve got a BMW diesel. I’ve had all the flash sort of cars but I don’t like wrecking my own tyres anymore…
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