Sean Connery so much loved The Bahamas when filming Thunderball that he decided to move there and still has a house at Lyford Cay.
The territory, which until 1973 was part of the British Empire, is comprised of 700 islands of varying sizes and most of them uninhabited, spread over 650 miles from the east of Florida and the short hop makes them extremely popular with visitors from the USA.
The islands have been used for location filming on several occasions in the Eon film series, with both Thunderball in particular and part of Casino Royale set there. The Bahamas were also used for Never Say Never Again, although given that it was a Thunderball remake perhaps that should not be surprising.
Contrast how Thunderball and Casino Royale use the island though. In the former it adds much local colour, with scenes filmed in Nassau and around the island including the Junkanoo, that really give you an impression of being there. On the other hand, Casino Royale focuses mainly on the One And Only Club. This is one of my bugbears with the recent films, whereas you were once transported to foreign locations, now you spend a good deal just travelling. Hotels are a necessary part of travel, but they should not be the highlight.
As well as filming the underwater scenes for Thunderball off Clifton Pier, on the west of New Providence island (where Nassau is located), the Bahamas were also used for the underwater scenes in The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Scuba operators offer dives to the wreck of the prop Vulcan bomber submerged in around 10 metres of water and to the nearby wreck of Tears of Allah, seen in Never Say Never Again.
While the other articles in this series have split countries into City, Inland and beach, that distinction doesn’t work well with the Bahamas, but we’ll try anyway. In Nassau you should visit Bay Street, where the Thunderball Junkanoo scenes were filmed; normally the street parade takes place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, but was staged in April for the film. Also visit Rawson Square, where Bond meets Paula and Felix Leiter before being equipped by Q at Pinder’s shop.
For Casino Royale the Madagascar set was built near Coral Harbour next to the unfinished hotel that has lain undeveloped for years and was used in the parkour scenes, while the Embassy scenes were shot at Buena Vista Restaurant and Hotel.
It has to be Love Beach, where Vargas “got the point”, although it is scarcely recognisable due to hurricane damage; you can also see Palmyra, where Largo kept his sharks in pools, which lies on the coast some 2 miles west of Nassau.
The Atlantis expansion on Paradise Island meant that the original Café Martinique, a once an upmarket nightclub found next to Paradise Lagoon and that featured in Thunderball, was demolished in 2000 although a new Café Martinique has since been built. The breakwater from Thunderball was also due to be demolished, but the economic downturn has delayed that so far, but it is only a matter of time.
And there is the One and Only Club where Bond arrives by helicopter and, after beating Dimitrius at poker, wins an Aston Martin DB5. it is also around here that the beach scenes in Casino Royale were filmed.