Leavesden Studios and the Ingratitude to James Bond

Filming GoldenEye at Leavesden Studios

A Brief History of Leavesden Studios

The official web page of the Leavesden Studios, known since 2010 as the Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios, details the story of the complex since the 1940s, when the land belonged to the Ministry of Defence and served as an aerodrome for the Mosquito and Halifax combat aircraft during World War II. Then, the official history continues narrating that after the war Rolls Royce bought the site to continue building aircrafts and engines until its closure in 1992.

Out of thin air, in 1994 “the gates reopened and Leavesden began its new life as a film studio. As its reputation grew, the following years saw it hosting a number of high-profile productions, including James Bond: GoldenEye” and “after the turn of the millennium it became home to the most successful film series of all time, with all eight Harry Potter films being shot at the studio.”

To the man on the street, this is fact. Or history. To the James Bond fan – and, most importantly, to the James Bond crew that worked in GoldenEye – this is a serious send-off to oblivion, so cheeky that it feels like an offense.

Filming GoldenEye at Leavesden Studios

First, there was GoldenEye at Leavesden Studio

Pre-production of GoldenEye in 1994 was exactly what led to the sole existence of Leavesden Studio, and the other “high profile productions” like Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Star Wars – Episode One: The Phantom Menace wouldn’t have been shot there if it wasn’t thanks to a James Bond movie.

Pinewood Studios and its 007 Stage was already booked by First Knight, starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere, which led to production designer Peter Lamont to scout for a different studio with the capacity to hold a production with the magnitude of a James Bond film. Ultimately, he found Leavesden who, as the official history page points out, it was a Rolls Royce until 1992 and abandoned ever since.

If the place was an abandoned factory, it is very unlikely that it was on working conditions. And it wasn’t. Documentaries like Building A Better Bond and GoldenEye: The Secret Files, which can be found on the film’s Ultimate Edition DVD and BluRay releases (and even on YouTube) evidence the remarkable task carried away by Lamont and his collaborators.

Lamont is seen walking on an empty hangar, with no objects around him: “Where we are now will eventually be two big stages,” he explains in the footage, seconds before Tim Piggot Smith’s narration introduces us to the fact that Lamont ” found himself with an unusual problem: how to turn 1.5 million square feet of interior space into one of Europe’s newest film facilities.”

In Building A Better Bond, a worker is also interviewed while showing the interior of the place: the abandoned loos, which would end up serving for the film itself when 007 infiltrates into a nerve gas facility by surprising a Russian guard in the toilet; a long and wide corridor that will eventually become the Art Department offices where the professionals will draw and expose their sketches, and Pierce Brosnan’s dressing room with a lounge area, a treatment surely given to most of the principal actors.

The featurette omits other details to talk about the movie itself, but common sense indicates that administrative offices, phone lines and, probably, internet connection also had to be set up after two years of inactivity in Leavesden.

Also, as it happens in the movie business, each particular interior representing a scene of the movie has to be added to the cost of time and money that turning an old factory into a film studio has taken. In the case of GoldenEye, the Arkhangel Chemical Weapons Facility, the casino interior, the Severnaya Space Weapon Control Centre and the MI6 offices, among others, had to be recreated in one of the newly created stages inside Leavesden.

The evidence is everywhere and Warner Bros. has been contacted by the man addressing you now on June 14, 2019. They were sent the YouTube link of both documentaries and respectfully asked to take this evidence into consideration, but it seems that to Warner Bros. it is a matter of shame or the admittance of weakness to clarify that, had GoldenEye or whatever Bond 17 had been not be made, Leavesden would still be an abandoned factory or anything else outside a film studio – the film studio they are now so proud to introduce as “built for filmmakers by filmmakers”.

Hopefully, the truth will never die and future generations will know those filmmakers were the makers of a James Bond movie.

Photos by Stephen Persch and Moon City Garbage (http://www.moon-city-garbage.agency/goldeneye/index.htm)

… about the author …

Nicolás Suszczyk is a long-time James Bond fan and the author of The World of GoldenEye, which examines the cultural and historical impact of the 17th James Bond movie. 

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