Except for a few brief close-ups, the entire sequence of Bond, Jaws and the pilot falling from the plane with Bond and the pilot fighting for a single parachute was actually shot in free-fall. The 7 pound camera for these sequences was mounted on the helmet of another skydiver, and a few shots are of the cameraman's own arms and legs. Stuntmen Jake Lombard and B.J. Worth wore parachutes concealed within their suits. The "parachute" they fought over was actually a dummy 'chute which had to be removed before the stuntman could use the real parachute underneath. Stuntman Jake Lombard would don and remove the dummy 'chute up to three times in a single jump. The actual parachutes used by the stuntmen had both a main and reserve 'chute concealed within the suitcoats. A breakaway seam ran down the backside which allowed the parachute to be opened without the need to remove the coat. There were only sixty to seventy seconds of freefall time between when the stunt performers exited the aircraft and when they had to activate their 'chutes. After factoring in the time needed to get the performers and cameraman into position after leaving their plane, only a few seconds of film could be shot per jump. Therefore, the entire sequence required 88 jumps and five weeks to film, just to produce the two minutes of footage in the final film.
'Moonraker' became the focus of a real life adventure story when mercenary John Miller used it as cover in his attempt to kidnap fugitive Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs from Rio De Janeiro and return him to Britain for trial. Miller and his team posed as members of the 'Moonraker' production team offering a cameo in the film to Biggs, intending to lure him onto a yacht for the proposed scene to be filmed and once in international waters sail it to a Commonwealth country from where he could be extradited. The scheme became unstuck when a member of the press who'd heard rumours of the operation telephoned Biggs home thinking he had already been snatched.
The filmmakers did not think that viewers would accept the relationship between Jaws and Dolly due to the height difference between them. Her role had been written for a giant lady to match Jaws' own size. It was only when Richard Kiel pointed out that his actual wife was the same height as Dolly that they changed their minds. Jaws' (Richard Kiel) height was 7 ft 2½ inches.
Roger Moore arrived a few days late for the shoot Rio due to a kidney stones attack in France. Moore had also had a renal colic attack whilst filming Live and Let Die (1973). Once arrived in Rio, he literally walked off the plane, went into make-up and hair, got fitted out, went back onto the plane, and was then filmed arriving in Rio as James Bond for the movie.
The scene in which the gondola converts into a hovercraft and elevates out of the water succeeded with the fifth attempt. During the first four takes, the vehicle was so unstable that Roger Moore fell into the water and needed to have his silk suit replaced for each take. It was fortunate that the stunt worked during the fifth take because was wearing the last available silk suit.
It was the first movie to feature the modern space shuttle in a motion picture. The film's release was suppose to coincide with the first ever launch of the space shuttle, but this unfortunately didn't occur until 12 April 1981, just before the release of the next James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only (1981), and exactly twenty years after Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space (12 April 1961).
The opening sequence concludes with Jaws freefalling into a circus big top which then comes crashing down around him. Footage was shot of Richard Kiel staggering out of the wreckage but this has now been lost. A few stills from that scene are shown in a DVD extra.
Bond stunt double, veteran skydiver Jake Lombard, bore a strong resemblance to Bond actor Roger Moore. (That is, after he was persuaded to cut his long hair and shave off his equally long beard). This allowed many relative close up facial shots of Bond in freefall. As for the role of the pilot, skydiver B.J. Worth was actually chosen first, with actor Jean-Pierre Castaldi being chosen later for studio scenes, due to his resemblance to Mr. Worth.
To build the gigantic three level Space Station set interiors at France's Epinay Studios, the production utilized two tons of nails, one hundred tons of metal, two hundred and twenty technicians and ten thousand feet of set construction woodwork.
During the cable-car stunt high above Rio, a real cliff-hanger moment occurred when stuntman Richard Graydon slipped and was hanging-off for his dear life. The recce crew, including Ken Adam, were petrified while the camera was rolling and they were watching-on from a vantage point.
The majority of the women seen as part of Drax's master race were Paris models with the exception of Anne Lonnberg (who was a musician and actress prior to taking the role of the museum tour guide). The receptionist seen at he Venini Glass gallery (Irka Bochenko) later became a musician (using the pseudonym Iren Bo) - she recorded a hit single (Happy Birthday Mr. Bond) for the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series (with Sir Roger Moore providing background vocals).
