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Interview: James Bond ‘No Time to Die’ Stunt Driver Mark Higgins

We recently had the chance to attend the Aston Martin Complex at Silverstone for a special launch event to celebrate James Bond’s latest movie ‘No Time to Die’. On a day that reads more like imagination than reality and far from something you would consider work, we had the chance to speak with Daniel Craig’s stunt driver, Mark Higgins, another lucky bloke like us whose job it is to push these classics to their limits on the track.

Here’s how it went down.

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Image: Max Earey

Outside on the asphalt, lined up in all their glory, were three cars we only thought we’d see together as Matchbox cars: a modern-day DBS, an 80s V8 (similar to the Vantage) and a 60s DB5. Just to have the three cars there to look at was exciting, but to know we’d be able to take each for a drive was something else.

We started with the ‘easiest’ to drive of the bunch, and jumped behind the wheel of the DBS, a twin-turbo V12 monster that does 0-100km/h in 3.4sec, it’s far from run of the mill. The DBS was featured in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (remember the opening scene with the chase through the tunnels around Lake Garda in Italy). After a lap as a passenger to ‘learn the racing line’ we jumped behind the wheel and went for a spin. With brake markers to keep alert for, apexes to hit, and a flappy paddle gearbox, you couldn’t wipe the smile off your face.

Next up was the V8, the ‘winterised’ version of the Vantage Volante from The Living Daylights. At over 2 tonnes, it was not your quintessential nimble ‘Bond car’, but it made up for that with brute power, a familiar 5-speed stick-shift, and a timeless V8 rumble—a throwback to British muscle. It was a rare, lovely sunny day at Silverstone, and manhandling the heavy V8 around the Stowe track was exhilarating but sweaty business.

It wasn’t long before we were handed the keys to the creme de la creme, the iconic DB5. Sitting behind the wood trim finish steering wheel and analogue dials instantly transports you to the French Riviera. Firing up the E46 BMW M3 sourced 4.0L inline six and idling towards the track paralleled the feeling of Christmas Eve as a child. The DB5 won’t set any track records, but it is the most beautiful driving experience, and it is no surprise Daniel Craig is recalling it for ‘No Time to Die’.

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Image: Max Earey

Interview with Mark Higgins, James Bond Stunt Driver

We had the opportunity to meet with Mark Higgins one-on-one and hear from him what it takes to become a Bond stunt driver and his experiences on set. We also had the unrivalled experience of sitting in the passenger seat as Mark put the stunt car around the track, mostly sideways and with a trail of tyre smoke. Can you believe this is his job?!

MOM: How did you get started in stunt driving?

Mark: I’ve worked in motorsports for 30 years, and my background is rally driving. I’d done the odd TV thing here and there, sort of Top Gear-ish. And a friend of mine, who is Ben Collins, who was the original Stig, we were at a do one night, and he was asked to find some drivers for Quantum of Solace. So he mentioned it to me, would I be interested? Of course, I’d have said yes to anything after a glass of wine, but I said yes, thinking nothing more of it. And then March time came, I got a phone call, “Are you free for the next three months?” We flew off to Italy. And that was the start of Bond for me.

MOM: And then you followed the franchise through since then?

Mark: Yeah, I mean, I did a few other films, Fast & Furious, and some big Star Wars, Batman, and those types of films in between. But I’ve been lucky enough to stay involved with the franchise. We did Skyfall. I was basically the baddy in Quantum of Solace, chasing the cars down. Because it was a gravelly-type scene, it’s just a rally driver, and that’s how I got the job.

MOM: So, is driving in a Bond film the pinnacle of stunt driving?

Mark: Yeah, it’s easy for me to say that now because I’m fortunate enough to be involved in it, but yeah, I think everybody wants to be in a Bond film. Of all the movies, it’s got the kudos, the history, and the iconic, and wherever you go, everybody’s heard of a Bond film. I think when I watched my first Bond film with my dad, it was probably Moonraker or something, when I was a kid, ever to think I’d be in a movie, let alone driving the Bond cars, you have to pinch yourself, and it’s great to be involved in such a thing.

MOM: So if you weren’t driving the DB5, what’s your Bond car of choice?

Mark: This is very difficult to answer because the most iconic Bond car is, of course, the DB5. And now we’ve got the modified one here, which is excellent for driving. I think, talking about Bond, another car you associated with is maybe the Lotus. The underwater Lotus was quite an excellent car to be in. It might not be the best handling or the best one to actually drive and skid around, but it’s still a very iconic, cool Bond car.

MOM: Is it hard to jump back into a regular car after filming, or is it a breath of fresh air?

Mark: Well, thankfully, on set, we’d only get taken in a minibus, so we’re not diving down the roads quickly. It’s pretty interesting, considering my rally background; you do a rally stage and then drive on the road in between. So you’ve been going flat out through the trees at 120 miles an hour to go back into standard road regulations. But now it’s quite nice to be chauffeured around when you’ve done your bit.

MOM: How much training goes into stunts? Do you get multiple attempts, or is it typically just one go at it?

Mark: We’ll do rehearsing. We rehearse with the cars to make sure they’re doing what we want them to do. We’ll set out the location scene with cones and what you have and then get all the other vehicles involved so we can practise that. So, when we shoot for the first time, we do not waste time at the venue because the venue is costly. It’s very time-consuming for the cameras. And I would say that in nearly every scene we do, we might do it four, five, or even ten times because there are different angles they want to get from it. And the camera often looks at something other than what we think they’re looking at.

When you do a scene with a big stunt in it, for example, depending on how big it is, you might do it once. Or if you’re lucky, twice, depending on whether you’ve been blowing things up and how many spare items you’ve got to blow up. So it’s pretty intense when you do a big scene like that, and you’ve got to get it right, or it can be costly.

MOM: What stunt excites you most in No Time To Die?

Mark: Well, my other passion is motorbikes. I’m not very good on two wheels, but I love bikes. Watching Paul Edmonson, who jumped off the bike off the tower, was remarkable. I don’t think you ever get the impression of how dangerous it is when you see it on film. We’ve seen it in the trailer, but it was pretty special when you looked over the wall at what he was jumping off of.

MOM: If you could only have one gadget or weapon added to the DB5, what would it be and why?

Mark: If there was a car I could occasionally take care of, it would probably be the ejector seat. I’m sure I could find many uses for that in specific scenarios. So yeah, I’d put the ejector seat in there. It’s not on this particular DB5. It was on the old-school one, but that would be quite cool.

To witness Marks stunts, check out James Bond’s latest mission ‘No Time to Die’ in cinemas now.

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Image: Max Earey
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Image: Max Earey
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Image: Max Earey

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