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You Only Live Twice: the enormous set

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You Only Live Twice: location scouting
Ken Adam Artist
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One of the most memorable Bond films, from my point of view, was You Only Live Twice which we made, I think, in '66, and Fleming had covered it quite well, locations in Japan and so on, so we rented two helicopters when we got to Tokyo and covered, I think, two-thirds of Japan for... during four weeks.

I was flying with Lewis Gilbert, the director, and the other one there was Freddie Young, the cameraman with Cubby Broccoli, and we didn't find any of the Fleming locations because… I'm not sure whether he was there or whether he had invented these locations, but they didn't exist, like certain castles and gardens, poisonous gardens and so on, so we were getting really quite desperate about them, and during our last week we were on the island of Kyushu in Southern Japan, and by chance we flew over an area of volcanoes who… I mean, the... the image was fantastic, like a moonscape or something, and after we landed locally I think it was Lewis who said ‘Wouldn't it be fun if our villain has his headquarters in one of these extinct volcanoes’, and the idea appealed to me enormously, and I immediately did a little scribble which I showed to Lewis and Cubby, and they liked it. And Cubby said, ‘Well, how much is it going to cost?’ And I said, ‘Cubby, I haven't the faintest idea’, and he said ‘If I give you $1 million, can you do it?’ I said ‘Yes’, not knowing of course, but $1 million in... in '66 was a lot of money, and of course my worries started once I had said yes, to see how to cope with that... set, because in fact it was the biggest set ever built in… certainly in the UK.

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: You Only Live Twice, Japan, Tokyo, Kyushu, Ian Fleming, Lewis Gilbert, Freddie Young, Albert Broccoli

Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 11 November 2011