Editor’s note: Sid Man has a unique perspective on the James Bond cinematic franchise. By that I mean he is in the enviable position of actually being on the set for key sequences and appearing in small but noteworthy roles. Thus far he has appeared in key scenes in both Skyfall and SPECTRE. If you look closely, you may even spot him in the trailer for SPECTRE, but more on that another time…. Sid has been gracious enough to tell us all about his experience in this exclusive account of his time on the set of these two films. For part 1 of this segment, Sid tells us all about his experience making Skyfall. Look for part 2 to follow shortly after the UK premiere of SPECTRE.
A little bit about myself. The name’s Man…Sid Man. I’m not an actor, although IMDB lists me as such. I work in the world of media for Europe’s largest pay TV provider and ‘fell’ into the world of TV and movies purely on a temporary basis that has since become less temporary and more of an incredible hobby that has seen me take part in some great productions, both on TV and in the movies.
My movie adventures started in 2011 with a mass casting call for the much derided Keanu Reeves movie, 47 Ronin where I got to guard the Shogun Tsunayoshi played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Little did I know that this would be the first step in a series of Bond associations…
From there, I had heard that the delayed Bond 23 project would be shooting in London the following year, and having signed up with the extras casting agency handling the background casting, I duly signed up for the first of 3 different scenes that would be shot over the next 6 months.
The first night of filming, designed to introduce Patrice and Severine with the handover of the assassin’s briefcase and also to film the
Virgin crew’s exit from a flight, substituted Shanghai Airport for Ascot racecourse with the concourse area transformed into Shanghai Airport’s terminus building. The attention to detail was astounding – monitors with the appropriate Chinese language graphics, various check-in desks, even a restaurant on the first floor which would have provided background detail for the dropped Severine-Patrice handover scene. Heineken were on full view with hundreds of bottles of their (real) product on display and available to drink! We even had the Queen of Bond, Barbara Brocolli, turn up to see how the first shooting day went. I should, at this point, mention that the first day of filming was also a night shoot, so we’d started at 4pm and finished at the ungodly hour of 3.30 – Barbara came on set from around midnight for a couple of hours. My observations from that first night? Berenice Marlohe was stunningly gorgeous and also incredibly
petite, even in her killer heels. Barbara Brocolli was happy to wander through the masses and is a stunning lady as well, even if my mate almost floored her with his backpack as he turned around. Only a deft hand from myself to deflect him prevented what might have been a really horrible moment! We also saw Bond in the crowd complete with his beard, hiding in a crowd of drivers who would be meeting their respective passengers.
If you’re wondering where I am in this scene – well, as you see people pour out from the arrivals door, I’m tucked in the corner holding a newspaper…
The second of my scenes on Skyfall was another nightshoot. This time, substituting Broadgate Tower for Shanghai Tower for Bond’s pivotal moment with Patrice. On a bitterly cold night in February, we reconvened in London and I stumbled into set by mistake having been brought in too early but it gave me a chance to see the interior of the reception transformed into a Chinese company. As with Ascot racecourse, the attention to detail was incredible, even if we were destined not to see everything. This time round, whilst I was able to take part in the scene, I was so far in the background that my bit was left on the floor. My dad, however, is one of two people walking down by the tower as Bond pulls up outside. He watches Patrice go in and to the right, outside, my dad is walking with someone away from camera.
By now, I had heard there would be a casino scene, so badgered the agency until I was sent for another fitting. Previous fittings had used largely my own clothing in a ‘Hollywood view of what Chinese people dress as’ – muted colours, thick cardigans under an even thicker coat! This time, I would be fitted for the casino scene. Having originally wanted to be a casino punter, I was fitted as a casino employee. Little did I know that this relatively unsung role would become, among my family and friends at least, an incredibly well-known role.
The casino scene was shot at the world-famous Pinewood Studios, just off Goldfinger Way, which is where they shot the DB5 chase for Goldfinger – Bond crashes his car after being distracted by his own headlights by a mirror. Inside one of the sets, production had built an entire 2-floor casino that was fully functional. The ground floor contained 5 working casino tables, hosting poker, baccarat and some Chinese gambling games. There was also the cashier’s office and seating areas off to the edges and the Komodo Dragon pit by the bridge to the entrance. Upstairs, where I was based originally, contained the ‘party’ areas (more later) plus the bar area where Severine and Bond talk.
The casino set was constructed from proper wood with some intricately designed golden dragons. The dragons were constructed by Chinese artisans brought in to bring some authenticity to the surroundings whilst DoP Roger Deakins worked his magic bringing that sultry look to the set via the cameras.
Five days of shooting commenced for what would be a fairly pivotal scene for the movie – Bond confronts Severine with the chip he’s recovered from the briefcase left by the departed Patrice. She tells him he’s got no chance but offers him a chance if he survives being killed by her bodyguards.
