Editor’s note: Skyfall, the new James Bond flick, comes out today in the U.S. after receiving positive reviews and setting a British box office record. In April, our reporter Ashley Cleek travelled to Istanbul — where the film is partly set — to see what Turks thought of a Hollywood thriller going down in their own backyard.
Cenghiz sits in front of a full pan of baklava pastry; it’s a mid-priced treat he gives away to attract tourists who normally crowd the narrow lanes of Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar each day. But today the shopkeeper has only managed to hand out a few pastries. He blames James Bond.
For a full week, the square in front of the Egyptian Bazaar has been blocked off with metal barricades and mesh wire to protect a set for “Skyfall,” the new Bond film starring English actor Daniel Craig and directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes. Since arriving in Istanbul, the latest film in the Bond franchise has sparked both praise and fury.
Filming has hurt business in both the Grand Bazaar, a 15th century market that attracts more than 15 million people a year, and the Egyptian Bazaar, another covered market. Shop owners have not been compensated for losing customers or reduced shop hours. Most shop owners and workers find the film a nuisance, though they all hope to get advertising out of it.
A stuntman drops in
On April 16th, a stuntman lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a 330-year-old year wooden shop inside the Grand Bazaar. The owner of the shop, a jewelry store, said he hadn’t been told that filming would be taking place so close to his store.
While the film crew has been heavily criticized for the accident, some sellers across town at the Egyptian Bazaar saw the accident as a boon for the shop owner. Mevus Olmush, who sells ceramic bowls and souvenirs, says he would like to invite James Bond to his store to break his windows. “One bike in the Grand Bazaar [crashed through the windows], now every body knows that shop, what they sell,” says Olmush. “Even I would pay money for this. This is a nice commercial.”
But while the hullabaloo may pay off eventually, it’s bad for business now, say many sellers in the Egyptian Bazaar. The manager of Malatya Pazari, a three-store chain selling spices and Turkish delight, says business dropped 50 percent since filming began. Some shop owners say they were forced to close for two to three days.
The film crew was also accused of uprooting two 100-year old trees to make filming in front of the Egyptian Bazaar easier, but municipality officials denied this, claiming it was the result of seasonal maintenance.
Turkish Coffee . . . shaken, not stirred
The film set, built right in front of the bazaar’s main doors, consists of two dozen wooden stands covered in orange and red awnings and piled with fruits, clothing and bags. A yellow taxi sits in the corner, a harbinger of a chase scene. The shopkeeper Cenghiz says the bazaar the filmmakers have created is not authentic and, in fact, looks ridiculous in contemporary Istanbul. “I don’t like this bazaar they have here,” he says. “It’s old, very old, like from the 1900’s. Turkey is modern. It’s 2012.”
Outside the Malatya Pazari store two giant flat screen TVs play Quantum of Solace, the last James Bond movie. Mahmud Yiduz smiles up at the screen, “We love the James Bond, but we want him to come visit my shop,” he says. “All ministers and presidents, they visit us. We are waiting Mr. James Bond. We will give [him] small gift from my shop. And [he] will drink Turkish coffee with us.”
If Daniel Craig stopped by to sip some Turkish coffee, sales would go through the roof.
This story is an updated version of one that originally ran on May 1, 2012.