Dropping Bond, January 1984
As promised, I did not annoy anyone during December. I hope you all had a great holiday period filled with fun (and all the substances that fuel it).
According to my log book, it was on the 16th January in 1984 that I dropped ‘James Bond’ from a helicopter from over fifteen hundred feet above the ground. I killed him that day and made absolutely sure that he really was dead the following morning.
I’m a bit hazy on the filming details of this story, because I wasn’t party to the detailed plans, which, in any case, were delivered in French (at which I am not brilliant).
Early in 1984, French motor manufacturer, Peugeot, launched a compact car, the 205 GTi. Some advertising wizard had come up with the idea of using the model in an action role, and they chose a site near Keetmanshoop (which is about 480km south of the capital, Windhoek) in Namibia to film it. The site was chosen because the concept of the film clip was for the Bond character to be chased in his baby Peugeot by a bunch of baddies in an armed helicopter. To escape he drove in front of a train and directly off the edge of a high cliff, pulled a parachute and the car drifted safely to earth over a thousand feet below.
Using a ramp, the production crew propelled the car with our dummy (dumb) hero inside off the edge of the cliff to get the initial shot. This, surprise, surprise, wrecked the car. Then, flying a Bell 412 helicopter and using the cargo hook under the belly, I lifted a different car fitted with the parachute and ‘Bond’ up to the planned height and dropped it. There was another helicopter with a film crew circling the drop. The fall was supposed to automatically pull the ripcord and open the ’chute, but the first attempt failed. The car fell unhindered to the ground and was wrecked just like the one launched from the cliff top ramp. ‘Bond’ suffered life-threatening injuries, but since he never was alive, I guess they applied a sticky plaster to his broken legs and lined him up for another go.
Which we did the following day. The crew had fixed the parachute deployment problem, I was ready, the filming helicopter was ready, ‘Bond’ was groaning, and everyone was keen to get on with the job. There was no further launching of cars off the cliff top. After destroying a few to get the shot right, the director was satisfied and turned his attention to the parachute scene.
I think the director and film crew were a bit nervous after the free fall the previous day. After all, I believe they wrecked five cars doing this ad and were running out. The other pilot and I didn’t care, the whole thing was good fun and an interesting departure from our routine operations. In the end it went well. I dropped the car as before, the parachute opened as planned and because it took time to fall, I was able to stay out of the filming area and follow it down. It was an inspiring sight as it drifted down with 205 painted in large figures on the parachute canopy before hitting the ground in a cloud of dust, but this time ‘Bond’ walked away as he always does – well, he would have done if he hadn’t died the previous day.
Peugeot made at least two adverts on this theme, the other one was probably shot in the Alps and was more impressive than mine. You can see all the video adverts here: The one I was involved in is the longest at 5 minutes 14 secs.
Publishing news is that I have slightly revised my first book, A Fitting Revenge, and given it a new cover, which you can see in the Books page of this website. You can see the similarity with that for Thirty-Four, although the books are not connected. If you haven’t read A Fitting Revenge, you should. It too scores 4.5 stars in thrillers.