Producer Albert R. Broccoli called Steven Spielberg requesting permission to use the indelible 5-note leitmotif from his Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Broccoli wanted to use it as the entry code for an electronic laboratory door lock in a scene in Moonraker (1979). Some years later, Spielberg called Broccoli requesting permission to use the 007 theme music for a scene in a movie he was producing titled, The Goonies (1985). Broccoli pointed out that there were more than 5 notes in the 007 theme music. Spielberg suspected the producer's tongue was firmly planted in his cheek as he continued to banter. He was right. The Steven Spielberg/Cubby Broccoli connection has another twist - an interest in directing a Bond film while in negotiations with Broccoli until Star Wars producer/creator George Lucas offered the script for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
A "moonraker" has two dictionary definitions. It is a synonym for a moon-sail which is the highest sail of a ship. It is also a term from a Wiltshire folk story where smugglers trying to hide contraband pretend to rake the water in a pond so as to catch the reflection of the moon. It is sometimes used to refer to a man of extreme ambition which could apply to either Bond or Drax.
Lois Chiles had originally been offered the role of Anya in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), but turned down the part when she decided to take temporary retirement. She got the role of Holly Goodhead by chance when she was given the seat next to Lewis Gilbert on a flight.
During the scenes set in Venice, Pope John Paul I died. Filming was then suspended for the day, partly because the bells ringing in Venice mourning his death were so loud it made it impossible to work.
Barbara Bach was originally scheduled to make a brief appearance as Anya, the character she played in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), but the idea was dropped only weeks before filming began. According to the book The Bond Files, her character was going to be the woman shown in bed with General Gogol in the scene where he moans to his British counterpart that he's having trouble sleeping.
The title song is sung by Shirley Bassey, the third and last time she did so in the Bond series. The other two were Goldfinger (1964) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971). She also sang a version of the "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" song for Thunderball (1965) which was not used. To date, Bassey is the only singer to have performed a Bond title song more than once.
Bond does not drive a car in this movie. He is seen however briefly driving a jeep through some caves (i.e. the Paris Mining Shafts location). The only Bond movie where James Bond is not seen driving a motor vehicle is You Only Live Twice (1967).
Classical music heard in the film includes Frédéric Chopin's Prelude no. 15 in D-flat major (op. 28), "Raindrop") heard when Drax is playing the piano ; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture is heard when Jaws meets Dolly whilst "Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka" by Johann Strauß is heard during the Saint Mark's Square hovercraft sequence in Venice. At the conclusion of the pheasant shoot, the bugler blows the first three notes to Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (op. 30) which was famously used in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Moreover, the scene where Bond is riding to M's temporary headquarters in a South American hacienda is accompanied by Elmer Bernstein's theme from The Magnificent Seven (1960).
When work on the film began, NASA had in fact not yet officially "finalized" the design of the Space Shuttle. At the time of filming, the Approach/Landing Test with the Enterprise (OV-101) was completed in October 1977 whilst Columbia (OV-102) was under construction. Fortunately for the production designers, there were subsequently no visible changes made to the shuttle's design, making their rendering of it accurate. This also included the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (NASA 905, which is a former Boeing 747-123 aircraft originally sold to American Airlines) - the opening sequence featured the SCA with the Drax Enterprises Logo on the vertical stabilizer but retaining the American Airlines livery. The real Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (NASA 905) has been retired after ferrying Endeavour in late 2012 where it will become a museum display at Space Center Houston with the Space Shuttle Explorer mounted on top in 2015.
Jaws was supposed to be Bond's arch-nemesis in the film until Lewis Gilbert started paying attention to some of the fan mail he was getting from small children, asking why he couldn't be a goodie instead of a baddie.
Adapting to the different work ethics in France, Ken Adam (Production Designer) was informed by the union leader that the crew will not work overtime. Ken Adam could not recall even one Bond Movie he designed which did not include overtime on part of the construction crew to complete the interiors. Ultimately the crew saw his designs and they decided that it was indeed worthwhile to work overtime. In fact he recalled that on Sundays they did bring their whole families.
