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James Bond film set goes up in flames.

Byline: By CHRIS GREENWOOD

A huge fire devastated the set of the latest James Bond film yesterday. Up to 60 firefighters tackled the blaze at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. The roof of the warehouse-like sound stage - where filming for Casino Royale was said to have recently finished - caved in. Witnesses said smoke from the blaze, which took firefighters 90 minutes to bring under control, could be seen 10 miles away.

Eyewitness Jen McVean, 27, said flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the building, which is partially made from corrugated steel.

Mrs McVean, who owns a special effects company at Pinewood, said there was no doubt the building was badly damaged.

She said, 'There was a very big plume of smoke and we went into the studios to check and we could see the Bond stage was on fire. There were flames coming out of the roof.

'The roof has caved in. It was a very big fire. There were lots of fire engines there.'

Casino Royale, which

has a budget of $72m (pounds 39m), is partly based in Venice. The vast 007 stage had been transformed into a replica of the Italian city.

Fraser Pearson of Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service said

oxyacetylene gas canisters may have exploded inside the building, and they feared further blasts.

A 200m exclusion area was created around the set as firefighters dampened it down. They expect to remain at the scene until today.

Mr Pearson said, 'It is buckled and warped and blackened.

'It is a very sad to see such an iconic structure looking quite so sorry. It is blackened and buckled and smoking and clearly has been quite badly damaged by fire.'

'We do not know what the inside looks like because of the cylinders, but I guess the inside will be badly damaged as well.'

A spokesman for Pinewood Shepperton said yesterday that filming had finished at the stage.

In a statement, he said, 'Pinewood Shepperton Ltd has suffered a serious fire on its 007 stage.

'We have been informed there were no casualties. The cause of the fire has not yet been established.

'We do not know the extent of the damage to the 007 stage, although it is believed to be significant. Fire crews are still in attendance at the site. 'Filming was not taking place on the 007 stage when the fire broke out. A production had completed filming and its film sets were being removed.' It is not the first time that a James Bond set at Pinewood Studios has been damaged by fire. In 1984 an explosion ripped through a corrugated steel building built in 1976 for The Spy Who Loved Me and subsequently used to shoot four Bond movies. The rebuilt set was reopened in January 1985 as the Albert R Broccoli sound stage, in honour of the producer of many Bond movies.: Pinewood has had licence to thrill from 1935:Pinewood Studio's original 007 stage was burnt to the ground during filming in 1984. The stage was first created in the late 60s during the filming of The Spy Who Loved Me but had to be completely rebuilt after the blaze 20 years later.

It was renamed Albert R Broccoli 007 Stage and was originally created to solve a number of logistical problems when the script called for filming two submarines inside an oil tanker.

Filming inside an actual tanker was ruled out so the stage was built complete with an enormous water tank.

But Bond films at the studios date back to 1962, when Dr No was filmed.

The studios began to be used as a base for the movies, with many scenes filmed on site as well as on location. The earlier films used the studio's own buildings, many of which are 17th century manor houses, as locations in the spy films.

Scenes including a car chase in Goldfinger's factory, and Spectre Island in From Russia With Love, were filmed using buildings around the studios.

The studios' surrounding parkland was also used in The World Is Not Enough. Pinewood Studios began life in 1935 and, along with its sister studios Shepperton, it has seen many films and TV programmes. Blockbusters including Tomb Raider, Superman, Harry Potter, and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory were filmed there. TV hits, such as Spooks and The Weakest Link, also used the studios.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 31, 2006
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