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Tuesday May 21st 2024

Licence To Kill | 1989

Licence To Kill filming location: the Otomi Ceremonial Center, Toluca, Mexico
Licence To Kill location: Professor Butcher’s ‘Olimpatec Meditation Institute’: the Otomi Ceremonial Center, Toluca, Mexico | Photograph: wikimedia / Victor Escalona

Probably the dourest of the Bonds (until the franchise was reinvented with Daniel Craig), as Timothy Dalton – in his second outing – distances himself from the increasingly flippant Roger Moore agent. Its comparative lack of box office bang meant it was to be the last Bond for six years (until GoldenEye), and was the first not to use Pinewood Studios – there's only the briefest glimpse of the UK. Before MI6 went public with its attention-grabbing Vauxhall Cross HQ, Bond movies saw the secretive organisation operate out of various buildings around Westminster, where the prime requirement for the intelligence services seems to be a clear view of Nelson’s Column. In Licence To Kill, Bond’s HQ is the Old War Office Building, in Whitehall.

The film's locations are mainly divided between Florida and Mexico (where the production was based at the famous Churubuscu Studios in Mexico City).

In Mexico, Bond and CIA buddy Felix Leiter (David Hedison) find drug lord Sanchez (Robert Davi) at the Isla Mujeres, an island about eight miles off the Yucatán Peninsula coast in the Caribbean Sea.

Isla Mujeres (Spanish for 'Island of Women') is not far from the resort of Cancún, with the same beautiful beaches but a more peaceful atmosphere. The film's underwater sequences were filmed in its crystal waters.

Licence To Kill location: Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida
Licence To Kill location: Bond and Leiter parachute to the wedding: St Mary Star of the Sea Church, Key West, Florida | Photograph: flickr / Natalie Gils

The story moves on to Florida as, just in time for Leiter’s wedding to Della Churchill, Bond and the groom parachute down to St Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church, 1010 Windsor Lane in Key West, at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.

The police escort plunges into the sea from the Overseas Highway, the a 113-mile highway which carries US Route 1 through the Keys; and Bond subsequently learns of Sanchez’s escape as he’s about to leave from Key West International Airport, South Roosevelt Boulevard.

Licence To Kill filming location: Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida
Licence To Kill location: M strips Bond of his licence to kill: Ernest Hemingway House, Key West, Florida | Photograph: Wikimedia / Acroterion

Deciding to go it alone, after Leiter loses a leg to villain Sanchez’s sharks, Bond gets his licence to kill revoked during a confrontation with M (Robert Brown) at the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, 907 Whitehead Street at Truman Avenue, Key West. The 1851 Spanish-Colonial house was home to the writer from 1931 until his death in 1961. And, yes, as seen in the film, it is home to dozens of cats. In fact, there are around 60 – many of which are polydactyl (they have extra toes).

Also in Key West – though supposedly in ‘Bimini’ in the Bahamas, is the fictitious ‘Barrelhead Bar’. It was the Harbor Lights Bar – now the Thai Island Restaurant, 711 Eisenhower Drive at Palm Avenue, overlooking Garrison Bight Marina. You can see the real Bimini, by the way, at the end of Silence of the Lambs.

Most of the movie, though, was made in Mexico. Sanchez’s house is Villa Arabesque, the di Portanova Estate, Costera Guitarrón 62A, Guitarron, on the beach near Las Brisas in Acapulco. Built by Baron Enrico di Portanova, one of the most flamboyant members of the international jet set (he once listed the best things in life as ''sun, sex and spaghetti''), the estate – which houses an underwater-themed disco, called Poseidon Discotheque – has no fewer than three swimming pools, a rooftop helipad, and of course the funicular railway seen in the film, which runs down to the beach. If the property appeals, it could be yours for a mere $29 million.

Licence To Kill filming location: Central Post Office, Mexico City
Licence To Kill location: Bond makes a deposit in Sanchez’s bank’ Central Post Office, Mexico City | Photograph: flickr / karma police

Loosely based on Panama, ‘Isthmus City’ is fictitious, most of it being filmed around Mexico City.

Sanchez’s ‘Banco De Isthmus’, in which Bond makes a temptingly substantial deposit, is the astonishingly elaborate (and still functioning) main Post Office of Mexico City, the Oficina Central de Correos, Calle Tacuba 1 y Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas, alongside the Bellas Artes Palace.

Licence To Kill location: Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de Mexico, Calle 16 de Septiembre, Mexico
Licence To Kill location: Bond’s ‘El Presidente’ hotel in ‘Isthmus City’: Gran Hotel de la Ciudad de Mexico, Calle 16 de Septiembre, Mexico | Photograph: flickr/Rosskka

‘El Presidente’, the hotel, in which Bond stays with Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), is the splendid art nouveau Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico, Calle 16 de Septiembre at the Zocale, the Mexico City’s gigantic square. It was built in 1899 to accommodate the Centro Mercantil, Mexico City’s first shopping centre. The modest exterior, though, is the Biblioteca de la Banca de Mexico (Library of the Bank of Mexico).

The Gran Hotel's lobby crops up again in the opening sequence of 2015's Spectre, with Daniel Craig as 007.

Sanchez’s office is El Teatro de la Ciudad (The City Theatre), 36 Donceles, the city’s first theatre, dating from 1918. After having been closed for many years, it's now been restored to its art nouveau splendour.

The ‘Isthmus Casino’, in which Lupe Lamora (Taliso Soto) gives Bond a little help, is the lavish restaurant Casino Espanol, Isabel la Católica 31- 1, Colonia Centro.

About 35 miles west of Mexico City, on Route 15, is the bizarre complex of televangelist Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton), the ‘Olimpatec Meditation Institute’, which is the Otomi Ceremonial Center, a striking blend of ancient and modern architecture built outside Toluca in 1980 for the native Otomi people.

The climactic chase, at ‘Paso El Diablo’, the drug runners’ rendezvous, is Rumorosa Pass, a winding stretch of road about 50 miles west of Mexicali, just over the border from California.