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An Oscar nomination for The Adams Family Values


Becoming associate producer
Ken Adam Artist
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The most amazing thing was that when it came to my being production designer the Hollywood Union said I can't do it. I said, ‘Why can't I do it, I'm a member of the New York Union? You have a... a deal with the union. I've done two or three pictures here. You never said I can't’. Well, we had a fight with the New York Union and ‘I'm sorry Ken, you cannot do it’. They got the head of MGM, they got Herb Ross to talk to them and they wouldn't, and finally they agreed that I would design the picture.

The head of the union said, ‘Why can't you be producer?’ I said, ‘I don't want to be the producer of it’, so he said, ‘All right, we'll give you Associate Producer credit in the front credit, and in the end credits we say Visual Consultant’, and I was so keen to do the picture, I said okay, and then when it came to the Academy Awards they said, ‘The film doesn't qualify for the Academy Awards because it was designed by Ken Adam’ and he had… and two art directors would get the Oscar, and so it wasn't… because it was… I... I don't know if it would have had the Oscar, but I think it stood a damn good chance of getting an Oscar. So then, about 20 years later, the same union gave me a... a Lifetime Achievement Award for the work I had done, the irony of it all, but that I would say was my happiest experience in terms of film in Los Angeles.

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: New York Union, Hollywood Union, MGM, Los Angeles, Herbert Ross

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 18 November 2011