James Bond: our favorite British agent and Switzerland go way back.
In fact, the MI6 agent was already placed in Switzerland in Goldfinger, the third installment of currently 25 Bond films. But the fascination with Switzerland as a backdrop for 007 did not stop then. The producers kept returning for more, meanwhile spending a considerable budget that allowed rural places to flourish.
The James Bond ties with Switzerland go beyond locations, too. For one, there has been a Swiss Bond girl, a villain, a casino director, and even a director. The ultimate Swiss connection goes to the core of who James Bond is - but I would not want to spoil it for you already!
James Bond is half Swiss.
In the 11th novel, You Only Live Twice, author Ian Fleming introduces Monique Delacroix Bond. The mother of James Bond is allegedly from the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.
As a student, Fleming had spent time in the town of Coppet, Vaud, in 1930 and 1931. He was engaged to a real-life Swiss woman with a name resembling the fictional character: Monique Panchaud de Bottens. Without a doubt, she served as the inspiration for James Bond’s Swiss mother. There have been references to Bond’s mother in at least two films, but her character has never actually appeared on celluloid.
And according to the 2005 SilverFin novel in the Young Bond series, James Bond was born in Zurich, Switzerland. On an obituary for James Bond in You Only Live Twice, his Swiss heritage is mentioned as well.
The original Bond girl, Ursula Andress, is a native Swiss.
Any true Bond fan remembers the scene in Dr. No when the character of Honey Ryder emerges from the sea. That white bikini, though... Given that this is the first-ever Bond movie, Honey Ryder, a.k.a. Ursula Andress, is by definition the original Bond girl.
At the time, the Swiss actress from Ostermundigen near Bern was only 26 years old. For the six weeks on set, she received USD 6’000, or roughly USD 54’300 in today’s value. (For comparison, Sean Connery reportedly earned USD 16’000, or USD 145’000 in today’s value.)
In the movie, Andress was entirely dubbed because her Swiss accent was too strong. At the time of the film’s release, her Swiss nationality was never even mentioned. It was only later that the press picked up on this. Andress now enjoys a quiet life in Rome, Italy.
Bond 22, Quantum of Solace, was directed by a Swiss.
Producer Barbara Broccoli wanted no other director but Marc Forster for the 22nd movie in the Bond franchise. Forster was previously known for independent movies, so his nomination for a big-budget Bond flick has been questioned by many. In fact, he reportedly slept over the decision to get on board.
The filming of Quantum of Solace turned out to be hindered by an unfinished script due to the 2007/2008 Writers Guild of America strike. But maybe the fact that Forster was permitted to employ his own filming staff helped him complete the work. Forster came through and went down in history as the first (and only) Swiss Bond director.
The antagonist Elvis in Quantum of Solace was played by a Swiss actor.
Anatole Taubman, a Swiss actor who I have once met in person, played the Chief of Security of the Quantum organization. I remember jumping out of my seat in a US movie theater when I heard the Elvis character speak Swiss-German! I never expected to hear this dialect in a James Bond movie.
According to the authors of James Bond und die Schweiz, Taubman was not entirely satisfied with his character, wanting to give it more depth. It was Swiss director Marc Forster’s idea to improvise and let Elvis speak Swiss-German while on the phone with his mother: “I found it funny to think that the killer’s mom is packing her son’s suitcase.”
Taubman attended drama school in New York City, after which he took on acting roles in off-Broadway productions. He later won a prestigious Swiss entertainment award before being cast for his role in Quantum of Solace.
Switzerland has served as a backdrop for more than one Bond movie.
Thanks to Ian Fleming’s personal attachment to Switzerland, the country has starred in at least five Bond movies. The alpine region has perhaps the highest density of Bond filming locations anywhere in the world.
The following James Bond movies contain scenes filmed in Switzerland:
Goldfinger features the legendary Furka pass road in central Switzerland. The road was selected as a filming location due to the tight curves and the low traffic volume. A key scene was filmed at Hotel Belvédère, and another at km 49 where Bond got out of his Aston Martin DB5. The six-minute car chase of Goldfinger turned into a road movie in its own right.
Some might say that the silver car was just as much a main act as Sean Connery. Speaking of whom: during the filming in July 1964, Sean Connery spent a week in room 21 at Hotel Bergidyll in Andermatt. When he compained about the bed being too short, the owner suggested he try laying at an angle… Goldfinger’s headquarters was filmed at the Pilatus aircraft factory in Stans.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Apart from Mount Schilthorn, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features other locations in the Lauterbrunnen valley. The stock car race was filmed during 12 days on an ice track between Stechelberg and Lauterbrunnen.
The studio insisted on having 1500 live audience members in this scene. This posed quite a logistical challenge. Thanks to the Swiss Post and their fleet of buses, however, loads of stand-ins were dropped off on the set every day. Also, a Christmas market scene was filmed on the ice rink in Grindelwald.
A View To A Kill (1985)
One scene in A View To A Kill was filmed on the Morteratsch glacier in the Engadine. This is where Bond escapes on a snowboard, meanwhile setting a trend for this new winter sport discipline. (Watch the scene on YouTube.)
"Tom Sims, snowboard pioneer and World Snowboard Champion (1982) along with Steve Link doubled for Roger Moore for the snowboarding sequences," says the official 007.com website.
The opening sequence of GoldenEye was filmed at the Verzasca dam in Ticino. Thanks to Bond’s death-defying bungee jump, this frequently ranks as one of the best openers in all the Bond movies.
Also, the Spy Who Loved Me features a skiing sequence that was filmed on the slopes of St. Moritz. In a recent interview with NZZ am Sonntag, co-producer Barbara Broccoli stated that is it very likely for Switzerland to be featured again in future Bond movies. Exciting!
Once Blofeld’s headquarter, Piz Gloria is now a popular destination for Bond fans.
In the 1969 film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, Blofeld lurks in a mountaintop headquarters called Piz Gloria. In reality, the location is Mount Schilthorn in the Bernese Alps. The place was likely selected as it perfectly conveyed the image of a remote outpost where criminals would hide.
Schilthorn had its fifteen minutes of fame as a filming location between October 1968 and May 1969. At the time, the place was on the verge of bankruptcy. The deal was that the production company could use the cable car for six months in exchange for financing the construction of the mountaintop station.
This peak remains a popular destination to this day. The former helipad was converted into a terrace with the best views of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
On top of Schilthorn, there is plenty more to be excited about for Bond fans. At Bond World, you get to relive seven key scenes from the movie - including the bob chase. And after eating the legendary 007 Burger, try to locate the phone inside the cable car cabin: its number might end with the digits “007”...
The James Bond Club Schweiz celebrated its 25th anniversary with an epic clip.
The James Bond Club Schweiz has been around for a quarter-century. It sounds quite plausible that it is in fact the oldest 007 club worldwide.
The website of the James Bond Club Schweiz has a nifty list of Bond movies and their level of Swissness. The club members meet regularly, and for their 25th anniversary, they have compiled a very special clip: the 47-minute dedication reel features numerous cameos from former cast members and Bond celebs.