From the moment the plane settles on the tarmac at Fiumicino, you sense something is going on. Rome is excited, on edge, disrupted by the huge volume of visitors, vans, cameras, helicopters, cars and noise. Everyone knows. James Bond is in town.
Rome has made Bond welcome. We hear few complaints about the 4km stretch of the River Tiber that is closed, guarded by 250 security staff, while a 350-person crew get on with the job of making it all happen, closing dozens of streets as they do so. The city is chaotic as I close in on the set to see some of those responsible for the upheaval.
Neil Layton works for Effects Warehouse, which, as the name suggests, ensures that modern movies are as spectacular as audiences demand. He has arrived in Rome straight from the set of the latest Star Wars film to get stuck into Spectre.
Layton is used to prepping stunt cars, but with vehicles as special as the Aston Martin DB10 and the Jaguar C-X75, there are unique problems. “The hardest thing about this is that both the Jag and Aston are bespoke,” he says. “Everything is bespoke. The cars aren’t difficult – more the timescales and getting hold of them in the first place.”
Ahead of filming, Layton had little to work with. “The DB10s were still being built,” he explains. “So Aston gave us a mule car to practise with in the meantime. It was a widened, lengthened V8 Vantage, which we had on track, so we had an idea of what they were going to drive like.” This allowed Layton’s team to feed back into the production process.
“We had four and a half months’ talking to Aston Martin to get the cars ready for the shoot,” says Layton. “Some of the modifications are done during production and some are done post. So all the cars have full roll cages and fire extinguisher systems when they arrive, but there are loads of bits we do when we get the cars.”