Venice Filming Locations: James Bond

It’s been said that some 500 movies have been made in Venice but most of us can probably only name a few at best. In Euro Trip 2010 Pt X I referred to locations used in The English PatientIndiana Jones & The Last Crusade and Death In Venice and on top of that two James Bond films have been set there; Moonraker and Casino Royale. The latter may be a way better film but it’s the former which is actually more memorable as it included Roger Moore’s 007 famously transforming his gondola into a land vehicle which rode through to St Marks Square to the astonishment of many including a pigeon which in the film does a double-take which was rather cheesy and typical of the Moore-as-Bond era.
   
This is the very same pigeon (above) which was shown in slow-motion looking one way and then looking the other in disbelief at Bonds antics. *
Coming from the water you carry on straight down through the piazza (as Moore did in unorthodox fashion) and directly in front of you on the north side is the Torre dell’Orologio; the clock tower where Bond has a bit of a tussle with one of the henchman working for the films antagonist Hugo Drax. Not surprisingly the interior wasn’t behind the real clock but in the studio.
Just a few metres east of here is the Venini glass store where the entrance was used as Drax‘s Glassworks shop.
 
Ca’ Rezzonico (Museo del Settecento Veneziano) is located quite near to the church used in ‘Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade’ in the Dorsoduro district. This doubled up as Drax‘s laboratory in Moonraker where Bond followed Dr Holly Goodhead (although he didn’t know it was her at the time) as she mysteriously crept away from a group having a tour of the museum and went up some stairs. The actual real glassworks museum is on Murano island just north of central Venice and I had planned to go there but in the end I just didn’t have the energy to venture out that way.
 
Just round the corner from St Mark’s Square is the Hotel Danieli which was where Dr Goodhead stayed in Moonraker. The interior was also the inspiration for the tiny studio-built sinking palazzo used at the end of Casino Royale which can be seen on the DVD extras.
 
St Nicolo riviera on Lido was also used in some way in Moonraker but when I got there I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was!! I have since discovered it was a monastery faking it as a “Brazilian” training camp so nothing too important.
 
Ponte dei Sospiri more commonly known in English as ‘Bridge of Sighs’ (above) was a little disappointing in reality as it was surrounded by blue advertising boards while its presumably under renovation. It featured in all its splendour at the end of ‘From Russia With Love’ but was clearly just rear projection and Sean Connery’s 007 and Tatiana Romanova were in the studio. For your information the bridge connects the Palace and the prison and was named for the condemned prisoners who sighed when they crossed it to meet their executioners.
My Venice guide through the eyes of 007 ends with some Casino Royale scenes. Bond and Vesper ride their yacht into Venice going between the bridges of Accademia and Rialto on the Grand Canal although the sinking palazzo near the latter was a one-third reconstruction on the Pinewood 007 stage in the UK.
 
Before all of that we see Bond supposedly looking out from his hotel balcony over St Mark’s Square but that view would not be even be possible. He runs across the square on hearing the news that there is a problem with the transfer of the money. I think its the Santa Maria della Salute which appears in the background (though I can’t seem to find a photo of this in my collection) of Daniel Craig’s 007 as he talks to ‘M’ about Vesper’s betrayal from his yacht and then its off to the Villa La Gaeta in Como for the films climax and those filming locations can be seen here in Euro Trip Pt V.
* May not be true!

Milan Filming Locations: The International

The rain was starting to get heavier and heavier as I took a tram into the centre to see the impressive Duomo (below left) for a quick photo stop.
 
I had intended to scout out a few filming locations from ‘The International’ (2009 thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts) but due to the rain and the time (I wanted to be in my next location early enough to see the place before it got dark) I decided to get moving as I didn’t really think too much of the movie anyway. Well, not quite as I had to go the Main Central Station which was used in the movie and the square outside it; Piazza Duca d’Aosta, was where the political rally took place albeit slightly to the left of the picture above right.

