Muirhouse-born special effects guru goes from Jenners to blockbusters

James is a special effects guru. Picture; Bill Henry
James is a special effects guru. Picture; Bill Henry
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HE once made sure the Capital’s biggest department store was spick and span – but now he’s responsible for making as much mess as possible.

Steve Begg, one of the top visual effects supervisors in the world, is behind incredible sequences in Bond blockbusters including Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre.

His trickery helped blow up MI5 headquarters, destroy James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and spectacularly collapse a Venetian palazzo.

It’s a far cry from the days when Begg, who grew up in Muirhouse, was employed as a cleaner at Jenners.

The Bafta-award winner also worked on James Cameron’s sci-fi horror action film Aliens with Sigourney Weaver, before masterminding effects on Lara Croft Tomb Raider, with Angelina Jolie. And he supervised visual effects on Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins starring Christian Bale.

But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Stark Talk yesterday, he said that his career highlights were “generally within the James Bond films”.

He said: “Whenever anyone asks me what I’m most proud of, the thing that constantly pops in to my head is the collapsing mansion at the end of Casino Royale.

“It’s this four- or five-storey derelict building on the edge of the Grand Canal [in Venice] that Bond has a big punch-up in and ends up wrecking the place. It subsequently subsides and collapses in to the canal.

“I did all that with help from the special effects and CGI people. It was a huge model, 25 feet tall, on hydraulics. It weighed two-and-a-half tonnes and it was lowered up and down in this tank.

“We superimposed it in to shots of the actual Venice Canal. The two of them tied together very successfully and it’s the work that I’m most proud of.”

He was also in charge of the start of Spectre. The complex sequence was shot in four different locations, including two in Mexico City, and two sets at Pinewood Studios in London.

He said: “The trickiest thing I had was co-ordinating this big group of people. We had 1500 extras and probably about 200 film crew.”

Begg said he learned his trade working for Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson on 80s sci-fi puppet show Terrahawks. He said: “Terrahawks was pretty much like going to film school.

“I think within a week I probably did 30 or 40 explosions and I ended up knowing how to blow stuff up really well at the end of that.”