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.
On Delancy Street in Nassau, the yellow mansion of the now-closed Buena Vista Hotel served as the exterior for the Madagascan Embassy in the film. On the southwest side of New Providence Island, about 25km from Nassau, is the pretty seaside resort community of Albany, named after the Albany House, a pink colonial mansion once owned by Jean Chalopin, the creator of an animated Bond bastardization, the bumbling hero Inspector Gadget. The building also serves as the home of the villain Dimitrios in Casino Royale.
Albany is a private community, but its hotel is open to the public and guests may dine inside the mansion, at the restaurant Aviva. A few miles away, Coral Harbour Beach is where Bond emerges from the water, reminiscent of Ursula Andress, the first Bond girl, from Dr No.
Although the famously beautiful and romantic canalled city has appeared in From Russia With Love and Moonraker, Bond’s arrival in Casino Royale, sailing on a 54ft yacht along the Grand Canal, is arguably the most stylish, filmed in an epic sweeping shot. The ship travels between the Accademia and Rialto bridges, and there are other Venetian landmarks in the film, like St Mark’s Square. But the most memorable location (spoiler alert) is the collapsing palace where Vesper meets her end, locked in an elevator as the building sinks into the Grand Canal. The building in the film, the 17th-century Palazzo Pisani Moretta, did not really sink (that was recreated in a sound stage), and it is closed to the public except for special events like its annual masquerade ball Il Ballo del Doge, held during Carnevale in March or February.
One of refreshing aspects of Craig’s reboot is the realism it brought the franchise -- at least in comparison to the cheesy jokes, comic book villains and baffling plans of world domination in earlier films. More in keeping with the plot lines of the Fleming novels, this new cinema Bond is a flawed (if stylish) hero who is severely brutalized, both physically and emotionally. But when it comes time for his convalescence, he still gets a luxury view: the stunning terraced gardens of Villa del Balbianello, an Italian villa on the western shore of Lake Como near the village of Lenno. The spot, open for tours, is so lovely it was also the wedding venue for Anakin Skywalker and Princess Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones.
And if you want to really take it to a luxury level fitting the Bond motif, consider renting out one of the rooms in the lakeside Villa La Gaeta, a stunning castellated private home with its own beach near Menaggio on Lake Como. It is here that Casino Royale ends, with Bond tracking down the elusive mastermind Mr White, shooting him in the leg and then introducing himself. “The name is Bond, James Bond.”