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Once When I was James Bond's Stunt Double

By B.J. Worth

Tales from the Bonfire | December 2018
Saturday, December 1, 2018

There was not enough room in the October issue’s “Profile” of B.J. Worth by Brian Giboney to include this anecdote, so we are printing it here. Worth was responding to Giboney’s question, “What’s your best bonfire story about being James Bond’s stunt double?”

In “Tomorrow Never Dies” (released in 1997), 007 exits a Fairchild C-123 [military transport plane with a tailgate exit] solo wearing a wetsuit, two scuba tanks, a parachute, two fins and a flight helmet. Our hero dives through layers of clouds, opens low over the South China Sea, cuts away at 20 feet, then dives down to meet his scuba-diving accomplice. 

Camera flyer Tom Sanders nailed my solo jump—diving off the ramp of the C-123—on the first take. But from that point forward, what seemed like a fairly standard series of stunt jumps turned out to be more challenging than expected.

We went to a small airport in central Florida, where that state’s famous puffy clouds would form over a nearby lake and drift toward us. Since U.S. skydivers usually don’t have permission to jump through clouds, none of us knew there was so much science involved in doing so successfully. Our target clouds—medium-sized dry puffies with tops below 12,000 feet—were in a constant state of building and dissipating. Sometimes we could film for 30 seconds in what seemed like an opaque white room that had no up or down. Other times, we would enter a cloud top only to fall out of it five seconds later because it had suddenly dissolved. Sometimes we got soaked. Often, we had to scramble to find a safe place to land if the cloud had drifted away from our DZ.

Our biggest safety issue, however, involved wardrobe. Bond’s 5-mil wetsuit that worked fine on a cold English stage was serious overkill in Florida’s sweltering heat. When I suggested wearing a thinner wetsuit, the director, who was sipping afternoon tea in London, accused me of whinging. So our crew soaked cooling towels in ice water and draped them on my head, neck and inside my wetsuit prior to each jump. Then, on one vertical dive past Tom Sanders’s camera, my rubber wetsuit totally filled with air, making Bond look like the Michelin Man.

I made a command safety decision and bought a black dive skin—a thin breathable suit divers wear when diving near coral. It looked like a rubber wetsuit on the screen and co-producer Barbara Broccoli commented that 007 looked sexier in the dive skin.

B.J. Worth | D-3805
Whitefish, Montana

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