Roger Moore relied on booze and Valium on Bond set sabotaged by monks

Trailer for classic Bond film For Your Eyes Only

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After sending James Bond into space for Moonraker, 1981’s For Your Eyes grounded Roger Moore’s 007 in a much more classic Cold War mission. This time the spy would be attempting to locate a missile command system before it finds its way into the hands of the Russians. Filming took the cast and crew to the cliffs of Meteora in Greece, where the star met his match during one death-defying stunt.

Moore seriously struggled with vertigo despite the worst for him only being hung above a four feet drop, while his stuntman Rick Sylvester had a twenty-foot one to contend with. He had previously performed the famous opening ski jump at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me, but even he was terrified of how dangerous this was to pull off.

In this For Your Eyes Only scene, Sylvester had to act as Bond falling off the side of a cliff, which involved a sudden rope jerk right down by the bottom that could be fatal. The stunt worked without any problems, but at the time he said: “From where we were [shooting], you could see the local cemetery; and the box [to stop my fall] looked like a casket. You didn’t need to be an English major to connect the dots.”

To calm his nerves during these scenes, Moore would take a little Valium and drank a tall glass of beer to help him through close-ups, when shooting climbing scenes high up on the rock face.

Heights weren’t the only challenge faced on the Greece shoot though, as the Eastern Orthodox monks living in the monastery at the top of the Meteora rock formation provided a terrible nuisance on the production.

The story goes that the holy men didn’t approve of the violence associated with the James Bond movies, but a trial at the Greek Supreme Court ruled that the religious order only owned the interiors, while the exteriors and surrounding landscape was that of the government’s.

Apparently, Moore had tried to cool things down by telling them that he had been a Saint, having played The Saint before Bond in the TV series of the same name.

To protest, the monks sabotaged the production as much as they could by hanging their washing out of the windows and covering the main monastery with plastic bunting and flags to spoil shots. They even put oil drums out to stop the crew from landing their helicopters. So to get around this, the crew built a set on a neighbouring rock and filmed interiors back at Pinewood Studios on a set designed by Peter Lamont.

Aside from this production difficulty, Bernard Lee, the Bond franchise’s M since the very beginning with Sean Connery’s Dr No, sadly died of stomach cancer in January 1981, after filming had begun.

Out of respect for the actor, producer Albert R Broccoli refused to recast him and Q’s role was expanded in his place, with the script now changed to say that M was on leave. This meant that For Your Eyes Only would be the only 007 film without Bond’s boss on-screen.

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For Your Eyes Only famously opens with Moore’s Bond in a helicopter dropping what appears to be Blofeld in a wheelchair down a chimney, finally killing his arch-nemesis. The villain couldn’t be named or shown properly for legal reasons since Kevin McClory owned the rights to Thunderball and claimed to solely do so for Blofeld and Spectre, which EON disputed. Nevertheless, disposing of the baddie so casually was Broccoli’s way of telling him that the success of 007 did not depend on the character.

Yet McClory would go on to make his unofficial Thunderbolt remake two years later in 1983’s Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery reprising Bond and Max von Sydow as Blofeld. The rights matter wasn’t settled until 2013, only after which did Christoph Waltz go on to play the villain in 2015’s Spectre and 2021’s No Time To Die opposite Daniel Craig.

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