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Woman of Straw


Dr Strangelove: the missing pie fight
Ken Adam Artist
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He did a quite brilliant scene at the end of the picture, of a pie fight. Did you hear about that? No... well, a custard pie fight. I ordered about 4000 custard pies and we shot it for over a week, with everybody in the war room, you know, going crazy. George C Scott was dangling from that big light ring, and throwing pies, and Peter as the president was... Peter Bull as the Russian Ambassador were sitting like two kids, on the floor, making... building sandcastles out of this mess of pies everywhere, and it was quite, quite brilliant. I think the best pie fight ever shot.

And... unfortunately it was the same time that John F Kennedy was assassinated, and there was some dialogue, ‘How can you stand by when our president…’ something, and Stanley said, ‘No, no’. And we were all... you know, his family, myself, and everybody said, ‘No, this pie fight has to stay’, and he said: ‘No’. And nobody saw the pie fight until I saw it about four or five years ago at the BFI, because somebody came over who wanted to write about it, and then I became aware of why he really didn’t want to use it. It was quite brilliant, but it was not in keeping with the way he shot the rest of the film. He had, sort of, pies in slow motion sometimes, you know, it became… as a pie fight, in itself, it was probably the most brilliant pie fight ever shot, but as part of that crazy picture somehow it didn’t work.

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: BFI, George C Scott, Peter Bull, John F Kennedy, Stanley Kubrick

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 14 October 2011