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The Madness of King George: protecting the director

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What is production design?
Ken Adam Artist
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To give you an idea what I think production design should be about in a way, the scene starts that the mad king goes into the children's bedroom, grabs hold of the children, and his wife is with him, and he runs through the Royal Apartments set at Shepperton, right.

You then pick him up going up the most fantastic staircase, which is this famous staircase at St Paul's Cathedral, and he ends up on the roof of Arundel Castle – owned by my friend – which I loved because it had these enormous chimneys, so I put six more… I built six more chimneys to make it look almost like a Greek tragedy or a Greek temple. So he goes up this circular stairway at St Paul's, ends up on the roof at Arundel, and there's a fabulous scene between him and... what's her name who played his wife, a famous English actress... and when he says ‘Do you think I'm mad?’ or something like that – it's a touching scene amongst all those chimneys which… and it worked, you see. That to me is a good example of what production design should be like.

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: Shepperton Studios, St Paul's Cathedral, Arundel Castle

Duration: 2 minutes

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 11 November 2011