by Frank V. Persall
James Bond is one of the most successful film franchises in the world with a whopping 24 films in total at the time of writing this article. In addition to this, there have been six actors whose careers have been boosted by taking on the role of the iconic spy. All of this aside, one of the things that skiing fans simply cannot ignore is that iconic ski jump at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me.
If you’re anything like us and get excited at seeing this sport portrayed in the movies, then you’ve probably rewound that scene several times. But how on earth did Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond allow him to complete such an epic jump? Could Moore ski or was there a stunt double on hand? What’s more, did anyone ever find out where that ski chase was filmed? In this review of one of the most incredible James Bond moments of all time, we are going to find out.
While The James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me was shot way back in the seventies, the guy who performed one of the world’s greatest ski jumps in film-making history still enjoys the sport today. Rick Sylvester has spent the best part of 50 years taking to the slopes and with his vast experience, it was a no-brainer to choose him as Roger Moore’s stunt double.
There has been a lot of speculation around this jump featured in one of the most famous Bond films of all time. However, recently Rick Sylvester himself set the record straight on none other than the social discussion website, Reddit.
Speaking to fans, he recalled a wealth of memories from the recording of the movie as well as giving die hard Bond film, viewers, an insight into this incredible moment. He begins by telling the story of how the film crew took up temporary residence in a small Inuit village not far from where the stuntman currently calls home.
While it is easy to get engrossed in one of James Bond's movies and forget that what we are seeing are actors and stuntmen, (they are that talented, after all) but understanding what it took to film such an epic piece of entertainment is something of an honor. So, let’s dive into the details!
As we have mentioned, the name of the man who performed the skiing stunts was Rick Sylvester. He's an American stuntman and actor who has a passion for a life of adventure. With climbing being one of his most well-loved activities, and skiing following not far behind, who better to wield that famous Union Jack flag and claim a few moments as the mighty Bond?
Sylvester was born in 1942, but, at the time of writing, this still doesn’t prevent him from enjoying an active lifestyle, even in his golden years. His skiing feats extend far beyond the movie-making industry with Rick having completed the ‘world’s greatest ski jump’ back in 1971. This incredible achievement saw him shooting off the top of the El Capitan peak in California followed by a massive 3000ft parachute jump back to the ground.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Sylvester then went on to complete a further series of astonishing jumps from the same mountain in order to get the best footage. Although, he had to be extremely careful when doing this because the National Parks wouldn’t have been too impressed had they caught him, and an arrest would have been almost certain.
This risk-taking personality is the perfect complement to the Bond character, and while The Spy Who Loved Me was one of his most famous movie moments, Rick also performed stunts in other Bond films like For Your Eyes Only where he portrayed Bond’s fall from a mountainside in Greece.
While viewing the Union Jack scene, many fans noticed that the snow looked far from perfect and many commented that ski tracks were already in place. Who said that movie-goers were anything but eagle-eyed? But Mr. Sylvester managed to explain these tracks in his recent Reddit post, where he detailed that, owing to a breakable crust, he had side slipped the slope. While he also discussed that he thought this would cause the alleged ‘perfect’ appearance of the snow to become tainted, the film crew begged to differ.
since the filming technology back in the 1970s had nothing on what movie crews have today, there was little room for error. This meant that the jump was filmed in one take. Rick has talked about how he was the only person to have flown off the edge of the slope.
While it took just one take, there were, in fact, three cameras in operation. The idea was that the camera in an overhead helicopter would capture most of the action, but in an error of judgment, Sylvester skied out of shot, and this was never achieved. But as a stroke of luck would have it, one of the ground cameras, located on a ledge managed to get a wide-angle shot. The third camera, situated to the right caught both the descent and the jump meaning that, by some miracle, a second take never had to happen. What they shot that day, is what we see in the movie.
With such huge success in the extreme sports and movie industry, one could be forgiven for thinking that Sylvester is cooped away somewhere in a mansion and living the high life. But as a talented person might do, he is also famed for having helped in a variety of ski rescues, putting his skills to good use.
His most well-known rescue took place not long after the release of The Spy Who Loved Me in 1978. A huge blizzard caused a tram cable to snap, the resulting disaster killed a significant number of tourists. However, there were those who were caught in the tragic scene, unable to get out.
Rick and his companion, and fellow mountaineer, Jim Bridwell, along with rescue teams, fought through the cold and ice to retrieve more than 40 survivors. If anything, you could say that this act of heroism puts him in much higher stead than merely performing in a movie.
One of the burning questions of movie buffs all over the world, and about any movie, is where things were filmed. In the case of The Spy Who Loved Me, we have to head across to Canada.
While most of the Bond movies were filmed on British soil, where else for a British spy, there were some things throughout the series that required a more authentic location. With snow capped peaks as far as the eye can see and wintry conditions that are difficult to rival, what better place to record a skiing scene than this massive North American nation?
Mount Asgard on Baffin Island in Canada can lay claim to being the home of The Spy Who Loved Me ski jump. Heading to this incredible location and completing the jump allegedly cost around half a million and $30,000 of that went straight into Sylvester's pocket. That might not sound like much today but back in the 70s, that was a substantial sum for doing something you love! And, yes, OK, there is the danger factor to consider.
Mount Asgard has twin peaks and the summit can only be reached via chopper. If you’re looking for a daring descent, you’re sure to find it here. The peak is so remote and so challenging that it was only conquered as recently as 1953.
Today, there are, for the more daring skiers, a series of helicopter flights taking you for about of heli-skiing. Not only will you be able to tackle some of the most incredible high skiing in the world, but the views are like nothing else. Baffin Island is home to many graphite formations and as such, the scenery is rugged and feels almost prehistoric. You’ll also find fjords and glaciers and a whole host of other Arctic beauty spots. Not to mention being able to boast having skied on the same peak as Bond himself.
As an actor, the more things you can put on your resume, the better. If you’re applying for the role of Bond, one would think that you needed to have an incredible range of skills. In terms of acting, this is, of course, true. However, when it comes to the ability to ski, it’s hardly essential; thanks to stuntmen like Sylvester.
However, Roger Moore was indeed a keen skier and he spent a lot of his free time enjoying the sport. For many years, Moore lived out in Gstaad in Switzerland which is a country renowned for its winter sports. Sadly, Roger Moore put an early end to his skiing activities long before his death owing to the number of snowboarders on the slopes.
The Bond franchise is one of the most successful in the world, with famous directors such as John Glen and global superstars like Daniel Craig and Sean Connery had taken on the Bond role, it is no wonder that it has done so well.
One of the most recognisable scenes in a Bond movie was the ski jump at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. This was at a time when Sir Roger Moore was in the role of Bond and while he is a very talented man, another guy named Rick Sylvester took on the challenge of completing this epic jump.
After watching this scene, we wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted to hone your skiing skills and take to the slopes. If this is the case, you’re going to need to make sure you brush up on the basics. Here, you will find everything you need to know about skiing and then some; why not take a look?
About Frank V. Persall
Frank is originally from the UK, but he has a passion for skiing that knows no bounds. He has made it his life's mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the World. Frank loves spending time with his wife and three children on ski slopes, as they all share his love for the activity.