Initially, I started upstairs, perfecting my walk to make sure I didn’t make the wood creak which I didn’t quite manage as everyone were fitted with foam pads to the heels of their shoes to muffle any further noises from walking – apparently the noise from 150 extras walking around was deafening the sound man! And that was it for the first day – hours of walking around the top floor, pretending to greet guests and looking menacing, even though we knew we wouldn’t be seen.
For day 2, I resumed my position on the top floor, and watched about an hour or so of filming. Following the tea break, called as there were some issues downstairs, I spoke to one of my friends who was a gambler only to hear my name being called. Not just by one of the crowd ADs, but from everyone we were working with. I was quite literally frogmarched downstairs where I was presented to Michael Lerman who looked over my shoulder and muttered something about whether there was anyone bigger or not(!) only to have the head shake indicating I was the biggest person available, so got a droll ‘Ok, you’ll do…’ comment. At this point, my head was spinning. What was going on, why was I being presented to one of the guys calling the shots…? I was told to hold on ‘as Sam wanted to see you’ so I stood and watched a rehearsal. Chooye, the casino manager, was running through some changes with Sam Mendes who was demonstrating what he wanted done and then it happened: ‘Hi, I’m Sam. Are you able to hold this briefcase?’ Having said yes, he double checked to make sure I could follow instruction and that was it. ‘Everyone go to lunch…’ so away we went. The others went for an extended lunch. I was called back in after 20 minutes. My moment of screen glory was on me.
The instruction was clear. When Bond hands in the dragon chip, the cashier (played by the wonderful Yennis Cheung) would come and talk to the manager. Following a few moments, both the manager and I would appear with 4 million euros in a large flight suitcase. The manager would talk to Bond, I’d look mildly put out and hold this case whilst Bond inspects it and takes it off my hands. After Chooye hands over the complimentary chips, we’d turn around and disappear stage right off camera. Later footage was meant to show us making a walk around the casino floor, checking on the punters whilst they continued to shoot Bond introducing himself to Severine at the ‘hero’ gambling table before shooting the rest of the scene.
My part in the scene was completed on a mostly closed set over the next 90 minutes. I would work with Daniel Craig, doing his best to make me smirk, Daniel’s camera stand-in, Chooye Baye (who did his best to ensure I was looked after once ‘elevated’) and Yennis Cheung. Unknown to me my dad, who had been brought in as a gambler, had snuck back onto set and had watched me film my part as had a few of my friends.
Having filmed my part, I was now part of the main crowd downstairs. The upstairs crowd were released the day after, so I got to stay around for the full week. The rest of filming consisted of DC filming the brief fight scene on the bridge but the highlight of the week was being allowed to watch the bar conversation being filmed, but seeing it as if it was on the big screen. A 50” plasma had been setup in a quiet area just off the set with some radio earphones handy. Being a featured ‘actor’ now allowed me to wander around without too much restriction and I was able to sit down for 30 minutes to watch the scene being filmed. It was at this point that I concluded the movie would be big…the fact it went on to be the biggest Bond ever was not a surprise (the fact it generated a $1bn was, though!)
After 2.5 days of filming, at the stroke of midnight, filming of the casino scene concluded principle photography and as is tradition, they recorded everyone making noise and speaking in Cantonese to generate the background noise for when the scene was finished. The cast and crew would head off to Turkey the day after (on Saturday) to finish shooting the pre-credit sequence…
I made some good friends, especially with the costume guys and girls who are also very happy when one of their costumes makes it onto screen and they remembered me three years later when I turned up to fit for Spectre, but imagine my surprise when I was told by several people that not only had my bit made it into the film, but I was also listed in the credits for the movie! Not only had I made it into a Bond movie, but I’d be forever immortalised as a character in the movie. Take a look at the credits – Sid Man: Floating Dragon Assistant Floor Manager – the shortest actor’s name for the longest character name!
So, did my life change because of my first appearance in a Bond movie? Well, I had a few more people at work suddenly start speaking to me as they’d seen the movie at press screenings and even got interviewed by the movies department as part of the recent Bond campaign when Sky had the Bond movies exclusively for a year. I gatecrashed an event, largely to support someone else, but when people started recognising me, I was happy to speak to those who wanted to chat and sign a few things. Outwardly, I’d say no, but I am now immortalised in the 50th Anniversary Bond movie, so perhaps…
Oh, and the ‘party’ areas in the upstairs part of the casino? Originally, they were going to push the boundaries of a Bond movie and shot (again on a closed set early one morning) a scene where the local madam has provided a few girls to some clients. One of them was shot disrobing and we would have had the first full-on topless shot in a Bond movie, but that appears to have disappeared along with the other bits of footage shot elsewhere…
Part 2 to follow… (after the UK Premiere of SPECTRE!!!)
by Sid Man