When the Minister of Defence and M arrive in Venice, the Minister mentions that he plays bridge with Drax. This is a reference to the original novel, in which Drax is continuously winning while playing bridge at M's favorite club.
Roger Moore was the one who nicknamed the gondola Bondola. When it tipped him in the water four times, tourists got it all on film. It was hard on the makeup people because they had to dry him off and change his wardrobe every time. Thereafter, Moore kept a horn on him to warn off any more tourists.
According to writer Tom Mankiewicz there was a scene featuring Drax meeting his co-financiers in the Amazon lair; they use the room located just below the space shuttle launch pad that Bond and Holly later escape from. This scene was shot but later cut out.
In 1955, John Payne negotiated and purchased the rights for an option to "Moonraker", paying a $1000 a month option for nine months. Payne was the first ever person in Hollywood interested in making the James Bond novels into a film series. Apparently, he eventually gave up the option when he learned he couldn't obtain the rights to the entire 007 series. Moreover, there were allegedly trans-Atlantic problems between the USA and English agents of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. In 1955-56, the Rank Organisation via Ian Hunter bought an advance option from Fleming to the novel "Moonraker". Fleming stipulated £1000 for an advance option and £10,000 for the film rights. Rank did not develop the material further. In Spring 1959, Rank sold them back to Fleming. Harry Saltzman obtained the rights to the James Bond novels in 1960-61 and "Moonraker" was included in the package. Saltzman later went into partnership with Albert R. Broccoli to produce the James Bond films.
Moonraker was the third James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. It was first published on 7 April 1955. A number of suggested and working titles existed for this novel. These included: The Moonraker, Mondays are Hell, The Moonraker Sense, The Infernal Machine, The Moonraker Secret, The Inhuman Element, Wide of the Mark, The Moonraker Plan, Hell is Here, Bond and The Moonraker, The Moonraker Plot, and Too Hot to Handle, the latter being the re-title of the novel for its first US paperback release. Moreover, the Christopher Wood novelization of the film was called James Bond and Moonraker.
Vehicles featured included NASA / Rockwell International Shuttle Spacecraft designed as six Moonraker Space Shuttles; a Venezian Gondola that can turn into a hovercraft known as the Hovercraft Gondola or Bondola; Q's Hydrofoil Boat, a silver Glastron/Carlson CV-23HT speedboat with accessory hang-glider which is chased by three Glastron SSV-189 speedboats; a white MP Roadster; a Brazilian Chevrolet C-14 Rio Ambulance; a blue Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith II which takes Bond to his Rio hotel; a Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter; a BONDinho Rio cable car; a Hispano-Suiza; various American Motors and Jeep vehicles (seen at the Drax estate which includes an AMC Concord, Jeep CJ, and Jeep Cherokee - the AMC/Jeep vehicles at the time of filming were distributed by Renault who would become the majority of American Motors until 1987 when the French company sold its shares to Chrysler where the Jeep brand is now part of the Chrysler Corporation (FCA Automobiles since 2014) and a Handley Page Jetstream Turboprop plane in the opening sequence.
Roger Moore's face was quite bruised after having intense bursts of air pumped onto it in the scene where the gravity simulator spins out of control. The airburst effect seen in the film was colloquially called a Moonraker by patrons who use the hand dryer at the Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill restaurant chain in Austin, Texas where a Houstonian who was a tourist in Austin who first used the XL hand dryer machine noticed the effect similar to Bond's facial expression when seen in the G-force simulator.
The fight scene between James Bond and Chang in the Venetian glass showroom was originally intended to appear in the previous James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) where it was to take place in the Mummy Room of the Cairo Museum of Antiquities.
Since new Tax Laws were announced in Great Britain, the Producers decided not to use the 007-Stage which they just had erected for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Instead the interiors by Ken Adam were mostly filmed at 3 sound-stages in France. The condition from the filmmakers to the French Film Industry was, that they could overtake literally all Soundstages in Paris. (This didn't make them all too popular with other Filmmakers)
This is the first and only ever filmed version of the Ian Fleming novel "Moonraker" and is not a remake of the 1958 film The Moonraker (1958) which is an entirely different story and a period piece. There was a plan in 1956 to film Moonraker but this came to nothing. An actual 1956 film was reported to have been discovered in 2004 but this was an April Fool Day's hoax. In the joke, Dirk Bogarde was James Bond, Orson Welles was Hugo Drax and Peter Lorre was a henchman. A South African radio dramatization in 1956-57 featured Bob Holness as the voice of James Bond. Holness was technically the second actor to play James Bond in audio-visual media and the first to play him on radio.
