Had smashing time on Skyfall set
CRUSHING new Land Rovers and taking a hammer to Audi cars went against a life-time's training for one Truro man who destroyed the cars while on a special mission in Europe.
Former traffic policeman Ronnie Henderson, who used to inspect vehicles for a living found himself working alongside 007 Daniel Craig during the filming of the latest Bond blockbuster, Skyfall.
Mr Henderson, from Perranwell Station, landed his role working with Action Vehicles after he was forcibly retired from Devon and Cornwall Police last year.
It was a chance meeting while undergoing mandatory training in the final months of his police career that led to his amazing job offer.
"The director of Action Vehicles was on the same driving course. He was a hobby pilot like me and we got chatting. He then offered me a job," says Mr Henderson.
He knew the firm was working on the Bond film and had worked on other major productions including Indiana Jones and Bridget Jones's Diary.
Following an interview at Pinewood Studios he was given the task of delivering the majority of the £1.6 million worth of vehicles for filming in Istanbul and southern Turkey.
As the cars form an integral part of the action the film team got through a large number making sure each scene went like clockwork.
"We used 16 Audis during one chase sequence. The action was filmed in reverse order so we had to break-up several cars for the scene."
He used a hammer on Audi A5s and even drove several Land Rovers into a tree, crushing their bonnets.
In January he was behind the wheel of an articulated lorry transporting a JCB digger to southern Turkey. He drove through treacherous mountain passes and across narrow bridges delivering his load on time in freezing conditions.
The machine was to form a major part of a nailbiting scene that would destroy 48 VW Beetles.
"The digger was remotely controlled, but it was made to look as if Bond was driving it while it was on board a moving train. He used the machine to rip off the VWs – in each take three VWs were destroyed as they crashed off the train."
He also watched Daniel Craig carry out his own daring stunts, including the opening fight scene as a train travelled over the breathtaking Varda railway bridge, in Andana, which was built in 1912 by the Germans.
Istanbul and Turkey were not the first choice of location for the film – the director had initially looked at Argentina and Mumbai in India, but ruled the latter venue out because of recent terrorist attacks.
"Filming in Istanbul was exciting. It's a fantastic, vibrant city, a mix of old and new. It attracts film crews because of its light and the people are so friendly."
It was here that he helped set up a hair-raising motorbike chase across the rooftops of a bazaar.
"The stunt riders wore no helmets, they just had to go for it. Everything is rehearsed at slow speed and gradually built up.
"There were around 500 people on set. The cast and extras all knew exactly what to do so that it is safe. It needs to be as the motorbikes and cars are travelling up to 50mph or 60mph in the final take."
When off-set he spent hours sharing a beer with the crew and actors, including Craig and Naomie Harris. "It was a gruelling schedule, working without a day off for six months, often doing 13-hour days. But I can't deny it was an experience I'll never forget. Everyone says that working on a Bond film is like being part of a family.
"The scenes were not glamorous but looked polished when finished. Everyone had an important role to play. We were all working towards the same goal. Daniel (Craig) would eat with us as did all the actors. He was chatty and relaxed in the Adana Hilton where we were all staying."