Next James Bond at Versailles?

Paris region film commission proposes Versailles as set of next James Bond movie

April 8, 2010, 11:49 AM

PARIS, April 19, 2010 — -- A pursuit in the magnificent park, a rowing duel on the Grand Canal and a spectacular escape by helicopter from the roofs of the palace are among the few scenes imagined by the Paris region Film Commission to try to convince the producers of the multi-million dollar "James Bond" movie franchise to shoot part of the next opus at the 17th century Palace of Versailles near Paris.

"We've sent the producers a storyline with a few suggestions to try to make them come to Versailles," Stephane Martinet, deputy director of the Paris region Film Commission, told ABC News.

The film commission leads an initiative to attract more filmmakers to France, with the lure of scenes shot amid the country's historic landmarks and tax incentives intended to make the filming affordable.

"The work of the commission is to attract as many movie shoots as possible to the Paris region, where 90 percent of shoots in France are already taking place, to create employment in the movie industry, to show to the world France's rich architectural heritage and to boost tourism as well" he added.

The municipality of Versailles, the Palace of Versailles and the direction of the Hotel Trianon Palace nearby are all included in proposal.

The Film Commission is hoping the Bond producers, EON Productions, is willing to open up bank account for the privilege of gracing the Versailles grounds. A shooting day at Versailles costs $21,000, while shooting at a more ordinary French chateau comes up to about $6,000 a day

"I first thought it was a joke as the news came out on April Fool's day," Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, which oversees 41 French local film commissions, told ABC News. "This initiative is rather audacious. It's unusual for a film commission to go to a movie producers with a [ready-to-shoot story] story. It's usually the producers with a script in hand who go to a film commission looking for example for a location" he explained.

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The Palace of Versailles has been the setting of more than 165 movies, but 007 has never dragged his impeccable suit and high-tech gadgets there. Despite being a real globe trotter, Bond's appearances on French soil have been limited over the past 60 years. In 2006, a memorable car pursuit took the most famous spy to the French Riviera in "Casino Royale."

In 1985's "A View to a Kill," Bond chased a bad guy through the streets of Paris and all the way up the Eiffel Tower, where said bad guy base jumped from the top. In the same opus, the British spy "visited" the Chateau de Chantilly, north of Paris, a moment of big screen glory that still resonates locally.

"The James Bond of Chantilly still fascinates our visitors," Alexis Dequermel, who handles special events at the Chateau de Chantilly, told ABCNews. "A British man recently came to the Chateau with an Aston Martin, Bond's car, to take pictures. The shoot also left excellent memories to the people living in the area."

The Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte was also used as a set in 1979 in "Moonraker." Other James Bonds were shot in the French Alps or on the French Riviera.

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French authorities are trying to lure foreign producers to come to France to shoot their movies with a newly introduced 20 percent tax break.

"Up until the creation of this tax credit, we had enormous difficulties to attract big foreign productions like 'James Bond,'" Lamassoure explained. "These productions would stay only for a short period of time because we were way too expensive."

Since the beginning of the year, 15 major foreign production shoots have taken place in France. Clint Eastwood just shot in Paris for his upcoming film "Hereafter." Woody Allen is expected in Paris this summer to shoot his next movie, which features a role for France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

These productions are expected to spend an estimated $135 million in France in 2010, with each production spending an average of $400,000 a day.

"For 'Casino Royale,' the producers wanted to shoot a scene in Toulouse with the world's largest airliner, the Airbus A380. But instead, because we could not offer the tax credit at the time, the producers shot the scene in England with a Boeing 747," Lamassoure remembered.

The Bond franchise is well known for product placement, with brands including Sony, Omega watches, Aston Martin and more all featured in past installments of the action thriller saga.

"The power of the 'James Bond' franchise is tremendous. The sets where a 'James Bond' is shot get a lot of media coverage," Lamassoure said.

But the attempt to bring Bond to Versailles could clash with the revolt of art purists. In 2008, the exhibition of contemporary American artist Jeff Koons at Versailles infuriated history aficionados who were complaining about what they described as the growing theme park atmosphere developing at Versailles.

"The current trend is to make Versailles even more visible, to get Versailles talked about at all cost, by organizing events such as the Koons exhibition," said Bernard Hasquenoph, an artist campaigning against what he believes is the commercial abuse of French museums. "This initiative (by the Paris region Film Commission) is to simply attract more tourists. There is no cultural approach in all this."

The 23rd Bond adventure is set for release next year, and EON declined to comment on an ABC News inquiry about the possibility of filming at Versailles.

But that hasn't deterred Martinet.

"I haven't received any feedback yet from the producers," Martinet admitted, "but I will shortly make a follow up call."

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