The 1977 Roger Moore-as-James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me had the highest budget of any film that had been made at the time, and it’s not difficult to see why. Its filming locations included a Royal Navy submarine base near Glasgow; a supertanker in the Bay of Biscay; an island just north of the Arctic Circle; near assorted Egyptian icons like Great Pyramid of Giza and the Temple of Ramses II in Luxor; on the Italian island of Sardinia; and underwater in the Bahamas.
But production designer Ken Adam couldn’t find a real-life locale that was big enough to serve as the interior of the Liparus supertanker captained by the maniacal Karl Stromberg, so he and producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli decided to build a massive stage for themselves. “There was no other film stage which could take in the set design, which includes 1,200,000 gallons of water, a massive area of a full-scale 600,000-ton oil tanker, one United States nuclear submarine, one British nuclear submarine and one Soviet nuclear submarine, and hundreds of people – ships’ crews and film crews,” American Cinematographer magazine wrote at the time.
The resulting stage — appropriately called the “007 Stage” — was built at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Its construction cost an estimated $1.8 million (or around $9.25M in today’s bucks). The original 007 stage has an overall length of 374 feet, a width of 160 feet, and it’s 53 feet tall. (Even after burning to the ground in 1984, it was rebuilt at almost the same scale; Pinewood Studios still claims that it’s the biggest stage in Europe.)
“We are happy the stage is up,” Broccoli said. “We think that it’s not only a boon to our picture, but a boon to the industry as a whole that there exists such a fine piece of equipment to work in. Pinewood is excited by the idea that it is there, because it enhances the studio facilities. It also provides the opportunity to bring people into the studio where they can work in the winter and create all kinds of things hitherto impossible.”
Some of the most recent flicks that have used the stage include The Da Vinci Code, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia and, of course, a lot of other James Bond movies. Oh! And the 1986 classic, “The Little Shop of Horrors” which also appears in this week’s Video Rewind.