Star Wars Traveller: Naboo (a.k.a. Como)

You may think that an afternoon of seeking out Casino Royale‘ and Star Wars Episode II film scenes at the Villa del Balbianello would be enough for one day. Not for me though because while I was walking back to my hotel I came across the Parco Civico di Tremezzo which featured in a cut scene from ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and was where Anakin and Padmé left Naboo for Tatooine following the former’s nightmare about his mother being in pain back on his home planet. That’s one train of thought anyway due to the clothes they are wearing but the very chunky ‘Star Wars 365 Days’ book by John Knoll suggests that their spaceship landed near here and then they got into a gondola and sped across the lake to the Lake retreat a.k.a. the Villa del Balbianello. We saw that at the very start of Euro Trip 2010 Pt VI but it appears that their clothes have changed there whereas they are the same on arrival in Tatooine as they are in the first photo below.
I took some pictures of the steps and that rectangular sign at the top of them as well as the male toilets where Hayden Christensen (Anakin) got changed into his brown Jedi robe without complaint. Natalie Portman (Padmé) is a much bigger star and supposedly demanded something better so the crew cleared out a little domed building for her which was just a stones throw away from the steps seen in the screenshot. I woke up early the following morning and in order to recreate this screenshot I had to get into the water with my camera which wasn’t easy as it was deep and swimming out for 10 metres or so while holding a camera up in the air out of the water is blo*dy difficult!! All that effort for a cut scene which didn’t even make it on to the deleted scenes chapter of the DVD!!      
Later that morning I set out on foot following the excellent directions from Mark Dermul’s third Star Wars filming locations book to find the picknic meadow where Anakin and Padmé get closer. Lots of overgrown grass in the foreground of some amazing, huge waterfalls in the film but in reality it was just a private field which could be anywhere in the world to be honest! The falls and the shaaks (indigenous Naboo animals) were added by CGI of course and this field can only really be recognised thanks to some behind the scenes pictures in the aforementioned John Knoll book. By that I mean the shabby building in one of my photo’s. There had been a heavy downpour the night before so with the grass still wet I could only crouch down rather than immitate their sitting pose.
   
A different field was used nearby for the scene where Anakin was playing around on the back of the Shaak until he fell off and played dead in the name of luring Padmé into his arms whereby the viewer assumes they kiss not that we see that. The rodeo bit was obviously done against a blue screen but the rolling around was done in this very field which again really could be any grassy area.
 
A restaurant (Fagurida) frequented by Sir Alec Guiness (Obi Wan Kenobi) in the 1960’s and a house used as Hayden Christensen’s and Natalie Portman’s dressing room rounded off my Star Wars adventure.
 
 *** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello) here
 *** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba) here

Star Wars Traveller: Naboo (a.k.a. Villa del Balbianello)

Ask almost anybody what their 6th favourite Star Wars film is and chances are that they will say ‘Episode II: Attack of the Clones‘. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with episodes I and II but my opinion changed with the former after visiting the filming locations in Tunisia last year. Visiting the Plaza de Espana in Seville at the start of the year heightened my interest in episode II and that was extended even further in anticipation of seeing the following at the Villa del Balbianello in Como.
Unlike the ‘Casino Royale’ shots (done at the same place) Star Wars episode II included a bit of CGI here and there. The first such example is when we see the villa from the lake albeit with domes added to the roof. Sadly I didn’t get to take a photo of the place from quite the same angle as I never took a boat to that part of the lake.
Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala arrive at the lake retreat on the latter’s home planet of Naboo. They arrive by boat but this was a different place to where I arrived and this scene could not be perfectly re-created as it was shot from the stone wall which isn’t accessible to the public. I had to take my pictures of the boat dock and steps leading down to it from different angles.
   
After climbing the steps (not on camera) we then see the pair of them walk along a terrace with a pond in the foreground and a bush in the background.
   
They walk over to the balcony overlooking the lake. Notice the strange shape trunk on the right of each photo.
   
This balcony is where the two heroes kiss for the first time although Padmé later pulls away as their love is forbidden. Sadly my girlfriend wasn’t with me on this trip to re-create such a scene which I would have insisted upon no doubt to her disproval. By that I mean the geekiness of it rather than the kiss!
We return to this part of the villa for the film’s climax as Anakin and Padmé get married in secret with R2D2 and C3PO the only ones in attendance. The former managed to turn up for my appearance again as he did in Tunisia and Spain. Sadly the beautiful red flowers in the movie are not so distinct now.
  
 
The loggia which appeared in ‘Casino Royale’ was used a little differently in ‘Attack of the Clones‘. Only the area under the arches is seen beginning with Anakin in a Jedi trance looking out across the lake early in the morning following his nightmare.
 
“Jedi don’t have nightmares” is what Anakin tells Padmé but she says that she heard him and then he explains that he saw his mother in pain in his dreams and that he must return to Tatooine to try and save her. The sunlight made this one hard to re-create but typically I didn’t think about closing the door until later that evening.
 
