Honest question: who doesn’t watch a James Bond film and briefly ponder the thought, “Could I leave my office job and become a spy?” Well, for the first time, you can book an experience that gets you pretty damn close — minus the constant, imminent threat of death at the hands of a maniacal super villain, of course.
To celebrate 60 years of Bond, the team behind 007, EON Productions, is bringing the franchise to life in a way that’s never been done before. They’re joining forces with luxury travel company Black Tomato to plan an epic European itinerary to take place in 2023.
Aptly dubbed The Assignment: Europe, the trip will whisk a select number of spy aficionados around the continent, immersing them in the world of Bond with stops at some of his most iconic shooting locations. In crafting the epic itinerary, Black Tomato worked with location scouts from the Bond franchise and hand-picked experiences that mimic the adrenaline rush audiences feel while watching Bond jet ski to catch a private plane or gamble for his life in the private den of a casino.
“When we started to craft the itinerary, there were so many iconic Bond film moments we were excited to bring to life,” Tom Marchant, the founder of Black Tomato, tells InsideHook. “The narratives of each film are built around the distinct feel of cities such as London, Lake Como, Venice and Chantilly, so recreating these stories for a first-person travel experience evolved very naturally.”
Only 60 private trips will be made available for the once-in-a-lifetime voyage, for individuals or private groups, creating a competitive race to book when slots are released in March. To help get you in the mood to take on the assignment yourself, we’re taking a walk down Bond’s memory lane with Black Tomato, revisiting some of his most iconic missions from the past 60 years.
A View to Kill
A View to Kill (1985) was the 14th Bond film to be released and the last of seven featuring Roger Moore as 007. The plot pits our protagonist against evil villain and horse racing mogul, Max Zorin, played by the iconic Christopher Walken. Despite the plot revolving around a devious scheme to destroy a pre-Zuckerberg Silicon Valley, many of the main shooting locations can be found in scenic France.
During The Assignment: Europe, participants will follow in Bond’s footsteps, journeying out of Paris to picturesque Chantilly, home to Europe’s oldest and most prestigious equestrian center and the location of Château de Chantilly, a property featured prominently in A View to a Kill as the lavish estate of villain Max Zorin. “Just as Bond visited in search of answers as to what made Zorin’s horses so successful, you’ll do the same with your own privately guided visit of the 2,000-hectare Race Horse Training Centre, where 2,500 thoroughbred horses train every day,” Marchant says.
He tells us that guests will enjoy privileged access to the Les Aigles track to witness a morning exercise before meeting with professional jockeys and trainers. In the afternoon, they’ll saddle up for a horse riding adventure through Chantilly Forest before a guided tour through Château de Chantilly. “Your expert guide will take you through locations from the film, such as the Hall of Honour where Bond and Jenny Flex stroll and the corridor where May Day intercepts Bond enroute to Zorin’s office,” he says.
Ten years later, Pierce Brosnan made his debut as James Bond in this 1995 film, the 17th in the series, following three masterful installations starring Timothy Dalton. Filmed after a six-year legal hiatus, GoldenEye was made almost entirely of firsts: the first film to not utilize any story elements by the original creator of James Bond, novelist Ian Fleming; the first to feature a female M played by Dame Judy Dench; and the first to utilize the then-cutting edge effects of CGI, amongst other superlatives.
GoldenEye is unique, as it plays out with the actual dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, as our favorite spy saves Britain from Russians attempting to decimate it using weapons in outer space. One of the most iconic scenes in the film sees Bond squaring up with a Russian mafia assassin in a game of baccarat at Monaco’s Casino de Monte-Carlo.
“Monaco was another location that we collectively felt was crucial to explore and integrate the scenes and feel of the legendary GoldenEye film,” Marchant says. “It was important to go beyond simply setting up a game of blackjack; we needed to take it a step further. Guests will have VIP access and an opportunity to play their hand — and be welcomed into the exclusive private gambling dens of the casino, normally closed to the public — for an evening of elegant gaming. Here, you’ll sit down to a private lesson in a game of your choice, perhaps a game of baccarat, just as Pierce Brosnan’s Bond played against Xenia Onatopp in this very spot.”
