Rio On Location: Sugar Loaf in "007 - Moonraker"

Credits: Eon Production

In Moonraker (1979), the British spy James Bond (played by the amusing Sir Roger Moore) investigates the millionaire Sir Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), who is involved in the hijacking of a space shuttle called Moonraker. After having been to California and Venice, Bond arrives in Rio de Janeiro, following leads that might reveal the intentions has Drax Industries for the shuttle. Bond works side by side with the American scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), while Jaws (Richard Kiel), one of Drax’s hit men, known for his metal teeth, tries to stop them.

Credits: Eon Productions

Once he starts assembling the pieces to this puzzle, Bond finds out that Drax is not too happy with the evolution of mankind, and has created his own plans for changing the fate of humanity. The multimillionaire recreates what Bond calls “Noah’s Arch operation"”: inside his spaceships he carries one male and one female of unquestionable beauty. His idea is to destroy the rest of the Earth’s population and people it with a race he considers to be perfect. Luckily, Bond manages to win Jaws over (since he too would be excluded from the beauty standard imposed by his boss) and, together, they rid the Earth of Drax’s insane conjectures.

A scenery fit for cinema

Photo: Fran Mateus

When the secret service agent, all dressed in black, made his way elegantly up the hill to the top of the Pão de Açúcar, the place was already a classic landmark of Rio de Janeiro. Busy with trying to discover Hugo Drax’s plans, Bond didn’t have much time for tourism. The place was a matter of strategy for him, not for enjoying the spectacular view of the Flamengo and Copacabana beaches, or of the Guanabara Bay – it allowed him to supervise all the flights departing from the San Pietro airport (which is actually the Santos Dumont airport, used today for national flights). While investigating, Bond runs into Dr. Goodhead, whom he had met before in the United States and shared a bed with in a Venetian hotel. The two join forces and share the information they possess.

Spy and scientist get on a tramway together to return to the Morro da Urca, when suddenly, Jaws appears out of nowhere and a fight scene between the good guy and the bad guy takes place on top of the tramway. Bond and Goodhead escape by sliding down the tramway cables! The scene was such a great hit that the tourism in Rio is grateful for it to this day. The world watched – and adored – the stunning view of the Pão de Açúcar and its surroundings. The place became a must-see for the Bond fans, movie lovers, and travelers alike.

Extra: the famous aerial tramways

Credits: Eon Production

The tramways that go up and down the 300-yard hill of the Pão de Açúcar have already become fully integrated to the Rio de Janeiro landscape. They were founded in October, 1912, and, since then, have safely carried all types of celebrities and commoners. Albert Einstein is an example: he rode on a Carioca tramway in 1925; back then, they were still the original cars, made in steel and wood and painted yellow, with a capacity for 17 people. Einstein said that the experience was “a vertiginous ride over a jungle on a steel cable. Above: a marvelous game of shifting cloud and sun”. The image of the rocky giant has always left its visitors in awe, in any weather!

Photo: Fran Mateus

In the 1970s, the original tramways were replaced by transparent ones in Italian style. These new models had a capacity for carrying 65 people at a time, and it was in of these that the famous James Bond scene was enacted. Around the same time, the landmark was classified as city heritage by the National Institute for Historical and Artistic Patrimony (IPHAN). Every year, the cable cars undergo changes in order to keep up with the most modern and advanced standards of safety and comfort. The most recent models can be spotted in one of the final scenes of Rio, in which a little boy sees the bird smugglers holding on to one another as they drop out of the falling plane. 

Fran enjoying Urca

In 2012, the Pão de Açúcar was awarded an important prize due to its constant innovation and improvement procedures: it was the first landmark in Brazil to receive the Green-friendly label from the Brazilian Association of Technical Norms (ABNT). And all this, just to make sure that any kind of tourist will remember the experience as a unique and unforgettable one. (Av. Pasteur, 520; www.bondinho.com.br)


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