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The 007 stage: the biggest set I've ever done

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You Only Live Twice: near misses
Ken Adam Artist
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Even though we had some near serious accidents, but fortunately everything worked, because I had a sliding helicopter port, and nobody had ever flown a helicopter on the inside of a building, you see, and so we didn't know what was going to happen, you know, were there were any counter currents or so on. And that same helicopter we had used in Japan and we were watching it fly into the crater of the set of… of the volcano that I eventually copied, and he disappeared, and we were standing and you think… and Cubby said, ‘Oh my God, have we lost this one?’

And he came out… he came up – it was a Brantly helicopter, a... not very powerful one – and he was caught in a down draft and had a hell of a job trying to get out of it, and it took him, I think, over six, seven minutes to get to the top of the volcano again, so… I'm only saying that because I was worried what would happen when he goes into my set, and what sort of currents is he going to encounter, but nothing happened. I mean, he came in beautifully and landed on this heliport which was on rails, so it could move, and all that worked... extremely well.

And also when you have, I don't know, 200 stuntmen abseiling from the top of the inside of the crater, you know, it was very dramatic, because people ask me ‘But couldn't you have done the whole thing with models?’ I said, ‘Well, I suppose I could have done it with a model, but you couldn't have had…’ – you know, I'm talking about the '60s – ‘... you couldn't have had 200, you know, people abseiling at the same time and all those sorts of things’, so it was really a worthwhile expenditure.

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: Japan, Brantly helicopter, Albert Broccoli

Duration: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 11 November 2011