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Dr No makes a poor first impression
Ken Adam Artist
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I wasn’t staying in this house which I’d given to my brother who had moved, I was staying at the Carlton Tower Hotel, and I got the first 100 pages of Dr No, and... I thought they were pretty awful, frankly.  And then I gave them to Letitzia to read and she said, ‘You can’t make this picture. You can’t prostitute yourself’. But I knew that Terence Young was going to direct it, and even though we had never worked together, but we were great friends and I know he very much respected my work and I respected his work and... so I decided, finally, to make the picture. What I should have done, at that time, which I think they would have agreed to: get a percentage of the film, but I thought it was safer to be paid, because I didn’t know what the picture was going to be like.

And so... then somehow things fell into place.  Locations were going to be in Jamaica, and Harry Saltzman, I knew from Italy, where he was making television pictures, and he knew me and I knew him.  And I think it was Harry who had brought, actually, the Bonds to Cubby.  And... I went to Jamaica for the locations, and there wasn’t really very much for me to do out there, except come up with an idea for the dragon, you know, a strange dragon. But I also... my assistant was Syd Cain, who was pretty good, so I left that dragon to Syd Cain, and came back to Pinewood, because I knew I had to fill three large stages at Pinewood with sets, because it was such a quick picture. And I had a short meeting with Terence, in which he explained, you know... he said, ‘I’ll leave it entirely to you, provided you give me entrances and exits for the actors. A concept I’ll leave to you’. 

And it was really an incredible thing for me to arrive at Pinewood, and I wasn’t all that keen, in those days at Pinewood. I would have preferred Shepperton.

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: Dr No, Jamaica, Pinewood, Shepperton, Letizia, Terence Young, Harry Saltzman, Syd Cain

Duration: 3 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 October 2011