By the time I make it down to the Tiber that first night in Rome—after an overnight flight, after Customs, after clearing the complicated Italian on-set security—it’s nearly midnight and I’ve just missed the shot.
A giant crane is planted at the top of the stairs that lead down to the river. Its outriggers spans most of the blocked-off roadway, its ten-story boom extends over the water, its winding drum is whirring. At the end of its line, emerging from the water tail-first, like a giant hooked tarpon, is the impossibly gorgeous, smoky silver, Aston Martin DB10 sports coupe, purpose built as a one-off (well, ten-off) by Aston design chief Marek Reichman in collaboration with director Sam Mendes, just for “Spectre,” the 24th James Bond film, and the 12th featuring the venerable British sporting luxury brand.
Water pours out of its baleen grille, and I wonder if this is an intentional or accidental byproduct of the movie’s central chase scene, a sequence that also includes, among other double-dares, tearing through a Vatican Piazza at 100 m.p.h. and launching down four flights of stairs.
At least three other DB10s line the damp cobbled path next to the river. A “stunt gadget” car—a drivable version loaded up with all the hardware and Q-installed goodies—is being moved back into position upriver. A “pod” car with a giant metal armature mounted on top—including steering wheel, mirrors, and gas and brake pedals, allowing it to be operated independent of the “driver” who can then focus on acting—sits backed against the high wall. A “hero” car, pristine and used for rolling and staid beauty shots, is parked alongside it, its custom wheels shimmering in the wake-refracted moonlight.
Also present are various versions of the baddie’s car. Aligned with the brand’s villainous marketing messages, this is a Jaguar. Maintaining the focus on bespoke vehicles, it’s also not a production vehicle, but a radical concept—2010’s handsome hybrid, electric, gas turbine C-X75—albeit revised and resuscitated.
“They’ve got V-8 engines in them, from the F-Type,” stunt coordinator Gary Powell tells me. “The originals, the real ones, are actually a lot heavier because they’ve got batteries and electric motors and all that. They’d probably get exploded if we went down the stairs. So they built us these from the ground up.” (“Nobody really wants the hybrids close to water,” action vehicles technology coordinator Neil Layton adds, later.)
Uncertain of the accuracy of these statements, but not willing to take any chances, I retreat to a high perch on the opposite bank as the crew resets the shot. The plot point here, so far as I can discern, is that one of the bad guy’s henchmen, the mountainous Mr. Jinx played by pro wrestler David Bautista, is chasing Bond through the city. They end up running top speed on this riverside promenade, and, approaching a stone barricade, Bond faces a difficult choice.