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The Sounds Of James Bond, From The Editors Who Created Them


A new James Bond movie means a new round of James Bond sounds.


MCEVERS: All that shaking, not stirring, helped win an Oscar for the sound editing team who worked on the last Bond film, "Skyfall," and now they're back in the new Bond film, "Spectre." NPR's Becky Sullivan went to their studio to hear how it's done.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Talking to Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers revealed that the life of a sound editor can be one long exercise in humility. To even get a job like this is staggering.

KAREN BAKER LANDERS: You know, I never thought I would work on a James Bond, so it's a big deal.

SULLIVAN: Then the work begins. "Spectre" had one of the tightest production schedules they'd ever worked on, Hallberg says.

PER HALLBERG: The last version was done on Friday, and then the premiere was on Monday.

SULLIVAN: They finished their job three days before the movie had its London premiere in late October. That's because sound is pretty much the last thing done on a film after editing and after scoring and most importantly after the visual effects are in. What may have seemed like a great sound can end up being totally wrong once the effects are added, like when Hallberg and Landers were working on a scene where James Bond finds himself under a collapsing building.

HALLBERG: The building coming down was not there. Bond looks up at an empty sky, so the picture department asked us - we need it to feel like a building is coming towards us.

LANDERS: The first time we put in a really big building coming down.


SULLIVAN: Then they got the final visual effects and saw that it was actually a pretty small stone apartment.

LANDERS: Then you see - you're like, oh (laughter), it's not that big. It's two stories, not 57, so tone it down a little bit.


SULLIVAN: Another challenge is figuring out what exactly the director wants, like this helicopter fight scene. When director Sam Mendes heard their first try, he thought the helicopter Bond was in sounded too big, too safe. So for the next session, Hallberg and Landers made it sound smaller, more dangerous.

HALLBERG: And he goes, wow, I'm feeling like I'm going to fall out of that thing, and it's too scary.

SULLIVAN: So they changed it again.

HALLBERG: But it's interesting 'cause that - it shows that what you do with sound effects can completely change your feeling and how the scene works.

SULLIVAN: What's worse is when the director decides to just cut a scene they've labored over or swap out their sound for a musical score. There's a big stunt in the helicopter scene. Hallberg and Landers and their team were psyched about it. They actually flew in helicopters to record all the sound for it.

HALLBERG: We got to play that loud when it flips around 'cause it's the coolest thing ever. And then we come to the final mix. They decide, no, we're going to go music loud here, so let's take that out. And you go, no.


SULLIVAN: And the most humbling thing of all, Hallberg says, if they've done their job well, the audience should not even notice it.

HALLBERG: The basic illusion that we work with is for the audience. When they go to the movie theater, they shouldn't think about what we've done at all.

SULLIVAN: Becky Sullivan, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.