Sir Kenneth Adam, OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam in 1921, is a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.
[Q] Could you say a bit more about the supertanker set?
Yes, it... it was an... an enormous set because it had to house three Hunter/Killer Submarines and these submarines I think were about 400ft long, and even though I reduced them to… I can't remember, five-eighths, or something like that, full size so that the people didn't look out of scale, you see, a) I had to dig out a tank in which they could float, but they didn't float. I built the hulls out of marine ply and then covered it with a type of plaster to give it texture and so on, and they were running on rails, so they didn't in fact float, so they appeared to float, and that all worked very well, but I remember at the end of the film we had to do some shots on a real submarine, and the Americans had promised that we could use one of theirs and then they got cold feet and I didn't get that submarine, and then the Royal Navy said they could also supply us with one, but since the Americans had turned us down they turned us down as well, so we didn't have a submarine.
And what I did… what we did, we cut one of the submarines into three or four pieces and put them on low loaders and took them somewhere down on the south coast, assembled the pieces and floated them on big drums, like a raft really, and if you look at the film you wouldn't tell the difference because Roger [Moore] and Barbara Bach are lowered down from a helicopter into the conning tower of the submarine, and you would really believe it's a... it's a real submarine floating at sea. So you know, you sometimes also have to come up with ideas if... if your donors don't come up with the goods.