Skier Who Filmed The Ski Chase/ Cliff Jump Stunt in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ Discusses Filming The Scene
I’ve been on Reddit coming up on 5 years now and every single day it amazes me. Seriously Reddit is unbelievable. Sure, go looking for the shit and you will find it, there is a LOT of shit. But there are so, many, examples, of Reddit producing greatness.
Here’s another one.
Reddit user TMWNN posted the famous Austria Ski Chase scene from the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” with an interesting fact that when it came out it surprised even royalty. “I have never seen a reaction in the cinema as there was that night. You couldn’t help it. You could not help but stand up. Even Prince Charles stood up.”
Here’s the scene:
It’s an incredible scene for sure. I’ve never thought much about it besides that it’s bad ass, but Reddit sure did. There were comments about who the stunt man was, why he removes his skis mid air, how one ski hits his parachute, and whether it took multiple takes or not. Of course, on Reddit you never know what to trust unless people post their proof. That’s when Rick Sylvester stepped in.
Rick is the stunt man who did the jump, and according to Wikipedia he was a hollywood stuntman and professional skier who worked on another Bond film, ‘For Your Eyes Only’, as well. Except he’s not exactly a Hollywood stunt man. He’s a professional mountain climber and skier. There’s some other stuff from the Wikipedia article and the chat on Reddit that he dispels like that there was only 1 jump, he was never paid a bonus for “if he survived” and he was even the one who picked out Bond’s suit based on what Franz Klammer, considered to be the world’s greatest downhill ski racer, wore, as pictured on a “Sports Illustrated” cover when he won his Olympic gold medal.
It’s an awesome story so just check it out (also here’s a link to the comment on Reddit):
A friend called to tell me about the ongoing Reddit, which I’ve never been on before, discussion concerning the opening ski chase/skiBASE jump in “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Since I was the one who did it I guess I should comment including correcting some of the posting errors or misconceptions. A couple of people got it pretty correct.
I’ve resided in Squaw Valley for going on 50 years and where I skied for a couple of hours this morning. The skiBASE portion of the Bond sequence was done off the south tower of Mt. Asgard on Baffin Island, about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The closest settlement is the Inuit hamlet of Pangnirtung where the crew stayed in the town’s only lodging facility. Mt. Asgard lies in what at the time of the filming was then the newest inclusion in the Canadian national park system, Auquittuq. It’s twin summits are not accessible “only” by chopper. One can gain them via technical climbing. Of course for filming purposes the use of a helicopter was far more feasible.
The alleged ski tracks or ski trail which some mentioned — good eyesight; it does kind of look like ski tracks — was actually the result of my having sideslipped the slope — there was a thin breakable crust layer — to make it less likely that I’d catch an edge and fall. So it’s a sideslipping track. I was a bit concerned about this marring the pristine appearance of the slope and thus not making sense in view of the film plot but no one in the production crew seemed bothered. Being a stickler I still feel concerned when I view the sequence.
Only one jump took place. No one else went over the edge but little me. There was no first jump due to cameras, expensive Panavision rentals, not running. How could that have been? The crew consisted of professionals, top cinematography technicians. There were three cameras. The master shot was supposed to be achieved by the chopper camera location, hovering sort of tangential to my exit point. But I screwed up, was slow getting into stable position, and hence opened too low, out of the chopper camera range. But the camera to my right on the cliff edge captured both the run to the edge and the entire fall plus opening — luckily.
The third camera with a wide angle lenses was sited on a small ledge directly below me that I skied over. But the footage from it was never meant to record anything but a brief bit, to be edited into the entire sequence. The fall did not go on as long as it appeared. The cameras were somewhat over cranked, ie. the sequence was shot in somewhat slow motion. I was told that doing so enhances such action motion shots. Judging by the audience reaction it appears the experts were correct.
As far as one of the skis hitting the deploying chute, at first I thought not, that it just appeared that way due to camera angle. But I now believe the ski did make contact. However, it’s unlikely it would have resulted in any deleterious effect. Chutes open with such force that I don’t think any fouling or tearing was likely. Maybe, but my guess is no.
