In the latest James Bond epic Die Another Day, Commander Bond is given a key, which he takes to a small doorway near Westminster Bridge, which opens a door. Through this door, after climbing down a staircase, he reaches an abandoned Underground station which serves as Q's gadget development laboratory.
I had heard previously that there was going to be an abandoned Underground station in the film so I decided to investigate further the locations used to provide this location.
The Surface Entrance
Bond enters the station just opposite the Houses of Parliament. The only Underground line that runs close to the location of the doorway would be the Jubilee Extension, which was built in the late 1990s and has no abandoned stations, unless you count the old platforms at Charing Cross!
The doorway used is in fact an entrance to a small office used by a security firm and certainly doesn't have a subterranean staircase. I expect that the people who work there are by now rather annoyed at the publicity the film has caused for their office and rest area since many tourists now stop there to take their picture next to the door! They have placed up a sign inside the door, which reads "Yes. Bond 007 was here. Don't ask!"
I had heard that the film company had spent a few days in Aldwych station several months prior to the film's release, but I had no idea whether they were filming or just researching the location. Having spent time in Aldwych photographing the location, the station in the film is substantially different from Aldwych's layout, which led me to believe that the subterranian scenes were in fact filmed on a sound stage.
Also, Aldwych's platforms have a distinct curve - and are only decorated for 2/3 of their length. The ones in the film seemed in some scenes to be too short and had no curve.
Having said that, it's also quite obvious the station's decor is closely based on Aldwych's. The 2 green stripes along the corridor walls and the diamond tile patterns all only exist in Aldwych as far as I'm aware.
London's Transport Museum have since confirmed that no part of the movie was filmed at Aldwych - it was all mocked up on a sound stage at Pinewood Studios, where many of the other sequences were filmed, even the convincing platform scenes. The film company even asked the Museum's design department to create the Vauxhall Cross roundell. Apparently they did quite a bit of research, which I presume involved work at the Museum and also in Aldwych itself, before designing the set.
There are pointers in the film however which place the station in the same location as Down Street on the Piccadilly Line. The map on the wall indicates that the next station is Hyde Park Corner, which is indeed correct for Down Street, situated between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.
...plus, Vauxhall Cross is the official name for the new MI6 building on the south bank of the Thames (featured in the opening sequence of The World is Not Enough).
One final point. I wonder how many non-Londoners would have been duped into thinking that Vauxhall Cross was a real station? I probably would have even years after moving to live near London!
What were the film makers thinking?
The production company has gone to great lengths in recreating this station in so much detail that I wondered whether some thought had been given to the film's fictional location and how this would link in with the Piccadilly Line. With the station's name being Vauxhall Cross, one naturally assumes that the station is somewhere near... Vauxhall Cross, but how would this relate with the existing railway?
A clue is given by the station map that can be seen opposite the platform. In most scenes, the sign is unreadable on the DVD version, but it is readable for a couple of seconds at one point as Bond is being introduced to the new invisible Aston Martin.
The sign shows the following stations: Vauxhall Cross -> Hyde Park Corner -> Knightsbridge -> Gloucester Road -> Earl's Court .... (curiously, they missed out South Kensington).
This implys the abandoned station is clearly meant to be on the Piccadilly Line eastbound beyond Hyde Park Corner. Originally I'd assumed this location to be the abandoned Down Street station which is indeed located at this point. Two facts however drew me away from this conclusion. Firstly, Down Street would have trains frequently passing through the platforms since the rails at the station's platform form part of the active railway system today. Secondly, Down Street is quite a distance from Vauxhall Cross...
Further investigation with the film's makers revealed that they had decided to place a fictional branch line (very much like Aldwych) somewhere between Green Park and Down Street which ran and terminated beneath the Vauxhall Cross building used by MI5 today.
Geographically, this works perfectly. Looking on the surface, the line would have branched west of Green Park, looping south passing very close to Buckingham Palace (thus providing the legendary "special" emergency platform for the Royal Family!). The line would head down Vauxhall Bridge Road to its destination (remember, all original Underground lines had to run under existing roads/park land as much as possible because of wayleave planning restrictions) near today's MI5 building.
Curiously enough, there is a short branch on the Piccadilly Line in almost the same location. Just beyond Down Street, a third tunnel has been built between the two running tunnels. This siding is in fact the railway you see "through the keyhole" on the Down Street page. The siding was provided in the 1930s as a reversing siding where trains could be reversed or even have some light maintenance performed on them and runs much of the distance to Hyde Park Corner. Who knows... perhaps this siding has a false end and continues to all the above mentioned locations...?
Last Modified: February 3rd 2004
Photograph courtesy and © 2002 20th Century Fox, UK distributors of Die Another Day. The image was a still, originally provided as part of the press pack for the film in the Autumn of 2002.
All material on this page is © 2003 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.