The following shot was done using a platform and fake window and window sill but in reality it is just the garden out the back of the ticket office and bookshop. This was cut from the movie but does appear in the deleted scenes chapter on the DVD. It see’s Anakin being questioned in the garden by Padmé’s father about his intentions.
 
Another scene to end upon the cutting room floor was Padme’s bedroom (no, not a sex scene!) and this started with a view of the villa shot from below in the garden although as you can see CGI magic makes the two look quite different.
 
The deleted bedroom scene (seen on the dvd) was shot in one of the loggia rooms (below) although they basically stripped it of its period furniture and imported a rug, bed and so on to make it more Naboo-like.
 
 The Villa del Balbianello as seen in ‘Casino Royale’ can be seen here.
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Seville) here.
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Naboo (a.k.a. Caserta) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Tozeur) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Matmata) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. The Ksours) here
*** You can see Star Wars Traveller – Tatooine (a.k.a. Djerba) here

Como (Italy Filming Locations): Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig’s first outing as ‘007’ in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale‘ re-booted the ‘Bond’ franchise and gave it the kick up the ar*e that it needed. It is in fact one of the best Bond film’s and the ending to the movie was filmed in Como at two locations. We shall begin at the Villa del Balbianello which is where Bond recovers from his beating by the main antagonist Le Chiffre and is being questioned by the dodgy(?) MI6 Agent Mathis in the garden which is actually just outside the ticket office and bookshop entered through the door on the left of the picture below right.
 
Bond is one step ahead of Mathis though and has him tasered and arrested. He is then dragged away across the garden as we get to see the opposite direction of the first scene I mentioned.
 
The next scene begins with a beautiful sweeping shot of the loggia.
 
Bond wakes up to see Vesper (played by Eva Green) and they start to whisper a load of sweet nothings to each other on the south side of the loggia.
 
Monsieur Mendel interrupts the romance by coming up the path which tells anyone who has visited the Villa that he actually arrived by boat. One would thing that that kind of thing is fairly unlikely but you never know. Like it matters anyway!
 
Swiss Bank manager Mendel then ignores Vesper’s pleasantry and puts his briefcase on the table where, after a joke about Swiss chocolates, he asks Bond to input the account number and password into some special device within the case so that his 120 million (dollars?) casino winnings can be transferred. Herr Mendel then exits leaves the Villa grounds the same way he arrived and for all we know he may have sped off on his boat!
 
More flirting, a declaration of love for each other (basically) and a kissing scene follows before the camera is peering down on them from up somewhere in the loggia and that is the last time we see the Villa del Balbianello.
The very final 90 seconds of Casino Royale were shot at Villa La Gaeta in Aquaseria, and was a real pain in the ass to get to. First, I had to wait about 90minutes for a bus but that bus stopped at the depo where I had to wait a while longer before changing to another bus which needed another ticket. Although very easy to see from the lake, when going there by road it is a lot more difficult to spot. After going through a long tunnel you come out and then go almost straight away into another tunnel and as soon as you exit that one its on the right. Very easy to miss!
The first shot we see of the villa is from its front gates as the car of the mysterious Mr White goes down the driveway.
 
This is easy enough to copy as one can just poke their camera through the gates and snap away. At worst this is all I thought I might get as the villa is a private home but I was determined to try and get in somehow. Luckily, as soon as I arrived at the villa a young guy in his twenties was going in the side gate. I asked in my bad Italian if he spoke English to which he thankfully said yes. I asked if I could go in for a few moments to take a photo or two but he said it wasn’t possible as it might upset the other guests. I begged and begged and even offered cash but he wasn’t gonna change his mind. He did say he would take a few quick photo’s for me and sensing that this would be as good as I would get I duly handed him the camera and so that’s why the following photo’s aren’t as good as match-up as I’d usually try and do.
A fantastic aerial shot of the villa in all its glory is followed by Mr White parking his car, looking out across the lake and getting a call from Bond not that he knows it’s him. In fact he even says “Who is this?” which sets up the final line very well.
The response to Mr White’s question is a shot in the leg from a hidden Bond which leaves him crawling across the gravel in front of a bench.
    
Mr White is then shown crawling towards the steps of the villa of which the second step is very recognisable as it has a rusty colour mark in the middle of it. As the villain tries to climb the steps we see the feet of Bond appear and the camera pans up to show his face and we see him holding his mobile in one hand and the gun in the other which he used only moments before. Proof that some things are best left to last as Bond finally answers Mr White’s question in typical 007 fashion; “The name’s Bond…James Bond.”