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Eyes Wide Shut

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The true Stanley Kubrick
Ken Adam Artist
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When I was doing the Bond film, what was it, The Spy Who Loved Me, and the cameraman was a French cameraman. What was his name? A brilliant cameraman, but, like all cameramen, including Freddie, I mean, they were worried about these gigantic sets and nothing to compare them with, and I knew I had to give Claude, he was the grandson of… Renoir. Renoir, Claude Renoir, as much help as I could with source lighting, and then I rang up Stanley, and Stanley – remember, said all those things about sets and cameramen – 'Would you mind helping me with the source lighting on the tanker set at Pinewood?' so he said, 'Ken, you must be out of your mind', you know. 'I would like to help you, but, you know, if Claude finds out… anybody finds out, Stanley Kubrick, you know, my... my name will stink'. I said, 'Stanley, I will guarantee you, you will come in my car to Pinewood on a Sunday, there will be nobody there. I will have the key to the 007 stage. You don't have to worry about the security because they all know me and I'm, you know... and nobody will know that you are there… had been there', and he said, 'Well, let me think about it', and then he came back and he said 'Okay', provided I can guarantee that nobody is going to know about it, and we spent four hours together crawling through the super tanker, setting out, you know, source lighting and... and so on.

 

And of course I never talked about it while he was alive, and that was the story, because, you know, he was always… or very often made up as this monster of a person and so on, but that fascinated him, like I took him behind. When I did an opera at Covent Garden, I took him behind to see the stage sets, you see, and he was like a little boy because it's a completely different technique to what we use in film studios, but it showed that, you know, there was still a lot of feeling there. And it was of great help to me, but I wouldn't have worked with him again and I don't think he would have worked with me again, you know.

So it was… became too unhealthy a relationship I would say, and a very, very difficult man, and you know, I wasn't the only one who cracked up, of course. There were other people who cracked up – actors and so on – particularly when he started this repeating and repeating and repeating of a performance until he felt the performance was right. You have to be pretty tough to go through that, you know, it you are a creative person and so on.

Sir Kenneth Adam (1921-2016), OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam, was 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.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Spy Who Loved Me, Pinewood Studios, 007, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Stanley Kubrick, Claude Renoir

Duration: 4 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 11 November 2011