James Bond’s Casino Royale
In Casino Royale, Prague’s Strahov Monastery library stands in for an interior committee room of London’s Parliament. (Isifa/Getty)
While the 1967 version of Casino Royal -- a goofy, star-studded spoof starring Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Wells -- takes you on a journey to Ireland, Scotland and England, by following in the footsteps of the 2006 version starring Daniel Craig -- a relatively realistic, if modern, adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first novel -- takes you on an arresting tour of historic Venice and the Czech Republic and leaves you lounging in the warm climes of the Bahamas and Italy’s Lake Como.
In the 2006 film, Bond makes an alliterative journey to Miami, Madagascar and Montenegro. But as with most movies in the 007 cannon, these destinations have stunt doubles, and Casino Royale’s stand-ins are no less trip-worthy than their fictionally labelled counterparts. Plus, filming locations are often subbed for budget reasons – a cost savings that may be emulated by Bond-ophiles looking to drive, dive and parkour in the same spots as the internationally famous British spy.
Most of Casino Royale was shot in the beautiful and relatively inexpensive Czech Republic -- primarily in Prague’s fabled Barrandov Studios, known as the "Hollywood of the East" for its use in films including Mission Impossible, the Bourne Identity and Amadeus. However there are only a few opportunities every year to tour the studio and its costumes department.
A more accessible location is Prague’s open-to-the-public Strahov Monastery library, which stands in for an interior committee room of London’s Parliament in a scene with M, played by Judi Dench. The city's international airport, Ruzyne, (and the Nassau airport in the Bahamas) features in the film as the airport in Miami, Florida. The exterior of Prague’s Ministry of Transport and the interior of Vitkov Monument’s history museum in Vitkov Park were the shooting locations of the film’s Miami Body Worlds exhibit. And the lobby of the Venetian hotel where 007 and Bond girl Vesper Lynd stay is actually Prague's National Museum on Wenceslas Square, currently closed for reconstruction and scheduled to reopen in June 2016.
About a two hour drive west of Prague -- faster if you are a fictional British secret agent -- is the picturesque Bohemian spa-town of Karlovy Vary, which takes on the role of the small European country of Montenegro, part of Yugoslavia in Ian Fleming’s day. The city’s most historic and beautiful spa, the-closed-to-the-public Lázně I (or Spa 1, formerly known as Kaiserbad), located on Mírové náměstí, was used as the exterior of the titled Casino Royale. The outside is all a traveller is likely to see of it now; except for rare occasions, it has been closed for the last decade awaiting funds for renovation. Just a few hundred metres away is the high-end Grandhotel Pupp, which served as Bond and Lynd’s Hotel Splendide in the film. If you had your heart set on actually going to Montenegro, there is a real Hotel Splendid in the coastal town of Becici, with posh rooms overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Craig was not the first Bond to film in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, but he probably spends the most screen time among its sites. Both Sean Connery’s Thunderball and Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me shot in and around the area, but Casino Royale takes a more contemporary tour of the city, especially the area called Paradise Island, located just over the Atlanis or Paradise Island bridge from downtown Nassau.
En route to the fictional Montenegro Casino Royale, Craig walks through the terraced, statue-filled Italianate Versailles Gardens of the luxurious One and Only Ocean Club. The resort hotel’s small, stand-alone lobby was transformed into the interior of the Casino Royale where Bond plays his death defying poker match with terrorist financier Le Chiffre.
The One and Only is also rightfully typecast as a Bahamian hotel in the film, and Bond and Lynd stay there -- Villa 1085 to be precise. If you take their old room it comes with its own 24-hour personal butler service. The hotel’s outdoor bar, which is perched above Cabbage Beach, may not be in the film, but its luxe setting is perfect for sipping martinis, served shaken, not stirred.