Make-believe military maneuvers got under way in St Petersburg last week as the cameras rolled on the latest James Bond movie. Photo: Yelena Yakovleva. (Large jpg - 85K)

City center shaken but not stirred

By Linda Jones

Tanks are rolling on the streets of St Petersburg -- but there's no need to panic.

The latest model T72s rumbled past Pushkin's house along the Moika Embankment last week as part of the action in the new Bond thriller "GoldenEye."

Make-believe military maneuvers were accompanied by controlled explosions and break-neck car chases. Stuntmen drove straight into the canal and replica St Petersburg police cars were written off.

Scores of technical staff assembled to capture the tanks' movements on film as curious passers-by jostled to get the best view.

Crowds gathered and roads were closed around one of St Petersburg's most picturesque quarters as the cameras rolled and daring stunts unfolded.

But would-be spectators had a hard time getting closer to the action. Tight security surrounds the set and its progress is being kept largely under wraps.

Athough a film crew from the 32 million pound ($48 million) production is busy working in the city there's still no sign of its suave leading man.

New 007 Pierce Brosnan was kept busy back at studios in England where other scenes are being shot. London's famous Elstree Studios have been transformed to portray scenes from St Petersburg.

Raven-haired Brosnan beat off competition from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" heart-throb Hugh Grant last year to take over the role of the British secret agent from English actor Timothy Dalton.

Leading ladies are newcomers Famke Janssen, who plays a "luscious post-Soviet assassin," and former model Izabella Scorupco.

The movie has sparked a storm of controversy in England because it has declared itself more "politically correct" than earlier episodes.

According to a spokeswoman the traditional baddie epitomized as a "Cold War Russky" has been usurped by a "bad individual."

Producers say the story will take place throughout Europe. The film crew's last port of call was Switzerland.