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April 12


Spring 2021

When James Bond Reeled in the Rarest of Treasures

Image courtesy of United Artists

Was a James Bond movie ever in the running for an Oscar VFX trophy? The answer is yes. Not only was the movie Thunderball nominated in that category in 1966, it won, the only Bond movie ever to do so. John Stears was the recipient of the prize. The late Stears, who won two VFX Academy Awards, was known as the “Dean of Special Effects.” He not only created Bond’s famous Aston Martin DB5 sports car, but also Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder, the Lightsabers of the Jedi Knights, and many other memorable screen gadgets. Stears actually created special effects for the first eight Bond movies and also went on to share an Academy Award in 1977 for Visual Effects for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Among his onscreen VFX résumé highlights: blowing up Dr. No’s headquarters in Dr. No; an avalanche in On Her Majestys Secret Service; and flying cars for The with the Golden Gun. One interesting bit of VFX trivia from Thunderball: As overseen by John Stears in the Bahamas, the special effects explosion of the Disco Volante yacht was so powerful it shattered and blew out windows 20 to 30 miles away on Nassau’s Bay Street, where the movie’s Junkanoo Mardi-Gras sequence was filmed. Reportedly, Stears had not known how potent and strong a mix the experimental rocket fuel was in order to create the explosion. 

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