Infernal City

For Romans, Filming of New Bond Flick is No Holiday

A Spectre is haunting Rome, and its name is Bond. James Bond.

02.22.15 11:45 AM ET

ROME—Romans are, by nature, among the least patient people on the planet. They are as charmingly aloof as they are easily unimpressed. So not even James Bond gets a pass in the eternal—and often infernal—city.

Last week the cast and crew for Spectrerumored to be costing almost $300 million, making it the most expensive James Bond film yet—descended on Rome. Daniel Craig and Italian siren Monica Bellucci, who will be the oldest ever Bond girl at 50, made their way to city hall to meet Rome’s mayor Ignazio Marino, with whom they posed on his balcony overlooking the Roman forum before he apparently told them to have their way with the city.

The next day, traffic was snarled and snippy security guards who spoke mostly English tried to bat away curious onlookers and angry Italians as the crew filmed a funeral scene in the district of EUR, the most fascist of the city’s quarters. There, they transformed the Museum of Roman Civilization into a crypt.

Then, they had the audacity to close off some of the busiest arteries of the city to shoot a car chase along the lower banks of the Tiber River the following day. Angry Romans who had to divert their paths threatened to boycott the film. “The film should be called ‘disagio,’” Emanuele Costrini told The Daily Beast, referring to a favorite Italian word for discomfort or inconvenience. “You can create all these scenes in a studio. Why do you need to cripple a city like Rome for a film in this day and age?”

The worst of the ‘disagio’ of the five-week shoot is apparently yet to come. Over the weekend, a massive crane was being put in place along the banks of the Tiber River, apparently to fish out a car that will reportedly crash over the banks and plunge down into the river. Car chase scenes will also block off tourist sites like Piazza Navona and the Vatican and an overnight car chase is scheduled along the busy artery called Via Nomentana from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the coming weeks, which has prompted enterprising residents to rent out their apartments to paparazzi.

Rome city hall clerks, who have since been silenced, told Italian reporters in late December that the film producers applied for a license to shoot a helicopter scene from which Craig’s Bond will parachute down onto the magical Ponte Sisto in the historical center. There is no word whether that permission was granted. But the crew was denied permission to shoot a car chase around the cobbled streets of ancient Rome passing a monument to Four Fountains because multi-million dollar work to restore it had just been completed, and they didn’t want to risk damage. “We have not given permission for the sequence at the Four Fountains because the site is too delicate from an architectural point of view,” Federica Galloni, a cultural heritage officer, told Rome’s Il Messagero newspaper.

“We have asked the producers not to film there but instead to create the sequence with special effects in post-production. … We’re still waiting for the producers to tell us how they intend to resolve the problem.”

There were also reports from those close to the film crew that Rome is too dirty and polluted, and they had to hire a team to scrub up the city, including garbage removal and graffiti scrubbing. Prior to the filming, residents near the proposed film set sites complained that nothing had been done to prepare, and that it would surely be a poor reflection on Rome to be shown in its filthy state. The city has been brought to its knees in a corruption scandal that saw many city services compromised.

Bond girl Bellucci has done some local publicity for the film, telling a popular talk show, “Che Tempo Che Fa” that director Sam Mendes’ choice to cast her is revolutionary. “A Bond girl who is 50 is interesting,” she said. “It communicates a different and more respectful way of looking at women.”

Scenes from the film have been shot in Austria and London, and the crew is expected to travel to Morocco and Mexico. The film will be released in November.