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How Dr No introduced me to Stanley Kubrick


Setting the style for future Bond films
Ken Adam Artist
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There was a near disaster with the last set, which I’d forgotten about. This is where... the English scientist, whatever his name is, who is in Dr No’s pay, goes over to No’s island to warn him about what’s happening and Terence said, ‘You know, we need a set for that’, and I said, ‘Yeah,  my God, I’ve forgotten about it!’  So I came up with this false perspective, I mean starting off with the floor going up and the sides coming down, to give… and that big circular opening in the ceiling, with a black grill in it, and it was sort of a minimum set. I had one chair, I had a copper door and I had a table in the foreground with the cage and the tarantula – the real tarantula – in the cage. And strangely enough, I think it was probably one of the most effective sets of that film, and several critics remarked on it and said that this set set the style for future Bond films, and so on. And we built it literally in 24 hours. And Terence was great, because I, you know, he should have had the set but he forgot about it too.  And he said, ‘Ken, but you do realise I will never be able to see that whole circle, because... I can’t frame it... you have to give me more ceiling piece, so then I can cut on something and then establish the whole circle’. So, during lunchtime I had all my carpenters working on it to extend the ceiling piece, and fortunately they came up, and fortunately it... it looked fabulous.

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, Terence Young

Duration: 2 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 October 2011