My fee was indeed the $30,000 some people mentioned. There was also some further lucre for expenses I incurred preparing for the thing. There was no addition bonus for a second jump or for surviving. The yellow Bogner outfit was my idea and choice. I wanted one like Franz Klammer, considered to be the world’s greatest downhill ski racer, wore, as pictured on a “Sports Illustrated” cover when he won his Olympic gold medal. I believe I brought along that magazine cover to a planning meeting.
I was aware from my involvement with climbing and skiing — I was never a Hollywood stuntman as some have stated — that brightly colored, such as red and yellow, clothing was a photographic axiom due to the usual relatively drab, grey and black, background that rock implies (and white re. snow). The assertion that this wasn’t right, that Bond should have been clad such that he was camouflaged due to the ski chas.e doesn’t square. Bond didn’t know that there was going to be a chase. He didn’t know that the femme he’d just porked was a spy. You may of course then ask, “Then why was he skiing with a parachute?”. And of course there’s no logical answer to this.
Where I did mess up in this regard, and with no excuses or rationalizations, was the climbing sequence in “For Your Eyes Only” — not “A View to a Kill” — where the idea was that Bond was supposed to be surreptitiously scaling the rock face, so as not to draw the attention of the bad guys atop. And of course part of surreptitiousness in this case implies camouflage. Wardrobe did its job dressing Roger as Bond properly. But the ropes I bought — and unlike in the case of “The Spy Who Loved Me” where my sole job was to stunt double for Roger I was also, despite not getting properly credited, the technical advisor for the climbing sequence (which took place in the Meteora region of Greece) — were bright red. I think the reason I screwed up had to do with the fact that when I got into climbing mostly all the state of the art perlon ropes were sort of drab, just red or blue (gold line ropes were as the name were gold in appearance but were inferior to the new perlon ones). Then all kinds of groovy crazy designs were created. “Hollywood Rattlesnake” stands out in my memory, a great moniker too besides being great looking. So I knew I couldn’t use any of those but then spaced out on the seemingly obvious fact that the ropes I selected were nevertheless bright red. File this into the category of hiring nonprofessionals, eg. I.
What else? Shane was a great guy, and is sorely missed by many. However, outstanding skier that he was he did not garner an Olympic gold medal; he was never in the Olympics. And he, and J.T. Holmes, did not use the same binding as I. It was during a chance meeting at the Squaw post office that I explained which binding, the original Spademan which had no toe piece, I used, and the simple release system I devised with it. I was surprised when I learned that Shane had employed a different binding, Tyrolia. Whereas most alpine ski bindings require downward pressure to be released, the idea here was that the binding needed for this purpose would be one requiring upward pressure, an upward pull, to be released in midair. Spademan and Tyrolia fit that bill. But some problem, never ascertained as far as I know, with the Tyrolias’ not releasing led to Shane’s accident. And apparently to a near repetition for J.T. when on his second jump over the Eiger Nordwand in the “60 Minutes” segment which aired around last Thanksgiving, when he experienced difficulty releasing one of his skis. Someone wrote that Shane was the pioneer of skiBASE. He was one of its pioneers, and due to his superior ski ability, able to throw in flips and so on, advancing skiBASE to higher levels of form and achievement. But I came up with the original concept and did the first four. At the time the BASE acronym hadn’t yet been coined — that wouldn’t happen for another ten or so years — so I just called used the accurate but certainly less poetic term ski parachute jump. As far as I could research before the three times I skied off Yosemite’s El Cap there had been only four others who had jumped off cliffs with parachutes, two in the Italian Dolomites and two off El Cap each person doing so only one time. So my first skiBASE off iconic El Cap was the fifth BASE jump ever performed. There does exist some rumor about someone back in the early 1900s parachuting off the Statue of Liberty, so if so, move me back to number six.
Thanks Paul, for your nice mention of me and our two days of climbing a few years ago at Owens River Gorge, the thing about my still top roping middle 5.10 despite my age. Actually, that outing, especially the first day when the rock was cold, marked just about the worse climbing outing of my past several decades. I sucked that day. I should be still leading up through that grade. Recently I notice more and more that I suck at things I used to be half decent at. Oh well.