The only James Bond movie to ever have two boat chases: There is the Bondola Gondola chase filmed and set in the canals of Venice and then there is Q's Hydrofoil Boat Chase with a Glastron speedboat with attached hang-glider, set in South America (but filmed outside Jupiter, Florida).
Early script and storyboards for the movie reveal another character who was ultimately dropped from the picture, a sidekick villain henchman called Ratz, who was involved in the cable car sequence with Jaws.
Though James Bond conquers space in this movie, it is not the first James Bond movie to deal with story elements dealing with outer space. Dr. No (1962), You Only Live Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971) included story elements dealing with outer space.
Second consecutive James Bond movie with an unusual number of repeated story elements: Opening sequence involves James Bond parachuting; appearance of Jaws; a Pyramid location and Bond driving an amphibious vehicle. It was an underwater car in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and a hovercraft gondola in this movie.
The Concorde jetliner shown when James Bond arrives in Rio de Janeiro is not, as some people erroneously believe, the one that was destroyed in the July 2000 crash in Paris, which resulted in all Concordes being permanently removed from service. This aircraft is production number 205/registration F-BVFA, and upon its retirement it was sent to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington DC where it still can be seen today.
Product placements, brand integrations and promotional tie-ins for this movie include Bollinger Champagne; Bell Helicopters; Canon Cameras; British Airways; Marlboro; Seven Up Soft Drink; Glaston Boat Company; Christian Dior; Seiko Watches, particularly the Seiko M354 Memory-Bank Calendar and Seiko H357 Duo Display watches; and Air France.
First ever Bond Girl where an actress shares first name with her character. Corinne Cléry playing Drax employee Corinne Dufour is the only actress ever to play a Bond Girl whose first name is the same as her Bond Girl's. In earlier drafts of the script, the Corinne Dufour character was known as Trudi Parker and she has that name in the film's novelization. Corinne Dufour was originally written to be a Californian valley girl but when the production moved to France it necessitated the casting of a French actress. Her voice is dubbed.
Ian Fleming based the villain Drax on the Jules Verne's character Robur from the "Clipper Of The Clouds", "Master of the World" and "Robur, The Conqueror" stories. In addition, the filmmakers based Drax also on Adolf Hitler and there is a similarity between the look of Hitler and that of actor Michael Lonsdale. Drax's plan for a master race evokes Hitler's plans for the same. The "Drax" name was allegedly derived from two possible sources by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Drax was the surname of a boy at Eton who would become Admiral Sir Reginald Plunkett Ernle Erle Drax. Drax Hall Estate was a Great House in Northern Jamaica in which Fleming visited during one of his early trips to Oracabessa. Fleming apparently saw the name on the blue notice board there. The name of Drax's butler in the movie was Cavendish.
Brazilian actress Adele Fátima was cast as Manuela, and she shot some minor scenes with Roger Moore around Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. She was later recast by Emily Bolton, with her own scenes deleted from the final cut.
Some portions of the Moonraker assembly plant were filmed on location at the Rockwell International manufacturing facilities in Palmdale, California, and at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Second and final time to date that James Bond has been seen hang-gliding. Very popular as a new sport in the 1970s, Roger Moore is the only actor to ever play James Bond and be seen hang-gliding. The other time was in Live and Let Die (1973).
The film's title song "Moonraker" has been covered by Shara Nelson and can be heard on David Arnold's Bond song compilation album, "Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project". Another track called "Space March" has been covered by Leftfield for this compilation album. However, 'Space March" does not feature on the original "Moonraker" soundtrack, but is in fact a track from the You Only Live Twice (1967) soundtrack.
