İstanbul is a strategic city that has for generations been the center of states and empires. After it has been conquered by the Ottomans, the city attracted attention not only with its political position but also with its works in historical and modern areas, such that over time, poems have been about on the city, songs have been composed about it, and it has been the subject of many books. Well beyond Turkish border, Istanbul is known as an important place. İstanbul has even been featured in James Bond films due to its cultural diversity and its historical location.
Three Bond films were filmed in Istanbul. One was shot by EON Productions, an English production company, in 1963: the famous From Russia With Love. Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery co-starred in the film, which was filmed mostly in Istanbul. According to many of the world’s leading film critics, this movie was the best James Bond Film of all time. Locations that made it into the film include Şişli, Sirkeci, Sultanahmet, and Topkapı.
Film director Terence Young admired the mosques during filming in İstanbul, especially Süleymaniye, Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, and Dolmabahçe, all of which are known all over the world. Each was used in the film. Young was a bit strained when he heard sounds of prayer calls during silent film scenes, but he thought that the prayer calls in the background would add extra beauty to the movie. A funny story is that, during filming the crew created a fake convenience store. They put old newspapers and magazines at the entrance of the store to build a scene at the Sirkeci Station. When they had a break, they saw people passing through the area trying to buy newspapers, assuming it was a real newspaper stand.
The World Is Not Enough, filmed in 1999, was also hosted in İstanbul. This was the 19th film in the series. The movie begins as Robert King, the famous oil billionaire, dies at the hands of an assassin. Shooting began in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, then continued in İstanbul. In the film, Istanbul is saved from a huge nuclear disaster. Dolmabahçe Palace, Maiden’s Tower, and Sarayburnu shores are all leading destinations in Istanbul, and unique scenes from this movie are recognized all over the world thanks to the film. In the adrenaline-filled scenes, you can see the depths of the Bosphorus. Overall, it is a wonderful adventure movie, and its final scene is of particular importance.
One of the most ambitious films of the James Bond movies, Skyfall (2012), was filmed in Eminönü and Grand Bazaar, which are historical districts. Eminönü Square was covered with a black curtain during the shootings to turn it into a film set. People who did not realize that it was a film set saw this scene and thought it was a real market and could not hide their surprise. The train used in the scene taken from Sirkeci was not modern, but instead very old. The upper part of the train was removed with a bulldozer, and the train track actually was in Adana. Part of filming was done in Adana.
Another portion of the film was taken at the Grand Bazaar. During the filming, life did not stop in Grand Bazaar. There was some news regarding damage done during filming, but these claims were ultimately denied. An interesting story is that, Turkish actor and boxer, Nusret Ataer, who performed with Sean Connery in From Russia with Love, also played in Skyfall with Daniel Craig. The producer was very interested when he first appeared in the film set with this photo with Sean Connery and provided him a role in the latest Bond movie.
The longest running films in the history of cinema, the Bond series has met with breathtaking adventures in İstanbul. While some critics argue that İstanbul, and its residents, should always be portrayed as “good” in the movies, these films will never lose audience’s interest. It is a thought that majority want to see Istanbul in many other films to enjoy its historical adventures, cultural diversity, and magnificent views.