A new James Bond movie always draws global attention, but the latest 007 installment is generating particular interest in Mexico.
The new film, Spectre, premiered Monday in Mexico City, where the movie’s opening scenes were shot. A video is circulating online showing how the opening scenes, which include a Day of the Dead parade with 1,500 costumed extras, were filmed in Mexico’s capital city.
While Mexicans are excited the country is being showcased in a Bond flick, even if briefly, just how it came about has been the subject of widespread controversy for months.
Earlier this year, an investigative news site, Taxanalysts.com, leaked a Sony Pictures memo that suggested Mexican officials offered $14 million in tax incentives to have the opening scenes of the movie filmed in Mexico.
According to the memo obtained by Taxanalysts, executives at Sony Pictures asked the film’s producers to make changes in the script that would help “preserve” the tax deal the company negotiated with Mexican government officials who were “sensitive” about how their country might be portrayed.
The changes included casting a “well-known” Mexican actress as one of the movie’s Bond girls, and featuring Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations in the opening scenes instead of a cage fight.
Other requests reportedly included filming aerial shots of “modern” Mexico City buildings, making sure the film’s villain was not Mexican and ensuring an assassination plot at the beginning of the movie was not directed at a Mexican official.
Spectre’s executive producer, Michael G. Wilson, denied that Mexican officials forced him to rework the movie’s script. He also said he always planned to feature Day of the Dead celebrations.
Days after the scandal broke, Carlos Loret, a news anchor at Mexico’s Televisa Network, wrote an op-ed column on Fusion in which he argued Mexican officials did not influence the film’s script in any way. Loret said Spectre’s film crew had been brought to Mexico by private investors who covered the costs of filming in Mexico City.
So, did Mexican officials play a hidden hand in Spectre’s opening scenes in order to promote tourism or a better image of Mexico? Or were the scenes simply the result of pure cinematic inspiration? Take a look at the trailer and judge for yourself.
Spectre premieres in U.S. theaters this Friday.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.