The film boasts an exciting cable car sequence above Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Interestingly, "BONDinho" is truly one of the actual names used to describe these glass cable cars that do the same run from Sugar Loaf Mountain to Urca Hill as seen in the movie. "BONDinho" is a name taken from the Portugese language. The glass cable cars are manufactured in Italy and were in service from 1972-2008; the cars were replaced in 2008 with a similar design which has tinted windows (with the Caminho Aéreo Pão de Açúcar logo on the front and back glass and underneath the cars). One of the actual cable cars from this particular era is now part of the Praça dos Bondes no Morro da Urca (Two Bonds Plaza of Urca Hill) exhibition since November 2009.
The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include Moonrocket (Finland); 007 Against The Death Rocket (Brazil & Portugal); Moonraker: Operation Space (Italy, Croatia); Moonraker: Top Secret (Germany); Moonraker: Space Mission (Latin America) and 007 Seizes The Space Station (China)
Production Designer Ken Adam likened the Control Room set at the Studios de Boulogne to a Mondrian painting because of its black lines and multitude of screen monitors. As such, Adam nicknamed it the "Mondrian Set".
According to the film's soundtrack sleeve notes, the soundtrack album debuted in the US Charts on 18 August 1979 where it peaked at the No. #159 spot. The soundtrack has never had an extended release with the release of extra tracks like other Bond soundtracks apparently due to the masters being lost in France.
The airline depicted during the pre-credit sequence is the former Apollo Airways originally based in Santa Barbara, California. The Handley Page Jetstream seen in the film which had the N5VH was later redesignated N2209 when Apollo Airways went bankrupt in 1981 and reorganized into Pacific Coast Airlines. Operations ceased in 1985. The Jetstream, piloted by Dan Gray and Ron Whitfield when the pre-title sequence was filmed, was shot on location in the Pope Valley area in Napa, California (Lake Berryessa is seen in the background when the aircraft is first revealed).
An asteroid was named after James Bond on 5 October 1983. It was discovered by Antonín Mrkos at the Czech Republic's Klet Observatory. The name of the asteroid , "9007 James Bond", references James Bond's 007 code number in MI6 and is a homage to James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
The ambulance which 007 and Dr. Goodhead were transported in is a converted Chevrolet C-14 light truck. First introduced during the 1964 model year in Brasil, the exterior sheetmetal bears a striking resemblance to the 1964-66 Chevrolet C-10 light truck sold in the USA with the exception of the cab styling. These were the final Chevrolet vehicles in the world (outside the USA) powered with the 1937-era Stovebolt inline six motor which was phased out during the 1979 model year (US and Canada ended production of the stovebolt sixes in 1962 where it was replaced with a third generation inline six introduced in late 1961 which was introduced in the USA Chevy II compact car).
Michael G. Wilson:
Makes three cameo appearances, one as a Man outside Venini Glass, St Mark's Square, one as a Man on a canal bridge whilst M and James Bond talk and one as a NASA technician in the central control room.
The novel Moonraker and the film Moonraker (1979) are two entirely different stories that have nothing in common, except when James Bond and Dr. Goodhead are left under the rocket-engine to get killed by Drax. To make sure people didn't confuse the novelization of the film with the original Ian Fleming novel, the film novelization's title was "James Bond and Moonraker." The Bond Girl character name Gala Brand from the original Ian Fleming "Moonraker" novel was not used for the movie. Neither was the name of the assistant villain Willy Krebs. For a time, one of the Bond Girls in Die Another Day (2002) was going to be called Gala Brand (a number of story elements of Die Another Day and GoldenEye (1995) are derived from the "Moonraker" novel) but her character name was eventually changed to Miranda Frost.
The final film appearance of the Jaws character. However, Jaws would return in the 2004 video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2003). Despite helping Bond at the conclusion of Moonraker, Jaws is once again a villain in the Everything or Nothing Game.
On the space station, Drax's crew is revealed to have a large number of women (something of a first for a Bond film). However, all these female characters seem to disappear once the final battle begins and only men are shown fighting, being killed, or already dead, though it can be assumed that none of the women (save for Dolly, Jaws's girlfriend) survive, giving this film the highest female fatality rate of any Bond film to date.
The first line of the Ian Fleming James Bond "Moonraker" novel read: "The two thirty-eights roared simultaneously." The last line read: "He touched her for the last time and they turned away from each other and walked off into their different lives."