The Bond franchise has seen its lead actor change hands many times during the past six decades, but some of the most critically acclaimed performances have been delivered by Daniel Craig, the star of 2006 film Casino Royale.
“Casino Royale is one of the more recent films that we were thrilled to integrate into this inaugural trip on the iconic shores of Lake Como,” Marchant says. “We created a water skiing adventure that includes a seaplane and a riva boat, delivering travelers to Villa Balbianello, the setting of an unforgettable scene in Casino Royale.”
The scene in question takes place after Bond endures torture at the hands of Le Chiffre, a corrupt investment banker who does business with terrorists. After several days unconscious, 007 awakens to find himself and the beautiful Vesper at an exclusive and private hospital, shot at Villa Balbianello. The two share tender moments on the stunning front lawn of the property, with scenic shots showing off the intense blue water of Lake Como. A movie buff bonus: the villa also played host to the iconic Star Wars scene in which Padme Amidala and Luke Skywalker are wed.
“Like many of the experiences, the excursion brings life to the film’s original scenes, followed by behind-the-scenes insights into the making of those magical movie moments,” Marchant says. “This experience in particular highlights the richness and authenticity that could only be achieved by collaborating with EON, to be true to form.”
For assignment participants, this Bond-like experience starts on the private jetty of a Lake Como hotel, taking inspiration from James Bond in Licence To Kill (1989). They’ll water ski along the Moltrasio shoreline before jumping aboard a private seaplane to continue the expedition, taking to the skies above the picturesque towns of Bellagio and Varenna, and Spectre agent Mr. White’s infamous lakeside home, Villa La Gaeta.
“The journey continues after touch down, as you’re met by an iconic Bond wooden Riva boat and bottle of 007’s favorite, Champagne Bollinger,” he says. “Guests will speed off to the iconic Villa del Balbianello from Casino Royale to stroll the terraced gardens before enjoying a private villa tour with exclusive insights into how they transformed the location for the film.”
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When asked to pick a favorite Bond film, Marchant was unsurprisingly hesitant but eventually chose one of the more recent films, which also enjoyed the highest box office sales in 007 history. “With such a prolific franchise, choosing a favorite film is extremely difficult,” he says. “But a particular favorite is Skyfall because it undeniably exudes an elegant moodiness through breathtaking cinematography and character development, along with so many memorable London scenes.”
Released 10 years ago in 2012, Skyfall follows our protagonist across the world, from Istanbul to Shanghai, but it’s in Bond’s home turf of London that some of the most action-packed scenes were filmed.
“As the home of Bond, it felt fitting that this would be how we kick off an epic multi-country itinerary,” Marchant says. “On the London leg of the trip, you will certainly see Skyfall come to life, as well as other memorable 007 films, including Die Another Day, The World is Not Enough, GoldenEye and Spectre. The buzz, architecture and city skyline of London are pivotal backdrops to the scene-setting and were a major source of inspiration in designing this inaugural itinerary.”
Ready, Camera, Action
Aside from the luxurious aspects of the voyage, Marchant clues us in on a more hands-on experience he’s planning for the London leg, called “The Secrets of Stunting.” The Bond films wouldn’t be the same without action-packed chases, hand-to-hand combat, explosions and more. We’re told that assignment participants will get a piece of that action, thanks to a private training session with two James Bond stunt doubles at the Corinthia Hotel, to learn about the art and science of some of 007’s most impressive sequences.
“Through learning spectacular falls and fight sequences firsthand, one will also gain insight into how Bond’s most famous escapades have been brought to life on screen,” he says. “Moments like these make for legendary memories — from directly stepping into Bond’s world to exploring and appreciating the magic of bringing his story to the screen.”
If Europe isn’t in the cards for you next year, Marchant says that Black Tomato does plan to build out other Assignments down the road, saying “we’ve got many more ideas in store.”
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