There are many places in the world where you might be pressed to a cucumber sandwich, but none of them is as beautiful and enchanting as Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy, France. No location could have been more fitting for a reunion of Bond aficionados and the Drax-Girls at a wonderful event, expertly organised by the Club James Bond France on 20 October 2018.
Located some 40 kilometers outside of Paris, the baroque castle was not only the perfect setting for the first encounter between James Bond and villain Hugo Drax in ‘Moonraker’ (1979), it has been host to quite a number of film productions over the years. To celebrate its many connections to cinema, the exhibition “Vaux-le-Vicomte fait son cinéma” offers a delightful insight into filmmaking until 04 November 2018. Naturally, James Bond stands out as a grand international production and thus presented the Club James Bond France with a perfect opportunity to set up a top class event to which I had the honor to be invited to.
Upon early arrival at the chateau, the autumn weather had encased the iconic location in eerie layers of thick white fog. Entering through the front gate, Bond fans were greeted by a Drax Enterprises helicopter – a much frequented photo point throughout the day. Luc le Clech, president of Club James Bond France, warmly welcomed us and explained the origin of the Bell Jetranger helicopter that had been prepped to look like it did in the film.
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The castle tour led us first into a special 007 exhibition featuring screen-used props that have never been displayed in France before. Most of the precious items were kindly loaned to the exhibition by American collector Alan Stephenson who has been collecting Bond props for many years. Among the ones on display was an original Derek Meddings model of the Drax Space Station, a clapperboard as well as the yellow spacesuit worn by Roger Moore.
Continuing through the lavish rooms of the castle, we set foot into the rooms where parts of ‘Moonraker’ were filmed. In the library, used for the scene in which Bond opens the safe, we were surprised by actress Corinne Cléry who had starred in the film as helicopter pilot Corinne Dufour. Dressed in a stunning red pant-suit, she happily posed for photos in front of the writing desk seen in the film.
After the tour had concluded, we had much free time to enjoy the beautiful gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte that were designed by André Le Nôtre, French landscape architect and principal gardener of King Louis XIV of France. Some fans made use of the golf carts to make their way up to the Hercules statue where film villain Hugo Drax first tried to have James Bond assassinated and later terminated the employment of his pilot Corinne Dufour in a violent manner.
The original gilded Bronze statue had been brought to its current location with a carriage, pulled by 37 horses. The gild had faded over time which made the statue difficult to set apart from the forest backdrop. A restauration was made possible by Marina Kellen French, an American, who paid 75,000 euros for the huge Hercules to be gilded once more. Baptiste Gohard, a third generation gilder, worked for two weeks with two companions to lay nearly 10,000 gold leaves.
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Following a stroll through the gardens in perfect weather, we were served a delightful lunch with several courses, accompanied by fine wine. I returned to the castle in the company of Corinne Cléry and coming through the gate, it was a marvellous sight to see, that all guests of the event had positioned themselves for a big group photo. In perfect unison, they loudly shouted “CORINNE!” as we approached.
Several more photo sessions unfolded around the Bell helicopter that had just been touched by the afternoon sunlight. The Drax Girls – consisting of Corinne Cléry, Béatrice Libert, Caterine Serre, Nicaise Jean-Louis, Blanche Ravalec, Anne Lonberg, Diane Thierry-Mieg and Irka Bochenko, happily posed with fans.
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In the salon, where Bond is received by Butler Cavendish in ‘Moonraker’, the Drax Girls signed autographs and posed for more photos with fans. It was a delight to speak to everyone of them and receive a personalized autograph, thoughtfully signed with love.
In the evening, I was fortunate to be able to attend the dinner which concluded this fantastic Saturday. The Club James Bond France, especially Luc le Clech and his fabulous team, had done a marvellous job in bringing the Drax Girls together at this wonderful event at Vaux-le-Vicomte and thus giving this international gathering of fans a memory they will forever treasure. I certainly will.
You can learn more about the Club James Bond France on their website www.jamesbond007.net where you can also sign up as a member which I can highly recommend.