Natalie Thompson — flying our flag in filmMonday, October 11, 2021
There is a global buzz about the latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die, and we in Jamaica can be proud of the role we played. Our Jamaican legend of film production Natalie Thompson, who founded her company Cinecom Productions Ltd before she was 25, was the line producer for the Bond movie. Due to her successes in How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Cool Runnings, Natalie's Cinecom was hired by EON, the producers of the Bond movie.
“We operated as the management company on the ground in Jamaica to handle all the hiring and contracting here for the film,” she shares. “In my position I headed the Cinecom team and managed the day-to-day operations — negotiating with local suppliers, locations, hiring local crew, coordinating with government, both local and central, and paying the bills. I have estimated that over 600 persons were employed as crew, drivers, suppliers, extras, location providers, for accommodation, etcetera.”
I was curious to know what Jamaican locations we could look out for in No Time to Die.
“The Bond house, which is where we find a retired James Bond, was built on the coast of Port Antonio [San San], and you will see that most everything was shot in Port Antonio,” says Thompson. “A few of the locations for Cuba, especially the oceanfront, were also shot in Jamaica. We also filmed in Kingston at the waterfront. There were a few nights when the Kingston Wharves were lit up like a Christmas tree in May 2019 — that was us!”
Thompson said that some of the challenges included building the house on the waterfront in San San where there was virtually no road access. “We had to carry all the building materials, and even the jeep, by sea from the town. We had a full boat flotilla for transport.” She recalls. “Also flying the small seaplane through the cranes at Kingston Wharves was challenging. I was lucky to be there that day to see it work over and over again. There is also a big explosion with a trawler and the seaplane outside Port Antonio that we see in the trailer. That was exciting.”
To the obvious question about Daniel Craig, she responded, “I can't say that I hung with Daniel Craig much, but I think he enjoyed himself until he damaged his ankle on the last scene on the last day. When Piggy's, the restaurant in Port Antonio, was destroyed by fire last year, he was one of the biggest contributors to the fund to rebuild, so I believe he must have enjoyed Piggy's. The original Piggy's appears in the film.”
Asked what was her most memorable experience in the Bond production, Thompson replied, “Just being on a Bond film before I retire was memorable enough.”
Thompson's Hollywood connections are many; for example, she was called by a casting director to find an older Jamaican woman for a movie he was filming, so she made a beeline to the home of the late Lois Kelly-Miller, who readily accepted the opportunity to share screen magic with Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black (there are excerpts on YouTube in which Pitt does a passable Jamaican patois). She was also the local producer for Instinct starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, who she recalls as a “very cool gentleman” who enjoyed local fare.
Of course, I wanted Thompson to dish about her work on Cool Runnings and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. “Both were very large productions, both in the Montego Bay area, and both challenging,” she said. “For Cool Runnings, I named this movie, although I was never credited with it. The original name was Blue Maaga, which was the name of a fish and the name of the bobsled cart that was originally used. I told them I thought it meant what happened to black people when it got too cold.
“Of course, Dawn Steel, the producer, was horrified by that analogy and asked me what I would call it and I said Cool Runnings. I did not know that the name would stay until the movie opened.”
Thinking back, she continues, “With Stella… I also got to work with my friend Jennifer Ogden who was executive producer on Stella. We had worked before on Prelude to a Kiss and we became good friends…It was great to hang with Angela Bassett — great lady. Whoopi [Goldberg] was wonderful, too, and she brought her personal masseur for all of us. I was on his table often.”
Thompson was destined for greatness. As our Alpha classmate, we watched as she won over the judges to win Best Actress in the Schools Drama Festival, just before leaving for studies, first in the US and then at Windsor College in Canada where she gained her degree in communication arts (film and TV).
She returned to work with a film company and, with the encouragement of her parents, took the leap when the company sold out to establish Cinecom in 1975.
Thompson continues her love affair with Jamaica to this day, having built a charming, breezy house way up in the Irish Town mountains. The big names continue to call her because they know she is world-class. Kudos for flying our Jamaican flag high, Natalie — so proud of you.
Prof Ying's Shaping a Servant Leader
This column has maintained that it is sound leadership in every aspect of our national life — political, corporate, religious, and civic — that will take Jamaica forward. We welcome the launch of Professor Neville Ying's excellent book, Shaping A Servant Leader, capturing, in his words, “The influence of experiences I had over my lifetime — the turning points, the challenges, the successes — and, most importantly, the people who impacted my growth and development as a servant leader.”
Using three themes, he instructs: “First, RELATE – build and maintain solid relationships with persons you serve. The key to this is building lasting bonds of trust between yourself and the persons you serve. Second, CARE – help and support persons you serve especially when they are experiencing hardships and challenges in their life. Third, SHARE: God gave each of us special talents. Use these talents to help others.”
Neville Ying's classmate Dr Lilieth Nelson commented at the launch, “I savoured the peaks and troughs of his life experiences,” and recommended the book as “truly a text full of servant leadership nuggets for students at the level of delving into the nuances of leadership training, as well as for aspiring, new, and seasoned leaders.”
In describing the book, Dr Nelson quotes Prof Ying's The University of the West Indies batchmate the late Noel Dexter's chorus: “One thing lead to another, so when faith and courage is gone, mi just look over mi shoulder, see where mi coming from, and I find the strength to press on.”
They say that, if you want to hide something in Jamaica, you should put it in a book, but let us seek out this guide to servant leadership and use it to mentor others. Congratulations and thank you Prof Ying.